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Geoffrey Dean: Provence blog, Part Two

Published:  18 July, 2011

While Provence may be best known for its rosé, the writings of Peter Mayle and Domaine Tempier's brilliant Bandol reds, no visit to the region can really be complete for the serious wine-lover without a trip to the Ile de Porquerolles. This splendidly named island, some 15 km off the mainland to the south-east of Toulon, provides a unique micro-climate for wine production, in France at least. It helps Domaine de la Courtade to make some outstanding wine, particularly from mourvedre.

While Provence may be best known for its rosé, the writings of Peter Mayle and Domaine Tempier's brilliant Bandol reds, no visit to the region can really be complete for the serious wine-lover without a trip to the Ile de Porquerolles. This splendidly named island, some 15 km off the mainland to the south-east of Toulon, provides a unique micro-climate for wine production, in France at least. It helps Domaine de la Courtade to make some outstanding wine, particularly from mourvedre.

 

A 15-minute ferry ride from Giens takes you to Porquerolles, the best-known of the three picturesque and hilly holiday islands that form Les Iles d'Hyeres. The most noticeable thing on arrival is the absence of cars, which are banned apart from service vehicles. Bicyle, therefore, is king, although I made the ten-minute journey from the little port to La Courtade on foot.

 

Richard Auther, the winemaker, was away but Gisele Ventre, the cellar master, was an informative host as we walked around the 30 hectares the winery has under vine. It had been bakingly hot on the mainland, but the cooling breeze discouraged barely a bead of sweat forming on my brow during a half-hour perambulation.

 

"We get a different climate to the rest of Provence," Gisele revealed. "It's never too hot with the wind but we are the sunniest place in France with an average of 3,000 hours per year. It's 22-23 degrees today, although a bit hotter in August. Nights are fresh, which is good for the grapes. Rain is very rare in summer and we never get hail."

 

Thanks to the sea, humidity is always high which means dryness is rarely a problem in the vineyards. This is important for La Courtade's most planted grape, mourvedre, which loves heat but also requires a constant supply of moisture. The fact that the predominantly schist soil is notable for its moisture retention is also significant. "Mourvedre likes to see the sea," Gisele mused.

 

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