I’d forgotten quite how enchanting Provence is, particularly at this time of year. I’ve got so used to sturdily proclaiming that the Languedoc is every bit as beautiful (as well as a great deal cheaper!) that I’d overlooked Provence’s particular charm. How it can seduce you and suspend all critical faculties so if the following observations are a bit less incisive than usual you’ll have to forgive me . . .
The trip, to which I’ve been invited by the CIVP (Comit Interprofessionel des Vins de Provence) is mainly about ros which makes up 85% of the production of the three AOCs which are the organisation’s responsibility - Cotes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provenc and Coteaux Varois-en-Provence. We kicked off with a seminar and tasting and then visited Chateau de Berne, a very grand domaine up in the hills which offers a wine tourism experience very untypical of France.
But before that two of us were lucky enough to have a couple of hours to kill in Nice while we waited for our colleagues to arrive and were taken round the market by a chef called Jacques Rolancy who used to be the chef at Windows on the World at the London Hilton and now has his own restaurant Les Viviers Bretons.
I’ll be writing more about all this but here are a few stand-out pairings from the day:
Cheese sables with Domaine St Andrieu 2008
These little parmesan-dusted biscuits proved probably the best pairing of the day with the accompanying ros - but then this sort of biscuit is wonderfully wine-friendly (especially with white burgundy and Champagne). The same wine, a classic light, elegant Provenal ros struggled with our main course a (very good) dish of seared cod with plain, basil and squid ink gnocchi with a butter and light meat sauces.)
Asparagus ‘bavarois’ with artichoke tartare and Cuvée Terres de Berne Rosé 2008
Raw artichokes are very difficult to match but the creamy accompanying bavarois (a smooth mousse) helped and this worked very well
Smoked salmon, grains and fennel with lemon yoghurt cream with the same rosé
An unusual (and successful) preparation of salmon with a little salad of grains and fennel and a very lemony yoghurt cream which made the accompanying white - Cuvée Terres de Berne Blanc 2008 - taste a touch sweet. The rosé, surprisingly, worked much better
Chicken breast with soft polenta and spring vegetables and a ‘tomato and olive’ jus with the Chateau de Berne Cuve Speciale Blanc 2007
A really good match. The wine was an unusual blend of smillon and rolle - rich and waxy - not unlike a white Bordeaux. I think it would have defeated a rosé.