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"Pour de France" graphic by David Ryan

“Pour de France” graphic by David Ryan

I was recently sent this interesting infographic from its author David Ryan of the Headwater holiday adventures (including interesting wine and food themed trips). It is packed with some interesting facts, so I have decided to share it here with my readers at winebeing.com.

Radka

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The vineyards of Luberon

The House of truffle and wine of Luberon is located in a picturesque old village of Menerbes, just a short ride from the region’s commercial hub of Apt. Driving through the hilly countryside crowned with the lush vineyards one wonders about how all these different wines might taste.

Truffle museum

Now, you can stop wondering and just stop by at La Maison de la Truffe et du Vin in Menerbes and try as many wines as your palate desires. Here, you can also learn a bit about the diamonds of human food gems – the truffles. The exhibition is well-presented, organized and extremely interesting not only for connoisseurs but also anyone seeking knowledge about good things in life. I have learned that there are truffles in countries one would not expect them to be found. For example in the US or in China. The quality though is a far flight from the truffles from Piemonte (Northern Italy) and Provance (South of France). You can discover more about the types, prices, quality, recipes and history of truffles at this great museum.

The view

Truffle museum

There is also a restaurant serving dishes – of course – made all with truffles and offering wines from Luberon. It has a lovely garden with magnificent views across the lush valley. The menu spans from truffle scrambled eggs, risotto to deserts made with truffles! We came after lunch so we have not tried it, but it looked seductive so it is on my “must do” list for my next trip to Luberon.

The restaurant’s terrace

Wine tasting cellar

Heading downstairs you will find the wine tasting cellar, where a very helpful gentleman guided us through the wines and later gave us to taste everything we have selected. The choice of local wine here is tremendous. From whites, through rosés and reds you will find bottles from a majority of the wine producers in the region. Not everyone though submits their wines to the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin. The reason might be that the tasting is free of charge and some producers do not wish their wines to be tasted in other places than their own property and restaurants.

It is a shame though, since offering their wine for tasting here is a great opportunity for the wineries to promote their wine. On the other side of the coin the wine enthusiasts as well as newcomers to the region can find their favorite wine from Luberon excluding the products from those not participating.

Luberon’s rose wines

We were surprised how many red wines we liked. Most people know only rosé and white wine from the region, but as this tasting taught us there are some great value gems in the realm of red wines as well. Even the current French legend, the Rhone Valley based producer Michel Chapoutier makes red blend from the area.

Address: Place de l’Horologe, 84 560, Menerbes, France

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Menu designed for the first owner Paul Roux

Its history is perhaps like no other restaurant on the world. Paul Roux opened Colombe d’Or in 1920s (under the name “Chez Robinson”). It was only a couple of years later, when he added a small inn, where the most prominent artists of its time lodged and created their masterpieces. Roux’s penchant for art draw many art bohemians – from the ranks of Picassos, Braques, Légers and others – to the lovely Povençal village of St. Paul d Vence.

Cuisine: Provençal; traditional French

Visit: August 2012

Price: Medium

Atmosphere: Vibrant, fresh and inviting. Whether you sit under the umbrellas at the terrace or between the walls bejeweled with Picasso’s inside, you will feel comfortable and welcomed. That is perhaps the reason why the biggest artists of this as well as of the past century have been flocking to La Colombe d’Or (“The Golden Dove”) to wine, dine and be inspired. One of the newest admirers of the area became the talented Spanish artist Antonio Villanueva, who still spends a couple of weeks in the area each year.

Umbrella terrace at Colombier d’Or

Food: Authentic, rustic and in the grandmother style.

You can start with a Basket of crudités (raw vegetables) and dip them in an artichoke sauce or with a large Plate of appetizers – the Selection of Colombe d’Or. Judging from the picture bellow, the later may become an entire lunch for two or three people without the need of ordering any main course. There are 14 different dishes cold and warm served at the same time at your table. One does not know what to dive in first, but trying all of them will bring light into your preferred choices. The gratinated eggplant and red pepper, pickled red beet, chickpeas risotto and lentil salad were my personal favorites. My male partner loved the meat paté and cauliflower salad.

