Everything Tastes Better in the South of France
Rosé in Aix-en-Provence
A chilled glass of rosé on a hot summer’s day certainly features in my vision of heaven, which in my mind looks a lot like the South of France. So with six days in Aix-en-Provence, I was determined to find the perfect glass.
Aix was founded in 123 BC by the Romans, who first established vineyards in Provence. Nearly two-thirds of their production is rosé, so I had come to the right place. My suitcase barely unpacked, I rushed to the nearest bar where the choice of wine was simply red, white, or pink. Rosé in hand, I sat and drank it in with the blue sky, the heat and the relaxed chatter of the other customers. The mix of ages and languages reflected the makeup of the city, where a thriving university, artistic and literary heritage, and Roman ruins are all attractions.
Rosé is the easiest wine to make and therefore thought to be the oldest. It comes in many shades and my next was of the palest blush. I was in one of many tiny squares in Aix, sometimes dubbed the city of a thousand fountains, in which one of these was put to use chilling wine. Getting drunk is rather frowned upon, as if using wine as a means to an end were to disrespect the grape. I tried to emulate them by sipping very slowly, savoring the flavors and succumbing only gradually to the alcohol.
After attracting the waiter with difficulty at the next bar, I finally received a glass so small that I thought of complaining but had hardly taken it in before the waiter disappeared again. The cause of his distraction turned out to be that I was inadvertently sitting front row in an open-air tango class. Unlike the locals, I needed more Dutch courage before joining in and sought it at the historic Les Deux Garçons where I enjoyed a fruitier rosé in (I like to think) in the very spot where locals and childhood friends Cézanne and Zola used to sit.
My parting wine was Aix’s eponymous rosé, perhaps under the influence of which I found myself befriended by a local Picasso lookalike who led me along the market stalls on the grand Cours Mirabeau, introducing me to everyone and promising me a place to stay on my return.
I wanted to take a bottle with me, but it was impossible to decide which had been the best. Their tastes mixed together in my mind, I couldn’t recall which of the shades had been the most appealing. I began to realize that none of them would taste the same at home, anyway, because what my quest had revealed was that what matters is not the wine in the holiday but the holiday in the wine.
Photo credit: Menérbes