La route des sites d’exception Château Henri Bonnaud The new building long dreamed by Stéphane Spitzglous is located in the middle of the vineyards, with breathtaking views of the Cengle and Sainte Victoire Mountains. This sober and calm setting is ideal to taste the wines from this unique terroir. The Château Henri Bonnaud fits perfectly into the landscape so dear to Cézanne, and it is so close to the majestic mountain. From sunrise to sunset, with every season, the different shades of colours offer a moment of simplicity, tranquillity and pleasure; it’s an exceptional moment, actually. A glass filled with some country wine (PGI Mediterranean), we toast and taste this lovely white, 100% Rolle, delicious and fresh as a fruit just picked from a tree. This white wine is very good indeed! However, this is not the domain’s treasure. You have to look elsewhere, on other bottles: those that are stamped "AOC Palette". It is a rare privilege to be able to produce wines of this micro appellation situated near Aix-En-Provence. Château Henri Bonnaud is the youngest, but its vintages already succeed one another with the same precision, freshness and delicacy. It celebrates its tenth vintage in 2014; Stéphane Spitzglous, its Pygmalion, has quickly hoists it among the best domains of Provence. The master of the house owes the beauty of his wines primarily to the terroir’s quality, notably with soil of red and grey clays that hold better than others the water that has been rare in Provence for too many years. He takes great care of this beautiful land, which he has long been preserving from chemical inputs. He has decided since 2010 to follow the specifications of organic farming. So he pampers his vineyards and alleviates the vines twice a year from part of their fruits to get the most of them. "Quintessence" is the name of his head cuvee made of grapes from the high hills, picked over-ripe. “I draw from them between 30 to 35 barrels, new or of one wine. After eighteen months of aging, I only keep the top twenty!” He says. Because most of his hillsides have a southeast exposure, the red varieties are preferred: Grenache, Mourvedre or old Carignan he has from his grandfather, the famous Henri Bonnaud. “I owe him everything,” confesses the winemaker. “When I was in 9th grade, I already wanted to work with him. He refused because the land had malnourished him throughout his life. I tried my luck again when I graduated from High School, but he turned a deaf ear. Finally, in 1996, with a major in physics and science, I finally took over the estate, which I immediately renamed after him.” The first few years, he continued the path taken by his ancestors; the will to go further would follow naturally. “I have a dream... ” He says. In 2004, he tried his first personal cuvee, with the help of his wife and advice from friends and colleagues. The first vintage produced only in red is aged for eighteen months in oak barrels of one or two wines offered by winemaker friends, or purchased used. Gestures were still a little hesitant, and the workload underestimated, but that first vinification was a success. Stéphane, the young winemaker, has won his wager: his wines are characterized by their freshness and intensity and are a true reflection of the Palette appellation. The first bottles seduced and were all takers. It was a nice encouragement to Stéphane who would redouble his efforts for the following vintages, more motivated than ever. The conditions of vinification evolved. Indeed, the "Château", combining a modern and functional vinification cellar, an underground barrel room and a wine shop, is the result of Stéphane’s investment and perseverance. Working conditions are improving, and the wines of Château Henri Bonnaud are only better! 5.5247222222222,43.509444444444,0 Les vignerons du Mont Sainte-Victoire In 1924, when the winemakers of Puyloubier created their cooperative, like many others before them they named it "La Victoire". Were they saluting the armistice of November 11, 1918, which ended World War One? Or was this an obvious nod to the great lady overlooking their fields, the Sainte-Victoire Mountain made famous by Cezanne? Both no doubt, even if today the ambiguity is no longer appropriate since the winery has adopted its current name in 1965: the Vignerons du Mont Sainte-Victoire. One thing is certain: the winegrowers of Puyloubier have always been worthy of their name. In fact, they have won many "Victories" and faced successfully all the challenges that have arisen in the Provencal viniculture, starting with the most essential of all: the quest for quality. By the late ‘80s, they were among the first southern co-operators to review their method of production and modernize their equipment. Traceability, plot selection and modern technology thus greatly improved the wine. For a few years, the various cuvees of the house offer a quite remarkable quality-price ratio.  Technique can do a lot, but it can’t make miracles. Above all, the wines of Puyloubier flatter palates thanks to the quality of the terroir, which is the origin of everything. Backed by the Sainte-Victoire Mountain and thus enjoying a very favourable microclimate, the clay-limestone soil lined with red sandstone is particularly suitable for vine cultivation. However, this gift of nature must be protected to be kept intact. Since 2006, the hundred winegrowers of Mont Sainte-Victoire have engaged in a dynamic environmental approach based in particular on a qualification in Sustainable Agriculture. 