Wine Country Travel: En route in Provence

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By Robert Camuto-- Wine Spectator June 30, 2014

When it comes to dream destinations, few have been mythologized as much as France's Provence. This sprawling, sun-splashed Mediterranean region—bursting with olive groves, orchards, wild herbs, vineyards and antique stone villages where pastis and rosé flow—has for generations drawn moguls, movie stars and legions of tourists in search of a piece of the good life.

Yet Provence has managed to keep its authentic heart intact as it has evolved. A boom in worldwide rosé demand has brought recognition to regional wines and given a boost to producers and investment. (See "The Rosés of Summer".) The region's capital, Marseille, is undergoing a renaissance with some of Mediterranean Europe's boldest and most ambitious architectural and restoration projects along its stunning waterfront. A new generation of chefs is not only preserving Provence's classic market cuisine, but also celebrating it with modern twists.

Provence is not a region you can exhaust in a week. Bigger than Massachusetts and with cultural centers such as Marseille, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, there's just too much of it to see in a short time. The region is traditionally defined by the Rhône River on the west, the Italian border on the east, the Mediterranean on the south, and a northern Alpine border roughly where the cultivation of olive trees peters out. Provence spans a spectrum of terroirs in more than 20 wine appellations, from coastal Bandol and Cassis to the catchall Côtes de Provence to the Southern Rhône.

Smart strategizing is key to planning a visit to Provence. For example, an ideal weeklong road trip would take in some of the great natural beauty, regional soul and concentrations of great food and wine. We suggest an itinerary that begins in Marseille, with its stretch of rugged coastline, then moves north to three areas defined by local mountains: the gentle, cultivated towns of the Alpilles around St.-Rémy de Provence, the wild beauty of the Lubéron, and the vast windswept landscape around Mont Ventoux, in striking distance of the Rhône's great wine-producing villages. At every step of the way, you'll be in delicious wine country that transforms from white and rosé to richer, deeper reds as you head north. Read full article at Wine Spectator