Seaside Cassis Wines and Other Reasons to Visit
This article was originally published (in French) in Fine Bouches Magazine, a magazine for lovers of high-quality foods and wines.
Seaside Cassis Wines
Cassis is the most beautiful AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) in France: the vineyards cling to the slopes of a magical amphitheatre that plunges towards the shimmering Mediterranean. The Phocaeans (ancient Greeks from Asia Minor) must have been enchanted with these slopes when they first saw them 2,600 years ago. And they did well to plant them to the vine. The perfect exposure, dry and nutrient-poor soils and the cooling Mediterranean breezes still give rise to some of the most expressive wines of the Mediterranean. The wines of Cassis have made this tiny seafaring village tucked right next to vibrant Marseille, one of the references for white wine not just in France but in the world.
In the 16th century, Cassis became renowned for white wines, a unique distinction in a region that at that time produced mostly reds. Today, the Cassis AOC remains unique within Provence with white wines accounting for 67% of production. Rosé, which constitutes about 90% of the production of Provence, in Cassis accounts for 30%, and reds account for only 3%.
Due to its long wine-making history, Cassis was one of the first AOCs in France, established in 1936, when the AOC system was first put in place. Continue reading here for the full Provence WineZine article – Cassis: A Timeless AOC – and photos of the vineyards in winter.
Reasons to Visit
Lunch! Cassis is a picturesque town tucked into a curve along the Mediterranean Sea between the calanques. The town with 8,000 inhabitants is about 20 km east of Marseille. It’s a fishing port on a steep hillside with vineyards and pastel-coloured houses that tumble down to the seaside. Bordering the marina are more pastel-coloured houses, shops and restaurants. The port is filled with little fishing boats, yachts and charter boats that take tourists out to the calanques. According to Michel, Chez Gilbert is a terrific choice for lunch.
The Calanques: The town is so adorably cute that you might think you are walking into a postcard. Take a stroll through town followed by a bowl of Marseille fish soup or moules-frites at one of the many restaurants lining the port. The setting of Cassis is dramatic. Besides those vineyards, Cap Canaille—the highest cliff in France—towers over the town on its east side. And to the west are the beautiful and rugged calanques, the so-called mini fjords of France.
Hiking: From Cassis, you can easily hike to the first two Calanques (Port Miou and Port Pin). Or even to the third one (En-Vau), if you are prepared for a rather steep climb upon return. The blue and turquoise waters contrasted with the white limestone are, to say the least, a highlight to your day. Read more.
Routes des Crêtes: Don’t miss this drive from Cassis to its coastal neighbour to the east, La Ciotat. The D141 – Routes des Crêtes – runs along the cliff tops joining the two towns. The driving distance is roughly 15km and should take about 30 minutes. However, the views are stunning, and there are plenty of opportunities for photo-ops along the way. The road passes by Cap Canaille the highest cliff in France at 364m/ 1290 ft. This road is subject to the occasional closure on days where there is an elevated fire risk or extreme winds. More details here.