Michelin Guide 2013: Two New Stars Rise in the Vaucluse – La Closerie in Ansouis and the Restaurant Prévôt in Cavaillon


There is pleasure in the predictable. When Michelin announced that first-time one stars were being awarded to the Restaurant Prévôt in Cavaillon and La Closerie in Ansouis in the Luberon, their gratified clients were hardly astonished as these establishments have been attracting rave reviews for years. Michelin is just confirming the obvious.


At the Restaurant Prévôt, they prepared to be anointed with a star in the manner in which a star gets ready for an Oscar-winning part: a total makeover.

A worn exterior and slightly weary interior – the French would say that the place was désuet – was transformed into a smart modern lively look that is a perfect counterpart to the ebullient toujours souriant chef Jean-Jacques Prévôt. (pictured with his daughter Sandra Rose who looks after the dining room). The new décor debuted in December.


Whereas the menus are seasonal, Jean-Jacques is legend for his summertime melon specialities – Cavaillon being the epicenter of melon production with its sweet dark green-stripped variety.  There are two melon tasting menus offered in season.

Highly creative, Jean-Jacques transforms burgers into a sunburst of flavors, such as Le Mac Prévôt,” (not your usual Mac-Do) – no beef, rather roasted foie gras. Did you say melon ketchup? In brief, the Prévôt is a total culinary blast.

Restaurant Prévôt, 353 Avenue Verdun, Cavaillon, France, Tel 04 90 71 32 43. Email: contact@restaurant-prevot.com, Facebook, Menu 26€, at lunch, 46€, to 115€, at dinner,  and à la carte, menus are seasonal with melon featured in the summer. Excellent Southern Rhone wines. Closed Sunday and Monday except July and August, and Holidays. Located in center of town.



A jewell is La Closerie: minature and intimate; a small outdoor terrace affords a peaceful view of green pasture. It is here that for over ten years the chef Olivier Alemany along with his charming wife and maître d’hôtel Delphine have been delighting customers with their exquisite cuisine. Olivier trained at the Intercontinental Carlton in Cannes.

Lunch menu “Clin d’oeil” at 25€, dinner menus at 38€ and 65€. and four entrées and dishes à la carte from 18€ to 30€, and four desserts at 10€ each. The wine list has superb Luberon wines. Presentation is divine, service is top-flight, as Michelin would expect.


La Closerie, Boulevard des Platanes,  84240 Ansouis, France, Tel 04 90 09 90 54, Reservations a must. Closed Wed & Thurs and Sunday evening, Call to confirm summer hours. Directions: Six miles est of Lourmarin: take D27 towards Cucuron, then D45 to D135 to the Ansouis, then left on D37 to Blvd des Platanes.  Website

Note: Le Pavillon de Gallon is nearby.

Here are the other haute cuisine restaurants in the Vaucluse that all maintained their Michelin stars:



Domaine de Capelongue / Edouard Loubet, Bonnieux (photo r.)


Christian Etienne – Avignon

Hôtel D’Europe – Avignon

Le Diapason – Avignon

Le Saule Pleureur / Laurent Azoulay – Monteux

La Petite Maison / Eric Sapet – Cucuron

Domaine de La Coquillade / Christophe Renaud  – Gargas

Les Bories – Gordes



Le Vivier – L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (photo L.)

Le Phebus / Xavier Mathieu – Joucas

La Fenière – Lourmarin

Le Pré du Moulin – Serignan Du Comtat

Le Moulin à Huile – Vaison La Romaine

Le Grand Pré – Roaix

Restaurant Dominique Bucaille – Grambois

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Lacoste: The Phantom Bank in the Novel “At Last” by Edward St. Aubyn; Cash, Gas and Bread in the Luberon


Lacoste: No banks here

In “At Last,” the British novelist Edward St Aubyn winds down in acrid ironic prose drenched with dark humor the lacerating saga of Patrick Melrose, born into the high tone world of the upper crust and now long liberated from the ravages of addiction, confronting with stoic detachment life without his mother – the narrative taking place on the day of her funeral.

Here we find Patrick, having gone to New York to mind after the administration of a trust of which he is the ultimate beneficiary, in discourse with legal counsel Peter Zirkovsky:

“Your mother must have been keeping it as a nice secret surprise,” said Peter with a big lazy smile.

“It might be that,” said Patrick tolerantly. “Where does the income go?”

“Currently we’re sending it to….’ Peter flicked over a sheet of paper, ‘the Association Transpersonel at the Banque Populaire de la Côte d’Azur in Lacoste.

‘Well, you can stop that straight away,” said Patrick.


In the Vaucluse, there are no branches of the Banque Populaire de la Côte d’Azur; the bank, true to its geographic moniker, only serves the departments of the Alpes-Maritime and the Var.