Selection of Colombe d’Or

Although, one might spare some space for the excellent lamb that many diners here praise. There is also a seasonal selection of desserts from fresh strawberries to local cakes and seductively looking ice cream, so prepare for a feast.

After all, this is a place to be enjoyed slowly, no rush to leave, just relish the art, fresh air and holiday atmosphere with all that granny-style food.

Drinks: The wine selection is smart. From local Provençal staples (and more affordable) to Bordeaux, Rhone and Burgundy wines. It is all French selection though. We have tried the Cuvée la Colombe d’Or made for the restaurant by winemakers from Pierrafeu.  This rosé had lots of depth and elegant peachy aroma typical for Côtes de Provence pink wines. After you lunch or dinner all guests (except children) get a complimentary shot of a local digestif. A bit strong for me, but its sweetness makes it easier to drink than a shot of plain vodka. It works perfectly as an après-dîner [dèjauner] (after dinner – lunch) drink.

Provencal rose Selection for Colombe d’Or

Digestif

Address: Place du Général de Gaulle; 06570 Saint-Paul de Vence, France
Contact: Tel: +33(0)4 93 32 80 02

Opening hours: Lunch: 12noon-2pm; Dinner: 7:30-10pm

Opening season: Closed from the end of October till Christmas.

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Cuisine: French Mediterranean; gastronomic bistro style Visit: August 2012 Price: Medium (great value for the quality and originality: 2 courses 24 €; 3 courses – plats 29 €)

Just outside of La Petite Cave

Atmosphere: Old yet modern, vibrant yet relaxed and casual despite serving gastronomic fare. The waiter was very friendly when we dined there and proved that he cares about how his guests feel. The restaurant is located in the small ancient village of Saignon, just up the hill from Apt. You have to park near the church and then walk through the cobbled village streets and charming little squares with fountains until you find a tiny entrance to the cave where the restaurant is located. The atmosphere is charming and cosy. There are not many tables so I would recommend booking your dinner table ahead. (La Petite Cave is closed for lunch)

Vaults at LaPetite Cave

Food: Fresh, inventive and reasonably sized. The menu changes seasonally and in some cases instead of duck you might be served chicken, although the waiter will inform you about it. Some days it is perhaps challenging to find the right amount of ducks in this countryside area! Important though is that the food tastes good and here at Le Petite cave it is more – the food is excellent! I chose a refreshing starter of Soupe Froide de Petits Pois, Mousse de Crabe, Avocat – a Chilled Pea Soup with Crab Mousse and Avocado. It was delicious! The thick and concentrated pea soup was nourishing but also refreshing at the same time, the crab with its soft texture and sea salty nature added the dominant flavor and the avocado and herbs mousse added volume and depth to this dish.

Chilled pea soup with crab and avocado

A more traditional starter are Rillettes de Maquereaux fumé, Cornichons, Raisins, Menthe – Rillettes of Smoked Mackerel, Cornichons, Grapes and Mint. The rillettes of chopped slated mackerel are served in a glass pot with gherkins (pickled cucumbers) and grape halves with mint infusion. A prefer this to the traditional pork rillettes version as it is more refreshing and not too heavy. Moving to main courses with Saumon Poché, Pommes de Terre au Safran, Cocos Plats, Sauce Béarnaise – Poached Salmon, Saffron Potatoes, Runner Beans and a cup of Béarnaise Sauce. Delicate salmon and potato with touch of saffron got a bit more zesty not just after squeezing a bit of lemon over it but also with the bean mash adding vegetal touch to this dish. La Petite Cave’s take on the Béarnaise Sauce was a nice surprise. Not only butter and egg yolks, this sauce had more herbs in it that I am accustomed to, and I liked that for it even more.

Poached salmon

My partner wanted Confit de Canard, Pois Chiches en Curry, Purée de Choufleur, Coriandre – Confit of Duck leg, Curried Chickpeas, Cauliflower Purée, Coriander. The restaurant was out of duck so he was instead offered a chicken in the same version. I had a taste, or two, and loved it. The curried chickpeas added Middle Eastern flavor, cauliflower softly balanced it, and grilled garlic cloves brought it to perfection.

