One word that has the power to incite the richest tapestry of sensations for the mind, body and soul; of smells, sights, decadent cuisine and of course world class wine, and lots of it. You begin to imagine a slower pace of life, where one can stop for cafe crema in a quaint cafe, meander away the days in the produce markets brimming with local cheeses, breads, meats, truffels, chocolate...... It's enough to send the tastebuds into overdrive just thinking about it. The beauty of Provence is that you can just about find this image over the entire south-eastern region of France, which comprises the areas of Var, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhone, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alps Maritimes and parts of Hautes-Alpes.
Mayle's story unfolds from the comfort of his house, set between the mediaeval villages of Menerbes and Bonnieux, both towns of which are perched upon separate hilltops in the Luberon mountains.
Where does one begin to define the magnificence of Provence? Is it at the stunning coastline of the cote d'Azur, along the banks of the Rhone river or atop the magnificent mountain of famous Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Indeed with so much to choose from and with such a vast array of landscape and scenery, the magnificence of this land cannot be defined to one particular area but to the entirety of its geography.
A French department in the region of Provence, it derives its name from the river Var. Although a small area, Var is well known for its harbour of Toulon; the main port of the French Navy, and its seaside resorts especially the internationally famous Saint-Tropez. Its mediterranean climate makes it a popular destination for holiday sun seekers along with its abundance of Romanesque and Medieval architecture. Some pooular wines are also produced in the region, in particular the wines of Bandol.
Vaucluse is a department in southeast France, bordered on the west side by the Rhone and the River Durance on the south. It was named after the famous Fontaine-de-Vaucluse spring.
A department in the south of France bordered by Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Vaucluse, and Drôme, as well as Italy. Eight rivers also run through this area; Durance, Verdon, Bléone, Ubaye, Var, Buëch, Jabron, Largue. Its landscape is mountainous with peaks reaching over 8,000 feet (2,400 metres) and provides the perfect setting for winter skiing. During the rest of the year the climate is dry and arid, yet the benefits of irrigation allow there to be an extremely prosperous fruit producing industry.
Due to the picturesque scenery tourism thrives in this area, whether it be to marvel at the ancient towns and cathedrals or use the surrounding mountains for outdoor sports like hang gliding and paragliding.
Although Provence is well known for the beaches along the French Riviera, one of the better known specialties of Provence is of course the wine, which has been produced in this region for more than 2600 years. Today Rose wine is predominantly produced, accounting for over half of all Provencal wine in production and boasting a fruity, refreshing flavour. Yet many wine critics still argue the regions red wines, especially the spicy, full flavoured ones are the best produced from the area.
The red grape varieties most commonly grown in Provence include the Mediterranean carignan, grenache, cinsault, mourvedre and the tibouren variety used for rose. Syrah and cabernet sauvignon are also grown but are an introduced grape to the region. White wine is produced from the white grapes of ugni blanc, rolle, clairette and grenache blanc.
Wineries are found scattered all over the country side as there are around five hundred in Provence. Half the fun of this area is driving into the unknown, up gorgeous windy roads, coming across winery after winery and emerging laden with bottles of the delicious ruby red liquid to add to the ever-growing cellar.