There is a Banque Populaire (BP) in the Vaucluse, yet there is no branch in Lacoste. One does find the BP in Apt.

In fact, Lacoste has no banks, and for that matter no boulangerie; the village is essentially denuded of commerce except for two cafés and a small épicerie in the Espace La Costa frequented by snack-hungry students from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

PBV can’t count the times, during the summer season, that in some café, at a farmers market or a vernissage, slightly-disoriented visitors to the Luberon would ask, “Where is the nearest ATM / cashpoint , or is there a petrol / gas station “dans le coin” – the inquiry premised on an urgent need for funds or fuel.

Prefaced with the observation that such conveniences are few and far between in Luberon, this is country mind you, a reply would provide the curious with precise locations since after some time living in the region you have a map of DAB’s (distributeur automatique de billets) and stations essence embedded in your memory. Yes, those, as well as boulangeries open on Sunday or Monday.

Now, in the here-is-something-useful category, people arriving in the Luberon for a séjour of a week or longer would be well served to jot down upon arrival – with assistance from their hosts – the nearby locations of:

  • ATMs / Cashpoints
  • Gas / petrol stations (the supermarket Intermarché in Apt sells gas and there are road signs pointing to their 32 stores in the Vaucluse.
  • Boulangeries – usually closed on Monday although in towns where there are several boulangeries there is one open on every day of the week.
  • Farmers markets, which migrate from village to village during the week, e.g. Lacoste market is Tuesday morning. Since gites rent from Saturday to Saturday, the farmers market in Coustellet on Sunday mornings is a good start.

And don’t forget to set yourself right with a good rosé for an apéro and a bottle of locally-produced olive oil.

Niggling note on French grammar: Association Transpersonel should be Association du Transpersonnel (2 n’s).

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Saint Jean du Barroux: Philippe Gimel Created a Cult Brand, the Hottest Bottles in the Ventoux and Wine Fans Worldwide. How So? What Next?

From a marketing perspective, it has been a perfect campaign.

When Philippe Gimel purchased the winery that he came to brand Saint Jean du Barroux (SJB), he got on with the task of reinvigorating a vineyard mostly on his own, with an occasional crew of one-shot hires, no wife and no dog.

Located in the northern Vaucluse, Saint Jean du Barroux occupies 37 acres of vines in the Appellation Ventoux, which has a patchy reputation for turning out quality wines because 80% of its wine is produced by wine cooperatives. Wine estates there, as those throughout the Southern Rhone, rely on significant exportation of their wines.

With the introduction of his first red vintages in 2003-05, Philippe Gimel set course to produce the highest-rated red wines in the entire Appellation Ventoux, and create a veritable cult-like brand sought out by wine fans throughout Europe and the United States, and other far flung locales. Today, demand for his wines far exceeds current production.

Deconstructing this extraordinary marketing coup, PVB has delineated nine spheres of activity / strategy that were essential in building one of the most dynamic wine brands in the Southern Rhone.  One sphere not included, yet capital in SJB’s success: the personality and charm of Mr. Gimel.

Training at Renowned Estates:

Like chefs, vignerons wear where they trained like badges. Philippe honed his skills as a vigneron and got connected in the French wine establishment at two elite estates in Châteauneuf du Pape: Domaine de La Janasse and Château de Beaucastel, as well as at Château Pierre Bise in the Loire and Chateau Devès in Haute-Garonne.

Winning the Vineyard

When Philippe found the available terroir outside of Le Barroux, the bids were regulated by Les Safer, which oversees sale of agricultural land.

In March 2003, Safer requested dossiers from twenty-five candidates evaluated on experience, finances, talent and ten-year production and marketing plans. Established vineyards applied. Debutant Gimel’s time in Châteauneuf du Pape was capital. Rest of story is in the bottle.

Brand Design / Identity

“Simple is as simple can.” The minimalist label design is downright brilliant: a pencil outline of Les Dentelles de Montmirail  and Mont Ventoux, and names of the estate and the winemaker in expressive casual fonts.

No label cluttered with vintage, year nor appellation (the latter avoids the patchy rep of Ventoux wines). Was Philippe inspired to design a near naked label by an English wine merchant who quipped that he had no problem selling a white wine from Ventoux as long as a towel was wrapped around the bottle?


It’s as if the label is giving the buyer a coy wink of the goodness within. The buyer searches for more details on the back label where the education begins.

Producing a Fabulous Flagship Vintage

Starting in 2003, Philippe produced a single red vintage Oligocène, a blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Carignan and 5% Cinsault. The 2004 and 2005 vintages were Philippe’s calling cards for seeking out importers, distributors, retailers and new customers. They did not disappoint.


