The attractions of inland Provence

Helen Shackleton takes a look at inland Provence and discovers a region that’s attracting buyers with its promise of award-winning wine and attractive properties

Each year, the prestigious Concours G�n�ral Agricole Paris awards gold, silver and bronze prizes to agricultural produce across the country, but most notably the wine. Most well-known internationally for its ros�, the C�tes de Provence label has been increasing in popularity. Now it is winning medals for both red, white and ros� wines as well as highlighting areas that have hitherto been hidden from international gaze.

One of those areas is the plains inland from Hy�res and La Londe-les-Maures through the Vall�e de la Sauvebonne and around the medieval town of Pierrefeu-du-Var up to the mountains of the Barre de Cuers. It now boasts gold-medal-winning wines from various houses including cru class�es ros� and white for Domaines Fabre, ros� for Vignoble Kennel and Domaine Listel and white for Blanc-Sumeire Monique, all at Pierrefeu. Ros�s from Domaine Lolice and Domaine de la Sauveuse at Puget-Ville, St-Andr� de Figiuere, Domaine du Carrubier, Vignes Ch�teau Vert, Ros� Jean-Pierre at La Londe-les-Maures, white from Ch�teau Maravenne and red from Ch�teau La Tour St-Honor�, also at La Londe, have been honoured in the last two years. Silver medals are even more numerous.

So why is this area so good for wine-producing? The first known civilisation here began with the Greeks and then the Romans at what is now Hy�res and the Giens Peninsula. It quickly became apparent that this area enjoyed from a very clement climate all- year round. It also benefits from the run-off from the Alps and the Maures mountains so adequate water is available in even the hottest of summers. Today it is well-known for its agricultural produce of all sorts, garden nurseries and cut-flowers as well as the vineyards.

In the heart of the vineyards is the medieval village of Pierrefeu-du-Var, sitting at 240m above sea level and overlooking the plains below. The name itself comes from pierres � feux or ‘stones of fire’ alluding to the quartz and white rocks that are found in the Maures mountains and together reflect the light. The medieval history is still visible today with the narrow streets in the Chapel St-Cross quarter.

The links with the wine industry have been strong throughout history with the famous cork factory dating from 1899 using the natural cork widely available in the Maures mountains. At its height between 1915-1920, it produced 200 million corks per year. Closed down in 1971, it remains a feature of the village as public rooms.

History also links the village with love in the 12th century. The lords and ladies of Provence came together to create an etiquette or code for love affairs. This didn’t just encompass the correct way to conduct affairs and the finesse required but also elements of psychology and the more malicious side of the art. The ch�teau of Pierrefeu keeps records of a few of the ladies involved: including Rostangue, Lady of Pierrefeu; Mabille de Fos, Lady of Hy�res; and Bertrane, Lady of Signes.

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In property terms, this area is a real gem. The majority of the properties are main residences meaning that prices are reasonable and that shops and restaurants are open all year round.

The number of foreign owners increase as you approach the beaches only about 20 minutes to the south from Pierrefeu. However, the Dutch, Belgians, Germans and Swiss seem to have discovered the benefits of this area more than the British, even though Hy�res itself was revitalised by the Victorians looking for an alternative to Nice.

On the coast, prices are around €4,000-5,000 per square metre but inland you can expect to buy at around €2,500-3,500 per square metre. There is a real variety of properties available, from a modern architect-designed villa in the town of Pierrefeu itself recently reduced in price to €673,250, to a 1920s hunting lodge-style property on the banks of the River Real Martin at €897,000. You can own your own vineyard with a modern mas or farmhouse for a tidy €4,500,000; or for €630,000, a newly built villa in the proven�al style in the middle of the vines.

Come and discover this stunning area of Provence that blends the countryside with proximity to the sea, medieval hilltop villages, the Maures mountains and the plains covered in vineyards – or equally, just stop by for a glass of ros�! n

Helen Shackleton works for Leggett Immobilier

Tel: 08700 115151

www.frenchestateagents.com