For those of you who didn’t know, Alex used to work in the wine industry back in Malibu a couple years ago. Early on in our relationship she would bring over different varietals from the local wineries in Malibu and would pair them with our dinners on some of our first dates! As you can probably expect, she had always wanted to wine taste in Tuscany and the South of France. Well, we already checked off wine tasting in Tuscany a couple months ago, so we thought it was about time to check off wine tasting in the South of France with a nice weekend trip to Marseille and Provence.
Our time was spent exploring Marseille, eating an un-godly amount of food, and wine tasting our way through southern France’s famous AOC of Provence. With so many things to do, we thought we would create a list of our favorites, so here are the Couple’s Coordinates top things to do in Marseille and Provence:
You’ve probably heard of Provence from Russel Crowe’s famous movie A Good Year, but if you’re a single guy, maybe not. Either way, if you haven’t seen the movie, grab a bottle of wine and throw it on tonight.
France, not unlike Italy, ensures the finest cultivation and production of its wines and has a very strict set of laws in place to ensure that the wine is produced at the highest quality. Of upmost importance to determining the AOC (essentially a controlled region) is the terroir, which is a combination of the quality of the soil and the climate/air. While Bandol and Cassis may only be separated by a few miles, they produce vastly different wines. Their proximity to one another doesn’t change the fact that their terroirs are quite different. For those of you unfamiliar, Bandol’s terroir would be more like a cross between Santa Ynez (near Santa Barbara, CA) and Napa Valley while Cassis was a bit more similar to Malibu.
We split our wine tasting day between two of southern France’s most popular AOCs: Bandol and Cassis. Starting the day in Badol with a bold glass of red wine at about 11:00 AM, we were quickly introduced to the “King Grape” of Bandol, Mourvedre Each of the wineries that we visited in Bandol had a number of unique blends, but each winery also made sure to note that Muorvedre was at the center of their production. Rose wine, being the predominate wine of Provence, was also offered in every tasting we had throughout the day. Fun fact: We were also taught that the vineyards in the region had all been planted by the Roman Empire as they expanded through the southern regions of France. Well, you can’t really conquer the world if you don’t have good wine to drink, right?
Our final stop of the day was Cassis, which is the second oldest AOC in France, trailing only to the region of Champagne. Cassis offered a nice change of pace as it is a gorgeous coastal fishing town with 11 wineries producing mostly in rose and white wines. One thing you’ll notice as you wine taste your way through Provence is that every winery showcases whichever award one of their wines has won in the last few years. It seems to us that there is an award for just about every wine, as each winery boasted similar accolades.
One suggest we have for you all in Cassis is that it is absolutely imperative that you drive or hike up to the vantage point just south of the town. Here you’ll find a cliff side reminiscent of Pride Rock from the movie Lion King that sits about 1000 feet over the town of Cassis and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the coastline.
One thing that we missed out on was hiking the Calanques The vantage point overlooking Cassis gave us an idea of how stunning they would be, but unfortunately do to time constraints we weren’t able to hike them on this trip. The Calanques are essentially a collection of limestone cliff side inlets lining the sea which are sort of the Grand Canyon of the South of France.
Our wine tour guide was a local of Marseille, and had been running the Bandol & Cassis wine tour for quite some time, so we took him as a pretty credible source of food information. Our tour provided for an hour and a half free lunch time in Cassis and our guide pointed us in the direction of a delicious port side restaurant. Having had a mediocre meal in Marseille the night before, we decided to get his best advice on where to eat following our tour.
His response was simply, “L’Arome. It is the best in Marseille.” He wasn’t wrong.
Hidden away from the center in the art district of Marseille, this hole in the wall (a very gaffitied wall, mind you) was this local gem. We can confidently say that L’Arome was the best French meal that we had in our month on the Cote d’Azur. In addition to the food, the staff made you feel right at home and pointed out something we had never realized before: Americans say, “Amazing,” way too often. Her: “How was the food?” Us: “Amazing.” Her: “How is the wine?” Us: “Amazing!” Seriously like a doll where you pull a string and it has only 1 or 2 phrases. We couldn’t help it though, because the food was simply amazing! On top of the wonderful (amazing) food, they had an excellent and affordable wine selection. This place is hands down a MUST if you are anywhere close to Marseille.