Validating The Vintage with Enthusiastic Reviews

Awesome reviews of the 2003-05 vintages quickly gave SJB credibility as a brand to seek out, Here are two among many:

Gary Vaynerchuk Wine Library TV (WLTV or The Thunder Show), the 2004

Saint Jean du Barroux l’Oligocene 2005: “Exotic floral aromas intermixed with blackberry and cherry fruit jump from the glass. In the mouth, the wine is soft, velvety, medium to full-bodied, pure, elegant, and exotic…” Rating: 91 points / 100. Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #178, Aug 2008

Currently, the SJB red wines receive scores in the mid-90’s.

Partner with a Sharp and Connected Importer

Eric Solomon, who founded the esteemed European Cellars, took on representation of Saint Jean du Barroux. His keen marketing to distributors propelled the sales of SJB wines in the U.S.

For his first years in business, Eric imported exclusively French wines with a preference for the South, and came to know well Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate. Today, European Cellars imports French and Spanish wines.

Expanding the Product Range to Six Cuvées

In 2006 with a move into a new cave with more tanks, Philippe introduced a new product offering with three red wines: La Source, L’Argile, and La Pierre Noir.

The Source was known as the Danish cuvée because Philippe’s Danish importer purchased the entire first year’s production before the wine was bottled. The initial La Pierre Noire 2006 received 94 pts from R. Parker, at that time the highest score ever for a Ventoux wine. A year later, L’Argile 2007 topped it with 95/100.

Two limited production vintages – a red Le Micro-climat and a rosé – rounded out SJB’s selection (photo above). In effect, an expanded product line benefits the customer who has a greater choice of styles / blends at various price points while the vineyard increases its revenue by selling its better vintages at a higher prices.

Travellng Incessantly: Tastings in Europe

Month after month, Philippe is off to present his wines at tastings, conferences and trade fairs.throughout Europe: Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, England, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Austria and Germany where he was twice last month.

Next year, he goes to Brazil and the U.S. It is an exhausting routine: meetings with distributors and retailers, and the acquiring of new devotees glass by glass at tastings and dinners.


Facebook, Buzz Marketing, QR Codes

The most vigorous user among vignerons in the Southern Rhone wine community of Facebook is Philippe Gimel. He multi-tasks online in English and French.  He creates buzz for his tasting trips, participation in wine fairs and his own wine releases. He is putting QR Codes on all bottle labels.

Every Visitor Gets a Royal Tour of Vines and Tasting in Cave

All visitors, from importer to wine tourist, receive the A-treatment: a tour of the vineyard and a tasting of wines in Philippe’s cave, which is a few miles from the vineyard.  There are no chairs in his cave, a marker of the work pace.  Philippe’s enthusiasm and charm work to make you feel as if you are a part of a small, niche group of wine lovers, and in effect, you are.

At the core of brand loyalty is emotion. Great wine like Philippe’s gets into your head before the first sip, and once in your head the relationship between the wine maker and you, the drinker, crystallizes. Each time you crack open the bottle, this unspoken bond reasserts itself.


What’s to come: Acquiring more vines to boost production under the SJB label. Securing a new cave (with chairs) to handle the increased volume. Growing the fan base. Expanding the SJB brand into new markets. SJB written up as a global marketing success story in the Economist? An SJB app? Maybe not, yet anything but a reality show! Esprit d’escalier: What about SJB tees for the happy crew pictured above?


Domaine Saint Jean du Barroux: Chemin de Saint Jean, Le Barroux, Tel 04 90 70 84 74,

Email contact@saintjeandubarroux.com, Facebook, Website

Directions: Le Cave is not on the vineyard, located off D938 between Bedoin and Malaucene next to Le Clos Saint Michel. All appointments made in advance.

Importers: UK, Dudley de Fleury Wines; U.S., European Cellars.


Addendum: On Dec. 10,  Robert M. Parker Jr. announced that he is planning to sell a portion of his influential newsletter, The Wine Advocate, to a group of Asian investors and step down as editor in chief. Mr. Parker has been a huge fan of Saint Jean du Barroux since he tasted Philippe’s first vintages. He continues to cover Bordeaux and Rhone wines. That said, one can posit that Saint Jean du Barroux has reached a plateau of consistent excellence that renders scores and rankings of any wine critic of less import to wine lovers.

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La Gramière: Ebullient American Winemakers Amy and Matt ‘dans les vignes’ in the Gard Provencal; 2009 La Gramière Offered at Garagiste Dot Com

At first glance, the cheery blog of the winery La Gramière in the Gard Provencal evokes an immense pleasure in everything winemaking. Americans Amy Lillard and Matt Kling are telling the story of life among the vines. They’re lov’n it, and their enthusiasm seduces you to taste and enjoy their wines.

Pick up their narrative in 2002 when Amy and Matt moved from Paris to the small compact village of St. Quentin la Poterie near Uzès, west of Avignon. In 2004, they plunged into the winemaking biz by buying 11 acres of vines – actually 10 different plots – around the village of Castillon du Gard within the appellation Côtes-du-Rhône.

