Having disgraced ourselves at last week’s Call My Bluff-style wine challenge, we’re determined to reclaim our oenophilic crown and return to cultural kingliness à la Smith. So we’re leaving London behind this week and heading south to chase those fading summer rays in Provence, where a distinct lull in the air can only mean that wine harvest is a-coming. We’re refusing to leave until we can tell our Bandol from our Bellet…
Style: Private eyrie
Setting: Hilltop turrets
Why this week? Shouldn’t that be, why not every week? During autumn, the Vaucluse vineyards surrounding the beautiful Hotel Crillon le Brave perfume the air with the sweet scent of swelling grapes ready for their ritual pigeage (mass stamping on the grapes), and this boutique bolthole is no stranger to the process. It may be tucked away high on a hillside, but it’s at the centre of harvesting action, and you can do your bit for the fruity cause. The hotel currently has a special wine-orientated weekend offer from 8–11 October, giving guests the chance to roll up their sleeves and get involved in the annual harvest. The package includes breakfast and dinner each day, a picnic lunch at a nearby château and participation in the exciting grape harvest. The prices are €1,240 for two people sharing a standard double and €1,480 for a deluxe.
Our favourite bits: The gregarious, grapey theme is irresistible, and the delicious, hearty Provençal food is a perfect partner to a bottle of spicy Bandol. The hotel is family-friendly, so whether you’re out for a romantic jaunt or have little ones (or even pets) in tow, you’ll be met with a warm welcome.
Mr and Mrs Smith say: ‘If the hotel were a ship, it would be the foredeck; the rest of the little village lies beneath you, with the mountain and the vine-covered
plain leading the eye up and away. At sunset it is truly romantic – I defy any lovers, young or not-so, to sit here and not feel like holding hands. There is always someone on hand at Crillon to bring us a glass of Côtes-du-Rhône by the pool or in our room. The warmest welcome comes from Patrick Gaillard, the amiable and able general manager, who greets and waves off every guest, and gives the genuine impression that nothing is too much trouble. There’s always a little bit more to find, another door or gateway to a new level of sunny seclusion. Little birds visit us as we sip coffee looking out over the greeny-grey expanse. There’s a lot more for us to discover here, and in the Vaucluse in general – we haven’t even got round to any formal wine-tasting (as opposed to informal wine-consuming) on this trip, but we’ve found ourselves feeling more relaxed than we thought we knew how to: this is our kind of mountain…’
Compiled by Nischa Pieris