Bordeaux and Burgundy are so passé. Take your honeymoon to the South of France, spending your days exploring the region's beautiful beaches—and even more beautiful rosé. The “rosé all day” wine craze may have only hit the States recently, but the real rosé connoisseurs lie right between Provence's lavender-lined fields and pretty little towns like Aix. Here's how to plan the ultimate road trip through rosé wine country—plus everywhere to eat, sleep and even sail (yes, romantic boat rides through the infamous limestone calanques near Cassis are just one of the must-dos) in between.
Wineries to Visit:
No name is more synonymous with rosé than Whispering Angel, the flagship rosé produced at Château d’Esclans near the Gorges de Pennafort, a quick drive from the coastal city of Fréjus. Whispering Angel creator Sacha Lichine aimed to make the first “haute” rosé over a decade ago, with a production of bottles that quickly grew from thousands to millions—6 million to be exact. The Tuscan-inspired estate itself is just as impressive, with a cellar housed in the remnants of the original 13th century château—the oldest in the region—which was gifted to Gérard De Villeneuve in 1201. Sample a few of the winery’s recent rosé vintages, which include the grand Garrus (dubbed one of the world’s best rosés), before sipping a glass in an entirely different locale just half an hour away on a beach bed at buzzy Nikki Beach Saint Tropez.
Near the town of Aix-en-Provence, a sea of vines sits at the foot of Mont Sainte-Victoire, with one of the most sought-after rosés stemming from the organic vineyards of Château Gassier. The former family winery is still managed by the fifth generation of the Gassier group—one of the oldest noble family names in Provence. Start the day on a 2-mile trail around the vineyard, pausing for lunch with a picnic basket packed full of French favorites, best washed down with a bottle of Gassier’s refreshing rosé (you can’t go wrong with house classic Esprit). If you’d rather learn how to properly pair your rosé with your cuisine, take a seat with the winemaker for a themed tasting. In the summer, the winery also opens up for events like open-air cinema under the stars and jazz concerts among the vines where the wine serves as the ultimate musical inspiration.
A visit to rosé country wouldn’t be complete without a stop in the town of Bandol, once considered the ritziest on the coast back in the 1920s. Today it’s the terroir that’s more show-stopping than the town itself, with vineyards said to produce some of the best rosé in France. One spot worth the stop: Domaine Tempier, which won its first gold medal back in 1885.
When you’re ready to take a detour from wine tasting, make the quick drive down the coast to Marseille, where you can hop on one of the most romantic cruises in France (yes, this even includes Paris’ Seine!). Cruise through the fjords of the 120 million-year-old limestone calanques, or coves, to Cassis on a three-hour tour in Le Don du Vent’s Pirates of the Caribbean-esque sailboat.
Where to Stay:
Acclaimed French chef Alain Ducasse happened to be riding his motorcycle through the backroads of Provence when he stumbled upon this home hidden behind centuries-old olive trees. Once the property of an earthenware master, Ducasse worked with local artisans to restore La Bastide de Moustiers and make it a destination in itself. Take your pick of 13 rooms, each more charming than the next, such as La Chambre Pigeonnier, a former pigeon home with a balcony overlooking the pine-lined park—the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll before sitting down for a decadent dinner with cuisine inspired by the surrounding southern terroir. When you’re ready to set out and explore the Grand Canyon of France, the Gorges du Verdon, the team can help set you up with everything from pony trekking to paragliding over Provence, with a perfectly packed gourmet picnic basket à la Ducasse ready for a lakeside lunch.
Modeled after a Provençal village, the secluded Hameau des Baux is tucked away at the foot of the Alpilles mountain chain, about 40 minutes away from the more famous city of Avignon. Set off in the ultimate getaway car (1966 Ford Mustang convertible, anyone?) and cruise the rolling roads in style, stopping to explore fairytale-like medieval towns like Les Baux-de-Provence. Back at the estate, La Table du Hameau’s chef, Stephan Paroche, whips up seven-course spreads inspired by the seasons and surrounding neighbors. Think locally plucked escargots served alongside parsley-slathered gnocchi; oysters from the nearby Thau lagoon; and cheese sourced from one of France’s award-winning fromagères.
Whether you’re looking for a gypsy-style caravan or classic Provençal villa, couples will find the perfect romantic hideaway at Domaine de Marie, an estate sitting on 57 acres of vines in Luberon’s Natural Park. The 15-room farmhouse is the epitome of rustic chic with claw-foot tubs and exposed stone walls forming a backdrop to the regal canopy-covered beds. For a bohemian-inspired stay, book the Roulotte, or caravan, with colorful fabric and antique furniture inspired to look like a country boudoir. If you want to try your hand at viticulture, learn how to prune the vines before enjoying the fruits of your labor with a wine tasting inside the estate’s cellar.
Where to Eat:
Once the home of grandmother Mariette who helped fuel his culinary start, Benjamin Bruno’s namesake eatery, Chez Bruno, has morphed into one of the most revered in the region. The “truffle emperor” weaves this decadent ingredient into each dish—dessert included—at the expansive Michelin-star eatery, where each room is more jaw droppingly gorgeous than the next. Our choice for the best spot to plop down and indulge in a three-hour French lunch: by the fireplace in the stately salon covered in frescoes and wood carvings.
It’s worth seeking out Château la Coste if only for the cuisine alone. Sample a selection of the winery’s vino in the 19th century farmhouse before sitting down to a light lunch of artisanal cheese, organic charcuterie and homemade tarts at La Terrasse. For something more formal—and ridiculously romantic—reserve a seat at Michelin-starred Marseille chef Gérald Passedat’s Louison, where gastronomic fare like foie gras with seaweed broth and pan-seared lobster with juniper berries are served to tables in the intimate, glass-encased eatery.
A less formal setting with cuisine equally as exciting, Le Relais de Saint-Ser, a boutique hotel with a panoramic terrace restaurant, looks out across the Vallée de l’Arc, a landscape once admired by the likes of artists such as Cézanne. The former 17th-century farmhouse is home to eight simple yet cozy rooms with terraces overlooking the Sainte-Victoire mountain, as well as a bistro serving revamped French favorites like rabbit stewed in red wine sauce, paired alongside wines from the surrounding Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire region.