For Amy, stepping into, or rather back into, the vineyards was “une bonne continuation” after three years working in Burgundy in the vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin, followed by three years at the iconic Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley, CA. Matt works for Cisco Systems, a San Jose-based manufacturer of networking equipment.

La Gramière wines: The organically and biodynamically-farmed vines are from 40 to 60 years old, yielding rich deep fruit with spicy notes, medium to full-bodied wine with well-structured tannins “en bouche.” What the French call “un vin du caractère.” Grape varieties are 80% Grenache along with Syrah and Mourvedre. BTW, the bottle label design is smart and simple: an image of strength and sophistication.

The Grenache of La Gramière is not aged in barrels, a dominant practice among Southern Rhone producers. Philippe Cambie, the uber vigneron wine guru, touts Grenache as being uncorrupted by the new oak barrel rage. Grenache is a variety that is low in both pigment and malic acid, and oxidizes readily. Thus, Grenache ages well in cement vats and stainless steel tanks, whereas Syrah favors aging in barrels.

Garagiste Wine Offering La Gramière Vintages

Uber wine salesman Jon Rimmerman of www.garagistewine.com came calling and swooned over Amy and Matt’s talent. In offering the 2009  “La Gramière” VdT, he rhapsodized that it is “a rolling ball of lip-smacking, bursting-at-the-seems, fresh and downright delicious red fruit that you want to keep pulling from your holster again and again. It has sophistication beyond its years but also a naïveté that is equally alluring.”

Garagiste, founded by Jon Rimmerman, is the world’s largest email-based wine business, selling wine exclusively via email offers composed by Rimmerman (see below for details on joining).

La Gramière Fabulous Green Machine, A Wine + Food Tasting Truck

Looking to extend the boundaries of their vineyard, Amy and Matt purchased in January a 1979 Citroën Type H utility vehicle, known by its sobriquet “Le Tube.” The initial role of the truck is to replace the stands that have to be set up and dismantled along with the wines at local markets where Amy and Matt sell their wines.

The tedious garage work just to get the truck past inspections to drive on the roads consumed a good chunk of their resources. Last summer when they ran short of funds to complete the makeover, Amy and Matt turned to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, launching an online campaign with a promo video (here) to raise $7500 to redo the interior and furnish the kitchen. With a boost from social media, they exceeded their goal in a flash.

The Wine Truck is a veritable mobile branding machine with its alluring customer-friendly ambiance – eye-candy to promote the La Gramière brand. The truck will make the rounds of farmers markets at villages in the region, serving customers wine from a bar. It will accommodate tastings with tapas and wine at the vineyard or in neighboring towns. And it will host guest “vignerons,” who will pour their wines with La Gramière’s, joined by local chefs pairing their creations with the wine at special soirées at La Gramière.

For the yet-to-be-named truck – painted “Gramière green” and white with the La Gramière logo – Amy and Matt are looking to bottle a special vintage, a light fruity red.  Have an idea of a name for the label? Email them. Why not “Cuveé Citroën H Verte.” 

Wherever one finds the fabulous green machine, Amy and Matt and their customers will be having a blast.


La Gramière: 165, route d’Uzès 30700 Saint-Quentin la Poterie France, Tel: 04, Email info@lagramiere.com, Website, Facebook

Garagiste: The world’s largest email-based wine business founded by Jon Rimmerman that sells wine exclusively via email offers composed by Rimmerman. Wine acquired by responding directly to email offers.

Wine delivered to customers twice a year – the spring and the fall. No storage costs; shipping charges. Wine pick up w/o charges at Garagiste’s warehouse in Seattle.

Sign up for Garagiste on its Website. NY Times “Drunk With Power

Photo: Lunch at harvest time 2012

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Ménerbes: Wait Goes on for Buyer of Iconic Café Owned by New York Food Maven Eli Zabar, and for Pedestrians

November 15 marks the beginning of the winter season in the Luberon when numerous hotels, restaurants and cafés close, opening up in mid-March or early April.

In Ménerbes, its principal café has been shuttered for nearly three years. Once a paragon of village vitality, the lifeless café – called the Café du Progrès in its notoriety – is today a marker for the downside of gentrification, and a reminder of the lack of street traffic on the village’s brilliantly repaved streets.

At first sight for tourists, the four circuitous streets that intersect at various angles and levels in the center of Ménerbes – with two restaurants, four shops and an art gallery – appear as a tranquil Provencal mise-en-scène.

To locals and village officials, Ménerbes is too dependent on those living beyond the village borders, and too tranquil, visitors being insufficient in number.

Amplifying the predicament of Ménerbes is the cautionary narrative in the personage of the Manhattan food maven Eli Zabar, who purchased circa 2000 the Café du Progrès, a timeworn hang-out with a spacious grassy terrace; the café Peter Mayle popped into, where one combined the elements of village gossip inside and, outside, tourist chic.

