Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rent our apartment in Nice, France!

This is the new development of our small enterprise, we're going into the rental business! This sounds grand, but we're really just talking about one apartment and it's placed right in the heart of Nice on the French Riviera.
Since Pierre and I started going to Nice some years ago, we always loved the Port area. Last year we rented an apartment here and got the wild idea of investing in this area. So this was the area we searched in and found a beautiful renovated apartment in an old art-deco building a stone's throw from the line-up of huge flashy yachts and small colourful fishing boats. We gave it the name "Niça" - an old word for Nice. 
By August we started furbishing it, step by step in between being in Tuscany running the wine tours. And now, after much selection and fixing we're almost ready - at least with the final photos for the site. 
The most wonderful features of our apartment - and the reason why you should rent it - is that it's so central to everything, the historical building gives you a true feeling of Nice, we've decorated it beautifully and given it all features of comfort for a great stay.

Have a peak with me now! This is the hall when you walk in on the second floor.

I love this cabinet. We've filled it with pebbles of Nice's beach.

In a rental I've always thought there weren't enough cooking utensils to cook up a nice meal, if you feel like it. So here you'll have all you need for a fine dinner at home.

We'll have breakfast in the kitchen with fresh made croissants or baguette from the bakery around the corner.

Here I'm standing on the terrace where I hang clothes or check out the sunny weather

I love to cook with spices and it's hard to do so when away, so these are all at the disposal of our guests.

Let's move into the living room. It's large and bright with a comfy sofa and two armchairs.

Great painting of Nice Port

There's an bluetooth stereo, a few books and games available

 Sofa's so inviting...have a drink or watch international TV (netflix available!!)

Another detail I love - this is depicted on a window shutter in the theme of the sea just outside...

Master bedroom with king size bed, super comfy!

Touch screen computer hooked up to the internet for your use

Second bedroom with beds that can be separated.

The bathroom

The meditation room!

The building is at the Port of Nice (where those green trees are)

Lots of options around for some delicious specialties

Place Garibaldi where you can hang out at Aperitif time (2 drinks at the price of 1!)

And the pebbly beach just 5 mins walk away

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The pink wine country of Provence

Another great thing about being in Nice during winter, is that we are right next door to many different wine regions. Some days we'll hop in the car and just an hour's drive away we're in the heart of Côtes du Provence. This is the largest wine region in Provence as the region counts for about 75% of the total wine production in Provence.
And rosé counts for about 80% of the wine produced within the region. So, in fact, Provence is well known for its pinkish wines bottled traditionally in a bowling-pin shaped bottle, but nowadays bottle shapes are infinite and very creative.
Producers stick to grapes that like to grow under the 3000 hours of sun that the region typically gets yearly:  Carignan, Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Tibouren with an increase in the use of the use of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Wine prices in Provence are quite agreeable to the buyer. Often bottles sell for less than 10 euros, with the occasional exception of a producer putting a lot of effort into making a rosé of higher complexity using small oak barrels for ageing as for example the case of Château d'Esclans where the World's most expensive rosé is made, "Garrus" (around 90 euros a bottle).
Wineries are plentiful in the area. I've made a map of ones that I would like to visit (some done, still many to do). Perhaps that could be helpful for you, too.
Hereunder you can see the map of the Côtes du Provence AOC hanging at the very helpful Maison des Vins - a giant wine shop and place to get a bit of information whilst touring the area.

You can read much more about Provence's wine regions on the site:

For a classy wine tour in Provence from Nice, see our itinerary here:

And here's a map of some wineries that could be worth visiting:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wine Touring in Winter - Nice Wine Tours

Europe is usually not overrun with tourists during winter, but hey you have the occasional traveler during winter and when possible we'll provide a tour. So the other day we headed to the hill country behind Nice with a lovely young couple, Chris and Liz from North Carolina. 
The ride is only around half an hour on windy and very narrow roads. Kinda happy I wasn't driving myself, so I could simply enjoy the wine tour ;)
Pierre started out by pointing out the geography and wine regions of Provence, their history and modern day characteristics.

Pierre is engineer in agronomy and enjoys to explain the vineyard dynamics, so how to make great wines and what that means for the vine growers. He puts it into an analogy of parents (vines) and babies (grapes) who become big and strong only by the energy of the plants being helped along by humans and terroir. It's quite funny (not just because of his charming French accent), but it's just something all can relate to.

We arrive at the first winery where owner and wine maker Eric shows us around while Pierre translates. He grows the local grapes Rolle, Braquet and Folle Noir organically from which he makes a white, a rose and a red. The estate is a small family run one and the aim is to make wines of high quality and individual personality and to follow the variations of vintages.

It's a bit chilly, but our American couple are in good spirits, and we move inside to see where the wines are resting in vats and barrels. Eric is enthusiastic about his 2014 vintage which is still in making - my French is still primitive but I could detect the excitement while he was talking about it. 

And then it's time for our first tasting. In Provence you start by tasting rosé, then you go on to white and then finally red. Pierre's the Inspector Clouseau of wine tasters and tries to help you find the elements inside the wines to describe them better and to assess their quality.

Every drop of wine was swallowed as it was quite delicious. "Santé" is the French word for - you can also say "tchin-tchin". Good words to know for your next French vacation as wine here is consumed with every meal (breakfast apart).