5.6722222222222,43.524722222222,0 Clos Sainte Magdeleine It’s a landscape of every wine lover's dream. A peninsula splits the Mediterranean as the bow of a ship; on this strip of land and rock tossed by the waves, vineyards are offered to spray and sun. This is the Clos Sainte Magdeleine, the original parcel, and the first one that the founders of the eponymous domain cultivated in the second half of the 19th century. It is also said that it is the place where viticulture was revived in the Middle Ages, long after the Phoenicians had taught the locals. Since then, the inhabitants of Cassis went to fetch other riches and other terroirs. Owners of Clos Sainte Magdeleine since 1918, the Zafiropulos - a Greek industrialist family who immigrated to Marseille in the 19th century - have planted about ten hectares of vines on terraces ("restanques" as called in Provence, or "bancaous" as still say sometimes by Marseille elders) clinging to the hillside, under the cliffs of Cap Canaille. Bathed in sunlight but refreshed by sea breezes, these hills produce excellent fruits that make wines of character, with beautiful minerality. But they still kept the two "waterfront" hectares that bring the white house wine a touch unique to Cassis: a delicate iodine flavour that is discovered in the finish. Jonathan Sack, a young winemaker, cherishes this piece of paradise. In his early thirties, he returned to his parents Georgina and François after trying the Parisian life for a few years. That was three years ago. Since he accompanies the everyday life in the domain. He has experienced the conversion of the farm to organic farming. “This approach was dictated by current events, namely the creation in 2012 of the Calanques National Park. We were directly concerned because our vineyards were within the scope of protection. It seemed important to us to participate in this great cause. Since 2012, our wines are thus certified organic.” This certification was logical; indeed, the beneficial microclimate of Cassis and the maritime influence naturally protect the vineyard from its numerous enemies, starting with mildew. It is all the easier then to avoid the use of chemicals to let this beautiful terroir express itself freely and naturally. 5.5466686111111,43.208741666667,0 Domaine de Frégate Domaine de Fregate is a 27-hole golf course with a gentle descent to the sea. Domaine de Frigate is also a 4-star hotel with more than a hundred rooms. But Domaine de Fregate is primarily a winery steeped in history, operating a 33-hectare vineyard in the tradition of the AOC Bandol, which it has been one of the most dynamic players ever since 1941. The history of the property dates back to immemorial time. Was it to the days of sailing ships? Oh no, well before! It's true: the drawing of a "three-master" of the past suggests that the domain is heavily linked to the sailors of the Royal, but this is not at all the case. The truth is that it owes everything to farmers who, from the 17th century, have built here the first terraces to plant vines and many other things. The domain name today tells us of their hard labour: the term “Frégate” derives indeed from an old local expression, inspired by Provençal, which mean "smash". Over here rocks and pebbles had to be broken to clear a few acres of land! The vineyard of Frégate really took off in the first half of the 20th century. A man was behind this development: the Marquis Pierre de Pelleport. In the 40s, he was the owner of the Domain of Notre-Dame de Port d’Alon, ten acres of vineyards bordering the creek of Port d'Alon, one of the most beautiful landscapes of the Bandol coast. If the view was beautiful, the wines were not that good. The quality of production was far below the requirements of the marquis. So he gradually renewed his vineyards with the best grape varieties of the region: Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Grenache. The operation was successful, and when the property was renamed "Frégate" in the ‘50s, it was already among the sure values of the Bandol vineyards. Today, his successors Jean-Sébastien Thiollier and his son Antonin - who, at 26, has pledged to embrace the winemaker career - continue to work in a constant concern for quality. The terroir certainly helps. “We have a lot of white lands, highly calcareous, which acidity gives fruity and structured whites,” confirms Antonin Thiollier. “Reds benefit from a favourable climate. We have the most "littoral" vineyards in the appellation. We benefit fully from the proximity to the sea, notably with wetter nights than elsewhere which ensure our Mourvèdre excellent ripening conditions. Besides, we are always the first to harvest in Bandol. 5.7262908333333,43.158243888889,0 Château de la Clapière It's a story that looks like a novel, yet it is authentic. It begins at the end of the 19th century in Entrecasteaux, a pretty village of Brignoles hinterland. This is where Victoria Constant lives. Her parents told her that they chose her name in tribute to the Queen of England. So when the girl read in the newspaper that her Majesty was to come in Hyères-les-Palmiers, she convinces her mother to go meet her. So be it. On the way, a few miles from Hyères, the family passes the Château Clapière owned by a Scottish lady, and it pauses at the request of the young Victoria who wants to pick some violets to offer her glorious namesake. “It's beautiful here, isn’t it?” She tells her mother upon leaving. “This is where I want to live when I grow up.” The unlikely encounter between the small Var girl and the greatest sovereign of the world takes