Whether in France or elsewhere, no one wine region resembles another. Some focus on originality to make a statement whilst at the same time attracting inquisitive visitors who would not necessarily have plucked up the courage to push open the doors of a more conventional winery. Here are some of the more unexpected destinations…
Lérins Abbey, French Riviera
Located off the coast of Cannes, the Ile Saint-Honorat has been home to monasteries since the 5th century. Lérins Abbey, built between the 11th and 19th century, stretches over approximately 40 hectares in an unspoilt leafy setting. The original Cluny community has now been superseded by Cistercian monks who perpetuate the tradition of wine growing. With seven hectares, six grape varieties and seven different labels, only ancient techniques are permitted. Every day, a clutch of tourists alights from the ferry to discover the Abbey’s range of wines and the idyllic scenery of Saint-Honorat – but to do so, they have to respect the monks’ vow of silence.
Château La Coste, Provence
Art, gourmet food and wines from Provence create an explosive combination at Château La Coste, 15 km from Aix-en-Provence, where expertise in various fields has been pulled together to offer a novel experience for the hedonists who dare to enter within its realms. Its attraction stems as much from the futurist artwork of Tadao Ando and Louise Bourgeois as the Mediterranean cuisine of Gérald Passédat, served with the estate’s wines. Where beautiful meets good.
Dunes de la Pointe, Bay of Biscay
In Capbreton, vines literally grow along the water’s edge. The beaches of Landes are home to several hectares of Chenin, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Tannat. Domaine des Dunes de la Pointe is heir to a combined tradition of sailing and wine growing and produces red, rosé and white wines labelled PGI Vin des Landes. Here, vines push their roots down through the sand and the grapes are cooled by spray rising off the Atlantic Ocean, creating an unusual vineyard well worth exploring between two sessions of surfing!