We head over to Chateau de Cremat for a tasting. This is a beautiful building and the cradle of the AOC region of Bellet. For decades wines of the area were only bottled here, back when grape growers around the region weren't equipped for making and bottling their own and simply sold the grapes.

We've worked up an appetite, the sun has come out and we head down the valley to pick-up our pan-bagnat and then head up to a hilltop village for a picnic lunch with more wine :)

The view is stunning over the Var river valley and the mountains in the North (picture) spotted by medieval villages, and the Mediterranean to the South.

It's Epiphany days in France so you can't avoid devouring (more than you should of) the delicious cake called Galette. Gallette is a traditional puff-pastry cake stuffed with almond cream in which a little saint figure is hidden. The person who gets it (lucky me!) becomes king or queen. Then it becomes this person's turn to buy for the next round and so on. Hence it's never-ending and just wicked!

After our delightful lunch we head up the hill side to visit an unorthodox wine maker who uses the sunlight during ageing. It's a spectacular setup for the eyes and at the same time mind-boggling. Wasn't sunlight and oxygen usually the enemies of wines?

Mr Rasse is the proud owner of this estate and he explains his philosophy and wine making techniques. The UV light kills the yeasts and lowers the energy of the wines and a photo-oxidation occurs and the end result is higher stability. Wines that are more stable need less sulphites. Of course, this process also changes the taste of the wines due to a higher level of oxidation.

Here he is, Mr Rasse, among the gorgeous paintings of his brother that feature on the labels of the wines. A real "vigneron" with a great deal of character and charm. The tasting starts after we visit the winery with no less than 8 different wines from pinks, whites, reds & dessert wines, all followed by an interesting commentary from the owner.

And this was the conclusion of our lovely day out in the hills of Nice, tasting the typical savours of the area and learning from the locals. Our guests Chris, a winery virgin (that''s what I call someone who's never gone wine touring before), and Liz now have a whole lot more knowledge about the wine making and a good taste of what this area of France offers, and I think they got themselves a wine tour experience to remember forever!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 - the new Tuscan Wine Map

Isn't it exciting every time we get to start a new year? It's like a blank chapter in our book waiting to be written - hopefully a great one!
On our level there's not too much we can do to change the big World events, but we can fill our personal books with nice stuff and I can only imagine that if we all do the same, the positive vibe will spread.
I'm going to start my chapter by showing you our updated Tuscany wine map. This time with colours and an index to follow the colours to the regions, where it is also indicated what colour of wine is produced in the region (green's for white wine, red is obviously for red, pink's for rosé and orange is for dessert wine).
For the rest, I look forward to a great year of family, wine, food, photography & travel - not to mention the whole bunch of new people still to be met.
Let's make the best of it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wine in the Apuan Alps

We're back in Tuscany for the holidays. The trip from Nice to Florence offers the most spectacular views of sea, medieval seaside- and hilltop villages, and the mountains inland. One area that I've always wanted to visit is the Northwestern area of Tuscany also known as the Apuan Alps. Yup, that's right, where no other than Michelangelo got his marble for e.g. the David from. In fact, summer or winter, these alps always show their white marble excavations (may look like snow from a distance) and as you approach Carrara you see the many marble shops and industry that have developed especially in post war times - so not all of Carrara is very pretty to look at. Surely when Michelangelo came here to choose his perfect block of marble it must have been quite enchanting, but he did have to wait 8 months for it to ship to Florence, a trip that today could be done in less than 2 hrs!

It's no news that this also is a great region to grow vines, but because of the terrain being mountainous and often only accessible by foot (not allowing tractors), the size of vineyards and wineries tend to be quite small. We met Emanuele of Terre Apuane for a tasting of his 5 wines obtained from 5 ha of vineyards surrounding the hills around the village of Carrara.
His is truly a one-man winery! Emanuele tends to the old vines himself, and is just the authentic vintner you've always dreamt of meeting (if you have!). As we got talking it dawned upon me that he's a realist in farming. Hence neither organic nor conventional. A good sane combination, not compromising on nature nor quality of wine, intervening only if absolutely necessary to protect both the vines and the end consumer. I do like that concept, so we'll definitely see more of Emanuele in the future! And there will definitely be one of his wines in our next wine club shipment!

Do note that the white on these pictures is not snow, but marble!

As mentioned 5 wines and only 10.000 bottles of wine made each year. The 2 whites both have Vermentino (1 of which also has the local Albarola), and 3 reds - including a Vermentino Nero and a Massaretta blend. I've already touched the Vermentino Nero in this blog before, but Albarola & Massaretta are completely new here. 
The former is a white grape indigenous to this area and Cinque Terre, but apparently quite similar to Bianchetto Genovese - so also present in other areas along Liguria. 
The latter, Massaretta, is also known as Barsaglina - a red variety also native to this Northern Tuscan area known locally for giving good tannin and color. 

This time of year it's time for pruning. You may see the Mediterranean sea in the background despite the grey December day. And the dog called Fiaba was just a delight.

Can you spot the hidden vineyard worker? Yeah, that's Julian hard at work with bringing vine cuttings to a nearby fire.

If you wanna visit Carrara, get more inspiration and practical info on Georgette Jupe's blog post.
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