Taking possession of a prosperous longtime Luberon fixture, Eli Zabar was clueless that the deal came with sort of a poison pill: the building’s two tenants – one operated the café and the other a restaurant whose entrance was festooned with loud signage – were locked into a nasty lawsuit, which, once resolved, compelled Zabar to shutter the establishment.

Subsequently, the café, leased to new operators, took the name Le p’tit bouchon. Business took a downward turn and the café closed. For the past three years Eli Zabar has had the empty café listed for sale.

The property remains on the market for 1,200,000 euros.

At present, Ménerbes has only “un café de pays,” a cramped space for locals to chat with un café or un demi, and play le loto; a spot visitors avoid. (café entrance at top of above photo under heading.)

Mr. Yves Rousset-Rouard, the dynamic mayor of Ménerbes who has launched successful projects in the village, is eager for a village mini-revival with a new café that will attract visitors and boost pedestrian traffic on the most immaculate streets in the Luberon.

Observers of Luberon life are bearish about a new café – restaurant. Whereas a significant growth of  ‘résidences secondaires‘ has brought new wealth to the village and upgraded the infrastructure, a corollary is the thinning out of around-the-year denizens. With full time inhabitants in Ménerbes becoming less and less in number, there is a dearth of daily customers to fill the café tables.

When posed with the question on the likelihood of a new café invigorating the village, one resident of Ménerbes quipped sardonically: “C’est un challenge.”


Café inquiries: Property agency Emile Garcin, Luberon office, Email luberon@emilegarcin.fr, Website

The elegant repaving of the streets came by way of the boundless generosity of philanthropist Ms. Nancy Negley, of Houston and Ménerbes., who purchased in 1997 and completely renovated The Dora Maar House, whose stately edifice addresses the Luberon countryside to the north. The French government under Nicolas Sarkozy made Ms. Negley a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

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Changing Colors of Rose: Provence Wine Council (CIVP) Femininizes a Brand Image. The Lipstick Factor?

Rosé is the carefree wine that you are preconditioned to order and enjoy as the typical Provencal aperitif.

At first sip, everyone approves of whatever rosé is poured into his or her glass. This is a nearly universal phenomenon: a happy drink suspending any critical judgment.

No inspection. No swilling. No wine angst.

Rosé is also a form of wine cellar insurance. Rather than crack open expensive wines in your cellar, serving rosé at drinks parties or at casual dinners preserves your better bottles.

Many wine shops in the states feature “rosé walls”: the message is pick anyone; a rosé is a rosé is a rosé. There is a commodity-like appreciation of rosé.

When it comes to the color of rosés, adjectives abound. Or sometimes they don’t. When the Wine Spectator reviewed 16 rosés from Provence this summer, there was not one mention of the color of any one of the 16 rosés in the glass.

Back in 2004, the Centre de Recherche et d’Expérimentation sur le Vin Rosé in Vidauban (Le Var) assigned a panel of experts to codify the colors of rosé wine, and the panel arrived at nine distinct colors displayed in a coffret:

Groseille: Red currant

Pelure d’oignon: Onion Peel

Brique: Brick

Framboise: Raspberry

Chair: Flesh

Bois de rose: Rosewood

Saumon: Salmon

Marbre rose: Pink Marble

Corail: Coral

Whereas this classification was an accurate assessment, several of the designated colors – think of the romantic qualities of an onion peel or a brick – lacked the imagery and emotion required for marketing the so-called Provence rosés produced in the departments of the Bouches-du-Rhône and the Var where rosés account for 87% of wine production.

The Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence (CIVP), known in the U.S. as the Provence Wine Council, represents more than 600 wine producers and 40 trade companies from the region, encompassing the Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence appellations.  CIVP does not market wines from Bandol.

The CIVP worked with the Centre de Recherche to modify the classification to arrive at softer and more consumer-friendly descriptions of rosé by selecting colors unique to the same family: fruits. The result:

Chair: Flesh changed to Peche: Peach

Saumon:Salmon changed to Melon:Melon

Marbre rose:Pink Marble changed to Litchi:Lychee

Bois de rose: Rosewood changed to Pamplemousse:Grapefruit

Pelure d’oignon: Onion Skin changed to Mangue: Mango

Framboise:Raspberry unchanged Framboise:Raspberry

Brique:Brick changed to Abricot: Apricot

Corail: Corail changed to Mandarine:Mandarine

Groseille: Red Currant unchanged to Groseille: Red Currant

When it came to refining its marketing strategy for rosé wines, the CIVP decided to employ six descriptions, dropping apricot, lychee and raspberry, and changing pamplemousse:grapefruit to the more pleasant sounding Pomelo.