place. Both Victorias visited a long time. Nobody knows what was said, but it is tempting to imagine that the girl told the Queen her enthusiasm for the castle where she stopped a few hours earlier. Indeed, two days after this royal interview, the Empress of India comes to the famous property and also falls under its spell, praising the delicious scents of the garden dominated by violet, orange blossom and jasmine. Time passes. We are in the ‘20s, and the little girl has become a woman and mother. Her daughter Charlotte is married to Henri Fabre, a native from Hyeres. This son of Haut-Var peasants has given up his land to trade wines. It’s a successful business, among the finest in the country. It allows him to acquire a large property where he wants to move his family. Soon, he invites his stepmother, who then lives in Aups, to come and discover it. To her surprise, it ends up being the same castle that struck her in her childhood: La Clapière. Therefore, the decision was made: she would stay here! She would thus live her childhood dream, to the delight of three generations, until her death at the age of 104! Victoria’s great-grandson has chosen to honour this fabulous destiny by reviving the family estate. “My father Louis has almost never come back here since 1988 and the death of his grandmother, whom he adored,” he says. “So that the property had lost much of its lustre. In 2006, with the complicity of my companion Bruno Bartalli, I decided to give it back. We restored 3500 m2 of buildings and adjoined them a one-hectare park planted with my great-grandmother’s favourite plant species, populated with swans, ducks and peacocks.” Opened in summer 2012 by Prince Albert II of Monaco, the twenty-first century version of La Clapière houses in one place the owners’ private residence, guest apartments, a museum space –“I display some of the finest pieces of my collection dedicated to Queen Victoria: personal items, porcelain, jewellery, ornaments breeding, and official photos” - and a sale and tasting cellar. Indeed, La Clapière sells wines! Some from the best vineyards of France that Henri Fabre, a worthy successor to his grandfather, markets around the world, and those from the domain itself. The Fabre family also cared for the castle’s land and vines. “Their culture goes way back. From the Roman remains found on the site, we know that wine has been made here since ancient times. The tradition has still been continued. So when my grandfather came here, he was able to embrace the winemaker career. He was ambitious and successful, and hoisted his vineyard among the twenty Provence ‘Crus Classés’ distinguished by the state in 1955. Like him, we operate our vineyard in a constant concern for quality, taking the best advantage of a generous nature, a land made for vines with clay and limestone soils, and the typical micro-climate of the Borrels Valley.” These original but ideal conditions give wines of character, where fruitiness blends with the subtlety of flower or spice. 6.1527161111111,43.145803888889,0 Château Malherbe At a maximum, sixty bottles an hour are produced here; it is at this slow pace that the bottles of Château Malherbe are being punched. The operation is made entirely by hand, and there’s no departing the rule, for none of the 70,000 bottles produced annually in this domain of Bormes-les-Mimosas escapes the small hemp ribbon, hot wax and stamp bearing the current vintage. A pricey practice when we know the cost of labour in our country. But this tradition established by the owner Mireille Ferrari is part of the domain’s reputation. And this is the kind of details that, in the end, marks the spirits. Squeezed between the sea and the Massif des Maures, Château Malherbe is one of the jewels of the La Londe vineyards with seventeen hectares of beautiful blend of shale and clay, interspersed with quartz chips that make them permeable. The pretty Provençal building, which houses the winery and cellar, used to have a different purpose: it was the farm of Fort de Brégançon, a stronghold became famous since General De Gaulle made it the Presidents of the Republic’s resort. The military grew there everything they needed for food. They even had vineyards to make wine. So when the Ferrari family moved here in 1940, they did just like the soldiers and mixed genres: horticulture, vegetables, and viticulture. However, when Mireille Ferrari took over in the ‘60s she decided to make only wine, “And a good one for that matter!” And it is good wine, whatever the cuvee or colour. The ‘Pointe du Diable’ cuvees are named after the cap that connects the domain to Fort Brégançon; they are fruity and flattering on the palate. The ‘Malherbe’ ones are more refined, more confusing too as they are at the margin of the Provençal standards, but this difference makes their success. The 2007 red, for example, is a delight, with its intense flavours, deep aromas of black fruit and spicy notes, which work wonders on beef, after decanting. The white is very delicate, with roundness, the right amount of fat and a long finish. For Nature to give you its best, you must help it with hard work and attention. Château Malherbe has never used pesticides on its vines. The Château’s team routinely use green harvest to limit yield to 30, 35 hectolitres per hectare. The manual harvest is carried out when grapes are at their optimum ripeness level to promote the concentration of aromas. “It’s at this price that we get the material that will ultimately make the quality of our wines.” 6.3291666666667,43.101388888889,0