Exploring Art in the Vineyards of Provence
Visiting local vineyards for a walk, tasting, and some art should provide a perfect outing for these days of social distancing. Here are a few suggestions by region:
Wine and gourmet food are reasons to visit Chateau la Coste (near Aix-en-Provence), but there is no question the contemporary art installations are a big draw for art and architecture lovers.
On a sunny day, the Art & Architecture walk will keep you warm as you climb the slope to the Tadao Ando Chapel. La Chapelle is at the highest point of the vineyard, so the view of the vines with the Luberon massif in the background is well worth the walk. The walk takes approximately 2 hours, at a moderate pace, for a modest entrance fee. There is a guided tour in English. Booking in advance is recommended.
Don’t miss the permanent installation by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at Chateau La Coste. It’s entitled Ruyi Path after the ceremonial sceptre that symbolizes power and good fortune in Chinese history. The artist followed the shape of the sceptre for the pathway made of cobblestones from Marseille weaves between the trees of the forest at Château La Coste.
Transformed in 2013 by architect Alexandre Lafourcade, Domaine de Fontenille is now a luxury spa hotel and exceptional wine domaine, with nineteen beautifully appointed bedrooms, two restaurants and a spa. Since 2018, the estate’s wine production is organic. Enologist and agricultural engineer Laurence Berlemont supervises the 35-hectares of vines. Sample the wine at Le Cave de Domaine de Fontenille on the property, or the Lourmarin boutique (spring and summer only). The property includes a Center for Contemporary Art located in a vaulted cellar that dates from the 17th-century.
Visit Vineyards of the Var:
Fragments de Terroir is a terrific website listing of vineyards across the Var with art installations. Search by artist, vineyard or via the map view.
For an art lover’s outing, about an hour’s drive from Aix-en-Provence head to La Commanderie de Peyrassol. This successful Var vineyard produces 500,000 bottles of wine a year and is a fast-growing contemporary sculpture park. In 2001, Philippe Austruy purchased the vineyard and handpicked his talented operations team. The 950 hectares property includes 93 dedicated to vines. By following best-practice vinification methodology, Commanderie de Peyrassol produces top-quality wine (red, white and rosé).
In 2004, Champagne Louis Roederer acquired a majority share in Les Domaines Ott*. The fourth generation of winemakers Christian et Jean-François Ott remains intimately involved in the operations at the vineyards. The ageing wine processing and storage facilities at Château de Selle required modernization. Paris architect Carl Fredik Svenstedt executed the vision for Domaines Ott*. He designed a functional building for the visitor’s centre, wine storage, and the state-of-the-art equipment for winemaking.
A Guide to Art in Provence
Art in the South of France, The Inside Story is about many of the artists, well-known and otherwise who lived, worked and were influenced by the landscapes of Provence. This softcover book is not a traditional guidebook, but an art-filled journey. The book moves from Arles, made famous by Vincent Van Gogh and Gauguin to Menton on the Italian border and its stunning Musée Jean Cocteau. Explore the art exhibitions and museums in Arles, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, and Nice. Don’t miss the small centres such as Graveson, Martigues, Antibes and Vallauris.
A contributor blog post by Aixcentric.