Confit de Poulet

Later you can have either cheese or some sweet delicacy. We tried the Fromage de Chèvre et Miel de Saignon – Creamy Goat Cheese with Honey from Saignon. Served warm on a sizzling pan and sprinkled with noisettes of red pepper, there was no flaw in this cheese preparation. Just dip a piece of bread into it and let yourself carry away on a cloud of eternal taste bliss.

Goat cheese

I was craving chocolate so went fora desert. The Fondant au Chocolate, Mascarpone, Sorbet de Cassis – Chocolate Fondant, Mascarpone and Cassis Sorbet brought me to a chocolate connoisseurs’ heaven. The Fondant had just perfect melting texture, richness and two friends on each side. On the left was a refreshing and rich home-made cassis sorbet and on the right a creamy whip of mascarpone and vanilla pods. I did not know which one to eat first or which one to leave for the last mouthful (I usually leave the best part to the end) as all the three little pots of these delicacies were incredible. This desert will be a main subject of my dreams in many nights to come.

The ultimate chocolate delicacy

Drinks: For an aperitif you can have a glass of pastis or local wine. The wine list is all local and very reasonably priced. The most expensive wine on the list when we dined there was €55. On the waiter’s suggestion we ordered a bottle of white wine from Château la Canorgue, Luberon. This organically certified blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc was deep, complex and full of life. The winery has been practicing biodynamic and organic winemaking for over 30 years, so they are not new to this area and it seems that they have learnt to do it very well. Opening hours: From 7:30pm Tuesday to Saturday for dinner. Contact: +33(0) 490 766 492; Mobile: +33(0) 637 850 922 Address: Rue Le Quai, 84 400 Saignon, France

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Cuisine: Provençal French with Asian influence; gastronomic

Visit: August 2012

Price: High (although not too much for a Michelin star restaurant – €52 for a three-course discovery dinner menu)

La Coquillade – meaning the lark

Chef:  The restaurant is in hands of a Michelin starred chef Christophe Renaud. He uses mostly local ingredients and, as became recently very popular between chefs, he grows aromatic herbs and flowers in the organic garden of the Domaine La Coquillade. His previous experiences from restaurants in the USA and in the French Alsace region formed his cooking talent, which he now utilizes using Provençal ingredients at Le Gourmet.

Amousse bouche of melon gazpacho

Atmosphere: Nature with an eternally buzzing sound of cicadas create a relaxing environment. Wooden furniture, linen and beams inside and outside on the peaceful terrace remind you that you are in the middle of lush green countryside. During the day you can spot the flocks of vineyards surrounding the domaine and the hotel. Dress comfortably yet  not too casual since, despite being in the middle of nature, you are still dining at a Michelin starred establishment.

Food: Artistic, colorful and inventive. The chef blends Mediterranean flavors with exotic cuisines such as Asian. Most of the dishes include vegetable either playing the first violin or just tuning the other food instruments on the plate.

For the curious gourmets I recommend starting with L’Assortiment d’entrée – a tapas style assortment of three appetizers changing daily. They represent the breath of the chef’s cooking.

During the evening we dined there each of the starters seemed to come from a different corner of the world, at least in terms of flavors. The first – Beignet de mini carotte fane au cumin, sauce thaï – had an Asian twist. It was a vegetable tempura served with spicy, sweet-sour and soy-like varieties of sauces. It was a great snack with a glass of white wine I had as an aperitif.

Beef carpaccio starter

The second took mostly a French coat. The Rouleau de bœuf “Blonde d’Aquitaine”, croustillant au câpre, sorbet aux herbes fraîches du jardin – was an exquisite, genial and refreshing dish. A thin slice of beef wrapped in a fresh creamy sauce, all topped with crispy cheese cracker, fresh herbs sorbet and a tangy caper. It was one of the best beef starters I have ever had. Rich yet refreshing, bursting with different flavors, it was a bespoken and original recipe for Le Gourmet.

