My husband, Ryan and I recently went to Southern France for our 1 year anniversary.  My first time ever in Southern France, and my first time experiencing wine country in France.  It was amazing and I'd like to take the time to share my adventures with you all.  I apologize in advance if I get too "geeky" for you at times; I just learned ALOT!

After a few glorious days in the French Riviera, we rented a car and headed West into Provence, through Southern Rhone experiencing Gigondas, Chateauneuf du Pape, Cairanne, Tavel, and then into Languedoc/Narbonne-Plage.  

First stop in our wine extravaganza was Mas de Cadenet in Trets, Provence near Aix.  A family owned estate established in 1813, going back 7 generations, Matthieu Negril, son of the Negril family gave us an incredible tour and tasting.  We first walked through the vineyards, passing by Grenache, and Cinsault. Estate produces 60% rose/40% red, and one white, the Rolle (Italy's Vermentino), which is indigenous to Provence. A 110 acre property, with Cinsault vines of over 35 years old; it was a beautiful site.  Harvest mostly done in September.  However, this year, harvest will be earlier b/c weather was warmer earlier, frequent rain in the Spring, and now drier.  Noticeably dry, and difficult to get a breeze b/c they are not near a sea. But they do get the famous, Mistral which comes from the East, and then blocked by the hills, and mountains, keeping it dry, with little humidity, and thus preventing disease.  Dry but large variations in temperature.  Then in the distance lies the mountain, Sainte Victoire, defining the terroir in the area, and thus defining characteristics within the wines.  The rocky soils we stood upon come from the mountain and bring a certain structure to the wine.  Wines designated with Sainte Victoire are deemed special, a particular Cru in Provence.

We then toured the cellar, gliding from the press room to the tank room (for vinification) and the barrel room for vinification and aging.  The Roses receive a short term maceration to catch the color 1st, and then ferment as you would the white.  The length of maceration depends on how much color you'd like to extract and each grape is different.  For example, Syrah is shorter b/c it has lots of color and flavor in the musts.  Extraction takes place between 4am-11am.  The colder the grapes, the lighter the maceration, and the fruitier the flavors.  The tanks were a combo of steel, porcelain, of all different sizes, and some lie underground.  Steel tanks are thin and therefore the outside temps affect the wine.  The porcelain is heavier, less contact with the outside temps.  They store and age the red wines more so in the porcelain tanks or in French oak barrels.  The decided combination of fermenting/aging in tanks and/or barrels ranged, and was dependent on the wine and what had occurred that particular year.  And then they go into the bottle.  For the most part, the red is aged in the bottle for 6 mos, and the rose aged in the bottle for 1 month.  But no label yet; the label is put on at the last minute b/c each country is different.  

And then we saw the entire packaging and shipping room.  It's amazing to see the entire process from start to finish in one family winery; for them to have complete control, and to remain focused on their wines high level of quality.

Mas de Cadenet produces on average 200,000 bottles yearly - 110,000 of the rose, 80-90,000 of the red, and very little bit of the white.  Exports make up 40%.  Main countries being Brazil, USA (NY being a trending market), Russia, Dubai, China, and all over Europe.  Of the 60% left in France, 1/2 stays within the Provence area with some going to Languedoc and the French Riviera, and then the other 1/2 is distributed through the rest of the country.

And finally we got to taste!  Matthieu provided us with a wonderful tasting surrounded by their library. We had the pleasure of tasting:

It was a wonderful 1st stop!  Stay tuned for my next installment where I share my travels through Southern Rhone.