Through rosé tinted glasses...
A trip to Provence - Château Paradis & Chateau d'Esclans
It was a chilly Monday morning leaving London but fret not, sunshine and rosé awaited us in just a couple of hours. We arrived in Nice and made our way in convoy to Aix-en-Provence, a couple of hours later and a few circles around the same roundabouts (sat navs fault) we pulled up at the most stunning chateau – Château de Fonscolombe. We were greeted by a lovely young man who checked us in, but everyone was eager to relax in the beautiful gardens, so after a swift peek of our rooms we all gathered again to watch the sunset and enjoy a delicious glass of Chateau de Fonscolombe Rosé.
Shortly afterwards our wonderful hosts Jérémie and Clémentine from Château Paradis joined us, and we were invited into the restaurant for the most fabulous five course dinner, safe to say we all totally indulged! I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, so the dessert was my standout; Pear, roasted, spiced biscuit and coconut sorbet. Not to forget, Château Paradis red and white wine to complement throughout. Following dinner everyone was in high spirits so a fair few games of pool were played into the early hours of the morning - everyone’s competitive sides were out as we were introduced to the game ‘numbers’ aka ‘Kelly’! Read the rules here, you’ll thank me if you haven’t already played – it’s great and involves everyone if you’re in a big group.
My Tuesday morning began with chirping birds (sounds cliché I know but it’s true I promise), a very different but delightful wakeup call compared to the sounds of cars in London! Breakfast was perfect; a delicious continental offering so a few mini pain au chocolate, freshly squeezed orange juice and some yogurt and fruit was thoroughly enjoyed.
We then headed off only a mile down the road to Château Paradis. We were welcomed by Clémentine who walked us through the vineyard and shared the history of the estate. She then invited us to pick and taste some of the Syrah grapes, good timing as they were literally finishing the harvest early the following morning! Afterwards, we were shown around the winery and they explained the winemaking process and shared some of their ‘tricks’ to making fantastic Rose (including massive fridges to chill the picked grapes before fermentation – helps to retain freshness).
Before we were treated to the most magnificent lunch, we had a taste of seven grape juices, all of which were yet to finish the fermentation process. Fascinating to see what the juice tastes like before all the sugar has converted to alcohol, all rather tasty and a beautiful rainbow of colours! Then it was time to indulge once again; the team at Château Paradis certainly know how to put on a good lunch, we were all very satisfied with full stomachs at the end. Jérémie then challenged us in pairs to make the ‘perfect red blend’ using a mix of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. We came 2nd as Clémentine judged my dad and Mark`s blend the winner, you can see what my dad thought of that in the photo! Their blend was Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) Syrah (40%) Grenache Noir (20%) – Pretty close to the real thing!
A guided tour of Aix-en-Provence had been organised, so we had a quick turnaround back at the hotel (always time for a very quick dip in the pool though) and then we headed off in convoy again. Aix-en-Provence is commonly referred to as the ‘City of Water’, Aix means ‘water’ and in this beautiful city you can find around 40 unique fountains, so our tour guide took us through the streets and stopped to share stories and the history at a handful of the most significant ones.
To finish off a fantastic day, Jérémie and Clémentine chose a local hotspot for dinner, La Petit Ferme. Everyone loved the menu but being a vegetarian, it was a little tricky to find something… until I noticed a side of truffle macaroni cheese. This as a main portion along with a chocolate fondant hit the spot! Safe to say, everyone hit the pillows early, so we were recharged for our last day.
With the short but sweet stay at Château de Fonscolombe soon to be over, I thought it was worth setting my alarm early on Wednesday so I could watch the sunrise from the swimming pool – a decision I did not regret and made even nicer when a few of our guests joined me!
It was then time to tuck in one last time to the wonderful breakfast spread and wave goodbye to this part of Provence, as we then made our way to Chateau d’Esclans for our final adventure.
A few hours later we arrived at Chateau d’Esclans with a warm greeting from Tom and Julia, who were our hosts for the day. We had a little wander around the shop until Tom popped open what felt very much like a secret door, and suddenly we were in the midst of the bottling operation. It was fascinating to see the difference in how a large brand such as Chateau d’Esclans operates in comparison to a small artisan producer like Château Paradis the day before. Tom and Julia walked us through the winery pointing out very impressive machinery, some with incredibly advanced technology; one machine was able to sort grapes based on stored images of the ‘perfect grape’ and discard those that didn’t meet the criteria – crazy!
Next, we went to the ‘Cave’ for a tasting where Tom and Julia showcased their range of rosés; The Palm by Whispering Angel, Whispering Angel, Rock Angel, Chateau d’Esclans, Les Clans and Garrus. I thought I’d safely say that Whispering Angel would always be my number 1 but there is no denying that Garrus was a close contender – delicious! With the last few hours of our trip closing in, there was no better ending than sitting on the terrace at the back of the Chateau with the most spectacular views, the tastiest food, fantastic company and of course a glass of Garrus to top it off! We finished our visit by having coffee in the bar whilst watching Whispering Angel’s 10-year anniversary video and managed to get a little sneak peek inside the Chateau too.
A little addition to the above, Whispering Angel is essentially what sparked my interest in wine and I suppose you could say, lead me to joining the wine industry so this particular visit was pretty special for me personally and a very sentimental first trip at Ellis Wines.
Holly Rose Ellis – October 2019