Another excellent tongue-teaser was the Sablé au parmesan, Baïaldi de légumes, marquereau mini-cuit infusé à la livèche – a parmesan biscuit, vegetable Baïaldi with mackerel infused with herbs. Delicate and surprisingly not as fishy as one would expect for a mackerel.

Sable au parmesan

The main courses usually include one fish, one meat and one vegetarian meal. I went for the fish – Poisson de petit métier de Méditerranée – from the à la carte menu. The flavor boosting crispy red mullet was served with red rice and vegetable maki and crispy rice à la rice popcorn. It was delicious and went well with a light red wine rather than white since the wine’s character might have been overpowered by the intense flavors of the sauce served with the fish.

Fish

For a desert you can either go for a discovery with La trilogie de desserts – selection of three daily desserts – or stick with the regular menu.

We have not had either since we had cheese and delicious hams from the nearby Gordes farmers market waiting in our room to be eaten with a bottle of red Aureto wine we got as a welcome present upon check-in at the hotel housing the restaurant.

Drinks: From the very affordable Aureto wines from the Domaine La Coquillade through other local interesting wines to the French icons, the wine list has little to offer from many French regions.

Contact: +33(0) 490 74 71 71

Address: La Coquillade; Demeure de Prestige; 84 400 Gargas; France

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The Coquillade vineyards and hotel

Aureto means “gentle breeze” and it is this “Aureto” breeze that refreshes the hot hills and valleys in Provence during the summer. Aureto also is a range of wines produced on the land surrounding the Coquillade hotel resort not far from the legendary castle of Marquis de Sade. The Coquillade’s Swiss owners have done a lot to respect and recover the natural environment of the property when creating the five-star sustainable resort housing the winery producing the Aureto wines. Although the winery started making wines just recently, it has gone a long way since then in achieving what the owners once aimed for – focusing on the quality of the wines at Aureto.

Location

Broadly conceived, the domaine is still part of the Rhône Valley, but touches into Provance. Located just between two regions – Luberon and Ventoux, the vineyards fall partially under the AOP Ventoux and the Luberon AOP. Aureto spans across 30 hectares of land planted with vines.

High-tech winery

During the winemaking an innovative technology called Ganimede ® Tecinox is being deployed and used together with micro-oxygenation process. The Ganimede ® Tecinox is a computer-lead management of tanks ensuring that a specific amount of oxygen is continually supplied into the tanks and the temperature is under control preventing a secondary fermentation of the wine (otherwise, literally, they might end up with a Provençal version of a bubbly champagne).

Our guide through the vineyards

Vineyards

The vineyards as well as the hotel (former village settlement) are integrated well into the landscape. There are slightly different soils across the 30 hectares, thus most of the grape varietals are gown separately to benefit the most from each soil type. Overall though the vineyards are located on a clay-limestone soil.

From the Rhone white grapes Roussannne, Marsanne and Clairette to the Spanish Grenache and Languedoc’s Carignan in the reds, one finds a little bit of everything from most of the Southern Mediterranean regions. Syrah takes also a wide proportion of the plantings and you will find lesser known grapes like Caladoc (cross of Grenache 1958 and Black Cot) and Marselan (cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache) allowed in the AOP Ventoux. There are some wines that fulfill the guidelines of IGP Vaucluse.

Ripening bunch of grapes

The wines

An interesting point to mention is that the winemaker is a woman and it seems that the staff working at the winery is proud of it. She currently produces three ranges of wines: Cuvèes Speciales (all apellations); Tramontane (IGP Vaucluse) and Autan (AOP Ventoux).

From all the wines I have tasted from each range I liked the most the TRAMONTANE ROUGE 2010.

The grapes for this wine come from the vineyards older than thirty years, facing south on a mix of clay and limestone soil. It is a red blend of 35% Caladoc, 25% Marselan, 25% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The nose is complex with aromas of ripe red fruit, cassis, notes of violets, and a hint of vanilla and spices. The palate is dense, spicy with mellowing hints of dark chocolate, cassis and its youthful mouth-squeezing tannins call either for some meet or a couple of years of aging in a bottle. It is quite high in alcohol, nevertheless you do not taste the 15% on the palate since it is concentrated enough to balance it.