Rather than display rosé in wine glasses in order of color gradation, the CIVP presents the six colors in random-ordered glass vials in an outdoor setting; the streaming light and leafy trees in the background fragment the texture of the rosés, a lively portrayal meant to be enjoyed rather than studied – just like the wine.  Voici:

If this is marketing rosé like lipstick, a more feminine brand image, can one quibble? Americans are quaffing mad about Provence rosé.

As the CIPV reported, exports of rosé wine from Provence are booming in U.S., growing 62% in volume in 2011 compared to 2010, marking eighth consecutive years of double-digit growth. C’est gigantesque comme chiffres.

Among the wine growers in the Bouches-du-Rhône and the Var, rosé wines are a cash flow fix as they are sold within a year of bottling. The boom finds them “in the pink,” and I hear they’re lov’n it.



Centre de Recherche et d’Expérimentation sur le Vin Rosé :  Website

Provence Wine Council / Wines from Provence: Website

Read this: Why American rosés suck


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Tarascon: “MEO” – A Smart Wine Bar With Gastronomic Flair For All Seasons

 “I have seen again for a glimpse, from a swift train, Beaucaire with the beautiful white tower, Tarascon with the square castle, the great Rhône, the immense stretches of the Crau.” Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier

On his Blackberry at the Tomtom Coffee House at Elizabeth and Ebury Street in Belgravia, across the street from the Ebury Wine Bar, Christopher emails PVB that in a fortnight he will be in need of a wine bar in Tarascon.

Tarascon, the austere town with its faded sun-washed walls where the massive 15th century Château de Tarascon built by Roi René rises like a remonstrance over the Rhône, has a peculiar attraction to many Brits. It was among all Provence towns the favorite of the novelist Ford Maddox Ford.

What distinguishes Tarascon from the land-locked towns in Provence is its fleuve the Rhône, the source of the sultry humid air which blankets the town in the summer. Languid afternoons. Limpid nights. Beyond lies Camargue country and the sea.

A year ago, I would have strained to come up with a reference in Tarascon for Christopher. Today, my reply evokes a sudden burst of anticipated pleasure: MEO.

MEO (Moment, Emotion, Osmose) is a new restaurant, wine bar and tea salon – bright, fresh and modern – sitting on the large square facing the train station in central Tarascon.

MEO is the culmination of a thoroughly enchanting culinary journey of owners Chef Johan Thyriot, from eastern France, and his wife Émilie Delouye, a pastry chef from the southwest.

Johan and Émilie trained at chez Michel Bras, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Laguiole, a village in the southwest department of Aveyron. After two years under the tutelage of Michel & Sébastien Bras, Johan and Émilie took on a challenging assignment in a far flung locale in northern Japan: managing a thirty-person staff of the restaurant Michel Bras in The Windsor Hotel in Toya.

After three years as Director-Chef and pastry Chef respectively, Johan and Émilie earned special recognition from the guide Michelin Hokkaïdo:  a third Michelin star for Michel Bras Toya. Their attentions turned to France, and they discovered in Tarascon a place, a cuture and a climate that agreed with their culinary ambitions.

The concept of MEO is seductive: choose among haute cuisine dining, special dishes to pair with wine, or delicacies to take with tea – in a dining room, on a sidewalk terrace or in an enclosed garden patio.

The wine list at MEO is rich and diverse with bottles from every region of France, as well as wines by the glass. The Provençal-inspired cuisine of Johan marries well with wines from the region (see below).


A bright star on the horizon of the French culinary scene, MEO is a “must” to discover if you find yourself in and around Tarascon.

Select Regional Producers at MEO to Pair:

Domaine de Lansac Vin de Pays des Alpilles

Château Romanin AOC Les Baux de Provence

Domaine de Trévallon IGP Alpilles

Bastide du Claux Pondière AOC Luberon

Domaine Lafran-Veyrolles Bandol

H. Buzel Côte du Roussillon

Cellier des Templiers Banyuls

Mourgues du Grès AOC Costières de Nîmes



Restaurant MEO: 1, Place du Colonel Berrurier (Place de la gare) 13150 Tarascon, Tel : 04 90 91 47 74, open Wednesday to Sunday evening. Menus at 27 €, 35 €, 45 € et 65 €. Carte. Website

Note: MEO is located near the train station. If you are staying in Avignon, take the train from the central Avignon station to the “Gare de Tarascon sur Rhône” for a walking tour of Tarascon, and then revel in the wines and exquisite cuisine at MEO. The last train returning to Avignon is at 8:47 p.m.

Tarascon: Website

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Philippe Cambie: Southern Rhone Guru, Uber Vignernon and Rugby Fan, Cracks the U.S. Wine Market

This last April those who revel in Châteauneuf du Pape put down $275 a pop for a mega tasting at the Paso Robles Inn where they were on the receiving end of animated commentary by one of the rare virtuosos in the Southern Rhone wine world, the uber vigneron Philippe Cambie.

