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The Wine Roads of Provence

The Cotes de Provence is an Impressionist Painting. (Courtesy Francois Millo/CIVP)
Of all the regions of France, Provence may be the most beautiful of all.

It has mountains and coast, lush river valleys, meadows verdant with lavender, and Mediterranean bays with steep limestone cliffs. It has ancient villages with red-tile rooftops and church steeples and cobblestoned streets, on which small boys and old ladies still carry loaves of aromatic French bread home for dinner that night. It has colorful marketplaces filled with sharp cheeses and fresh produce.

It has some of France's best wines and wineries...including some of the best roses in the world. And it has some of France's most incredible roads on which to drive to these wineries...ranging from cliff-top thrill rides to winding country lanes lined with picturesque old cottages with the occupants gathered at a table outside for lunch. 

Provence was first made famous by the Impressionist artists Van Gogh, Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso, and, more recently, by Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. This sun-drenched region occupies the southeastern corner of France, along the Mediterranean Sea. It stretches for 150 miles, from the Côte d'Azur along the Italian border in the east to the Rhone River valley in the west. Geographically, it encompasses the French Riviera, and the cities of Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon, Marseille, Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez. And, historically, it encompasses the ancients.

The fruit of the vine... (Courtesy Francois Millo/CIVP)
The Romans were here, as evidenced by the numerous aqueducts and amphitheaters you'll pass as you drive around. The Greeks were here, too, and they left something just as precious - the gift of the vine. It was the Greeks who introduced grapes, wine, and winemaking to the region. 

Today, Provence is one of Europe's leading wine regions, and a drive though the countryside will take you past scenic wineries with excellent tasting rooms. (In addition, the province is also known for its fruits, vegetables, herbs, olives, olive oil, and seafood.)

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