Aureto Syrah blend

Tour: Every Wednesday at 10:00 am there is a free of charge guided tour of the Vitner’s Path as well as of the winery. It takes up to two hours.

Tasting: Every Friday from 10:00am to 12:00 noon there are Wine Tasting Workshops. The hotel guests can taste daily at 6pm after reservation.

Contact:  Tel.: +33 (0) 4 90 74 71 71

Address: La COQUILLADE – RELAIS ET CHATEAUX 84400 GARGAS – FRANCE

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Cuisine: French traditional Provencal cuisine

Visit: August 2012

Price: Medium (Depending on what menu you choose: an assortment of starters is generous for €11 per person, main courses around €25; degustation of 10 specialities & 5 desserts for €35).

Chef: Jean-Didier Mathis and his team received in November 2011 the distinction of “Maitre-Restaurateur“, the highly acclaimed title for French restaurants preparing all their authentic meals on premises with the freshest ingredients.

The old village of Gordes

Atmosphere: Friendly, authentic and casual. During the warm summer evenings, you will find  most diners eating either outside in the garden or in a covered terrace. The restaurant is located in the quiet part of the old village of Gordes, which is very popular with tourists. Clos de Gustave is not a touristy place serving fries and simple meals, many locals and travelers from far away alike come to dine here because of its friendly service, family atmosphere and excellent authentic Provencal food. You can wait sometimes a bit longer for your order, but it does not spoil your evening, unless you are in a hurry somewhere. Who is rushing in Gordes, though? The warm, welcome feel the waiting staff spreads across the restaurant makes one feel relaxed and  happy. Later, your patience is also rewarded by the great food the chef and his team prepared.

Food: Seasonal, fresh, authentic. The menu changes every day and features fresh seasonal produce from local markets. After being served a fresh home-made white bread with olive oil, you can savor the Sampler starters, selected daily by the chef. These are an excellent opportunity to try something very local. Every time I dine at the Clos de Gustave, there is something new and tasty in the starter selection.

During our visit this summer we were treated to a fresh cantaloupe melon infused with sweet wine, cherry tomatoes with mint and local goat cheese, excellent white fish ravioli sprinkled with parmesan and herbs, a bowl of green salad with olive oil and a concentrated yet refreshing vegetable velouté. It was all simply amazing with the chilled velouté and ravioli winning all of our palates.

Guinea Fowl Caramelized with Honey

As my main course I ordered the Free Range Guinea Fowl Caramelized With Honey and Fresh Figs. The wing and thigh of Guinea fowl was roasted with lavander honey giving the meat juicy sweet texture. Fresh herbs including sage were tossed all over the plate not only as a decoration, but they also added a breadth to the otherwise boring guinea fowl meat. Well-cooked and genially accompanied with sumptuous and sweet figs, this was a guinea fowl that would please even the less excited fans of this bird on a plate.

Gigotin of Lamb

Gigotin of Lamb Roasted With Delicate Anchovy Cream in French called “souris d”agneau” was basically a lamb shank cooked in the oven, drizzled with anchovy cream and green rocket.

The main meals are usually served with mashed potato and one vegetable side dish. On this occasion we were given a juicy and steaming ratatouille ( the typical French vegetable stew). They both went particularly well with the succulent lamb.

Goats cheeses board

Instead of a dessert we went for a selection of fresh local goats cheeses – one plain, one with red peppers, one with herbs and a creamy one with a rind. They were served with local sweet jelly and perfect with the bread baked every morning at Clos de Gustave.

Drinks: From a regional aperitif such as pastis to the national pride of the French – the wines, you will be drinking for a great value. The wines are sourced from independent wineries in the area. We had an excellent local Merlot once there, but this time we ordered Château Les Eydins Cuvée des Consuls 2010 from Luberon. This organic blend of Syrah, Grenache and old Carignan had a fresh acidity, sweet tannins and concentrated dark fruits – all included. Paying €34 for a wine of such character was indeed a pleasure!

Opening season and hours: From late March till mid November every evening from 7:30 pm (except Sundays).

Contact: tel: +33 (0) 4 90 72 04 25

Address: Route de Murs 84 220 Gordes, France

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