Cambie looks like someone you would not want to lock shoulders against in a rugby scrum, but then he played rugby on a national level in France and he is fond of saying that managing a vineyard is akin to coaching a rugby team, although despite his breadth, or because of it, he exudes a gentle Zen-like blend of focus and calm.

Achieving Zen Master status in the Southern Rhone wine industry came quickly upon training as an oenologist in Montpellier – after some years spent in the food industry – and joining an oenological laboratory in Beaune de Venise where he consults directly with wine estates.

As a consultant to wineries – there are 60 estates listed on his web site – Cambie goes beyond the standard oenologist lab coat role in vinification, asserting his passion and knowledge into every phase of wine making, beginning with maxing out the potential of the terroir, all in support of his persistent motif that attributes 95% of a great bottle to what comes down in the fields and the vines before the harvest.

Moreover, Cambie is a voracious ambassador for Grenache, the red grape variety that thrives in the heat of the Southern Rhone, heralding it as one of the world’s greatest varieties while offering a humble reflection that Grenache presents the greatest challenge to produce majestic wine.

Omnipresent at seminars, conferences, wine fairs, tastings, press interviews and wine excursions, Cambie was tabbed “oenologist” of the year in 2010 by Robert Parker. So it’s only logical that Cambie, reaching brand status, has joined with some friends to bottle his own labels: Calendal and Halos du Jupiter, both available in the states (see below).

Now, even if you do not consider yourself a wine connoisseur, then to appreciate how Philippe Cambie can enhance your wine drinking experience of Southern Rhone wines, you have to keep some notes at your side culled from Cambie’s philosophy and “pensées”:

–       Think Mourvèdre, the grape variety that Cambie touts for blending in small quantities with Grenache. Mourvèdre regulates the balance and adds structure and freshness. A reminder that when buying Southern Rhone wines to read the back label to check on the various varieties in the blend.

–       Emancipate yourself from the new oak barrel rage. Grenache is a variety that is low in both pigment and malic acid, and oxidizes readily. Thus, Grenache ages well in cement vats and stainless steel tanks, practices dominant among Southern Rhone producers.

–       Favor yourself with wine produced from old vines and low yields

–       Consider Cambie’s dictum that alcohol levels in wines in excess of 14%  – or so called hot wines – are not critical. Rather it is the freshness and the balance of fruit, acid and minerals that assuages the alcohol to create a pleasing if not a great drink.

–       Pair Grenache blends with spicy dishes as the intensity of the fruit cleanses the mouth of spices after each bite. And now you know why Cambie is very keen on the Chinese market for Southern Rhone wines.

The thing that draws people around Cambie is that he exudes a warm intense full-hearted interest in wine, sort of the way you talk about someone you love. Wine isn’t just science, it’s an emotional attachment to an entire landscape – he assigns himself as “un homme du Sud” – and to a way of striving for perfection, with the cooperation of nature mind you. Taste one of his Grenache blends and savour the terroir of the Sud!


Philippe Cambrie: Website

Les Halos du Jupiter: 

Wines selected by Philippe Cambie and Michel Gassier of Chateau Nages. In effect, quality negociant wines from outstanding producers in the southern Rhone:

Châteauneuf du Pape Adrastée – Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc – Gigondas – Vacqueyras – Côtes du Rhône Villages – Rasteau – Côtes du Rhône – Costières de Nimes – Costières de Nimes Blanc.

Importers: Daniel Johnnes Selection, imported by Michael Skurnik, Syosset, NY (516) 677-9300, Paul M. Young Fine Wines, Los Angeles, CA,  (323) 232-5199, USA Wine Imports, NY, NY (212) 941-7133, David Bowler Wine, NY NY (212) 807-1680, Total Wine & More, Potomac MD (800) 732.0713


The Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu is appelletion of more than 1,500 acres northeast of Orange. This cuvée, which Cambie produces with Gilles Ferran from 9 acres of vines, is equal parts Grenache and Mourvedre, a  rich and powerful blend that offers aromas of intense fruit from very old vines. This wine makes Cambie’s point that a balance of fruit, acid and minerals trumps high alcohol levels.

Importer: Eric Solomon, European Cellars, Charlotte, NC, (704) 358-1565



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Carpentras: Chez Serge is a Mecca for Wine Lovers

Along the wine trails of connoisseurs in search of Southern Rhone wines, Chez Serge in Carpentras is legend.  When sommelier Serge Ghoukassian opened his eponymous spot as a pizza and wine joint in 1986, it was a heady time when wine writers began trumpeting vintages in the region other than Chateauneuf du Pape, notably Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Côtes du Rhône Villages.

Wine enthusiasts pop into Chez Serge to discover quality pours of local vineyards and for the buzz on the wine biz. In the past few years, AOC Ventoux wineries have offered stunning quality / price values – Vindemio, Fondréche, Grand Jacquet and Saint Jean du Barroux. Grab a rare bottle of the Domaine de Cascavel, an extinct winery where Olivier B, whose own wines are on the carte, worked his magic.

Chez Serge’s role in popularizing southern Rhone wines mirrors that of Melac’s, the wine bar in a hardscrabble part of Paris’ 11th arrondissement, that is a tasting post for Rhone wines as well as small AOC’s like Corbières and Lirac.

Transformed it into a restaurant in 1997, Chez Serge offers a 15€ lunch menu with a choice among two entrées, two main courses, and two desserts, and a 35€ dinner menu ‘Ventoux’ with selection of five entrées, three main courses, and seven desserts, or the sumptuous Le Menu Truffes d’éte for 49€.

There is a dining area on a terrace upstairs. Naturally, the wine list is a sommelier’s dream; Serge won the Best Sommelier of the Year award in 2008.


Chez Serge, 90 rue Cottier, 84200 Carpentras, Open every day for lunch 12:00 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. and diner 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Tel: 04-90-63-21-24 Website: www.chez-serge.com

Directions: Navigating gritty Carpentras is tricky as a one-way street encircles the town. Chez Serge is on the eastern edge off of Avenue Jean Jaures on the left.  Signage is posted.

Parking: Use the huge public parking lot right across Avenue Jean Juares from the restaurant. Best to avoid Friday lunch as a Friday market occupies the entire parking lot, unless you park elsewhere and combine a Friday market tour with lunch at Chez Serge.

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Provence Wine School “Auberge du Vin”: WSET Level Course Nov 21-25 with Room Discount; Spring 2013 Schedule Set

Consider the proposition from the Auberge du Vin, a wine school and bed & breakfast in Mazan, 16 miles northeast of Avignon with a splendid view of Mont Ventoux across an ocean of vineyards:

Combine a visit to the Vaucluse with enlarging your knowledge of various wine grape varieties and wine styles as well as your wine tasting skills by concentrating the mind in a well-structured wine course designed by a professional organization for which you will be receive certification.

In your late afternoons and evenings, round out your days by visits to local wineries, wine bars / restaurants and touring the small villages and countryside, or the splendor of Avignon. Book additional time at the Auberge or in the region for exploring the Luberon, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.

The Auberge du Vin offers wine courses ranging from half-day sessions on Rhone Valley wines to WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) multi-level qualifications. The Auberge has a converted French farmhouse and a cottage for lodging guests.

The Auberge du Vin is the home of Linda Field and Christopher Hunt, who welcome guests year round for wine holidays and wine courses. Linda, a WSET-qualified wine teacher, has taught wine courses and judged wine competitions in London. The courses are conducted in a dedicated-classroom setting with views of vineyards and the majestic Mont Ventoux. Couches and a tasting bar make for a convivial atmosphere.

For the WSET Level 2 course on November 21-25, the Auberge is offering a discount on accommodations: either no single person supplement or a 25% discount on shared accommodation with registration by October 25. The schedule for spring classes is listed below.

WSET Level Courses

The Wine and Spirits Education Trust is a global organization that promotes high quality education and offers sought after qualifications in wines and spirits. See www.wsetglobal.com. The WSET qualifications are recognized throughout the world. For those who want to hone and refine a basic knowledge of wines, one can begin the WSET ladder at Level 2.

This course is appropriate for wine enthusiasts who want to learn more about how wine is made and the key wines and spirits of the world. A Systematic Approach to Tasting is taught and applied to over forty different wines assessed over the 3 days. The course covers major wine grape varieties, style of wines, and wine label terminology, with a one-hour examination of 50 multiple choice questions on the last day to validate your certification.

The enrollment fee of 500€ covers 3 days of wine tuition, 3 lunches, all wines, study materials, exam fees, as well as visits to the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a vintner’s wine cellar there. Accommodations with breakfast are available; for four nights, a shared room is 195€.

Note: Prices given do not include transportation to/from Auberge du Vin, nor evening meals. Both can be provided on request. Your textbook will be sent to you ahead of the course and it is strongly advised to read the book before commencing the course.


Auberge du Vin, 384 Chemin de la Peryrière, 84380, Mazan, Tel: 04-90-61-62-84, Email: info@aubergeduvin.com, Website,

WSET Level 2 course Wed. 21- Sunday 25 November 2012 w/ accommodations discount

Spring Class Schedule:

Wed 20 Feb to Sunday 24th Feb

Wed 20 March to Sunday 24 March

Wed 24 April to Sunday 28 April

Sunday 12 May to Thurs 16 May or Wed 15 May to Sunday 19 May, pending student demand.

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