Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Fundraiser for Camargue Cowboys April 3

Let's give it up for the Gardians! On Sunday April 3 at Domaine Paul Ricard de Méjanes, the Rotary Club des Baux de Provence is hosting a full-day event to raise funds for the Mutual Insurance de la Confrèrie (brotherhood) de Camargue, which supports the men and women who work the manades (ranches) of the Camargue region of Provence. The Mutual is a supplement, not unlike the one used for mountain guides, which helps with expenses following a serious work accident and assists the families of those who are handicapped or deceased. 

"This is a serious undertaking and we hope this event will find a place on the Camargue calendar each year," says Larry Ware, vice president of the Rotary. "This 'day in the country' will help all of us to better appreciate these amazingly passionate and devoted people. It will also help visitors discover the Camargue 'profonde' and hopefully create a closer bond with this remarkable and authentic region of France and its people."

Larry advises turning up at Méjanes before 10 am. The day begins in the Arena (plaza) at 10:15 with a demo of the "Course Camarguaise," a traditional bull sport. This will be followed by a bullfighting demo by a young Camargue bullfighter; neither bulls nor men will be hurt! Next comes a display by the gardians about how they work with the cows (not bulls this time). At 11:30 the Amazones (a group of women on horseback) will exhibit their equestrian expertise. An apertif and lunch will be served in the restaurant at 12:15. 

After lunch comes a rare event: The Queen of Arles and a number of Arlesiennes will demonstrate and discuss the evolution of these traditional and unique outfits. From 2:30 to 4 pm, there will be “a round table” where a Camargue dignitaries, ranch owners and gardians will field questions. There will also be multiple activities for kids of all ages. 

Tickets are 29€ for adults, 15€ for teens; free for kids under 12. Ticket price includes all events plus lunch with wine and coffee.

All entrance fees and tombola (raffle) earnings go directly to the Mutual Insurance de la Confrerie des Gardians de Camargue.

For questions:, 06 19 05 31 90.

Larry asked me to mention that the Rotary Club of Les Baux is always looking for new international members, both expats and part-timers.  "We have a number of English speaking French and Belgian members," he says, "so language won't be too much of a problem."

And for info on upcoming bullfights and competitions in the region, click here.

Photos: A few of my favorite Gardian shots (courtesy of the Manades Jacques Bon and Hotel Mas de Peintand a graceful Arlesienne on a white Camargue horse (courtesy of Domaine Paul Ricard). The map shows where in the Camargue the April 3 fundraiser will be held. The poster is easier to read if you click on it. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Châteauneuf Wine Fest is April 2 & 3

The weekend wine festival called Printemps de Châteauneuf-du-Pape, now in its seventh year, is a festive rite of spring here in the South of France. This year it's Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3, with a special day on Monday April 4 (9:30 am to 2:30 pm) for wine-industry professionals. Roughly 85 domaines and châteaux will be represented, making this a wonderful opportunity to meet local producers while tasting their latest releases and a few smashing older vintages. It’s also an easy way to buy the wines you love, some of them normally quite difficult to get. 

This year, the fest celebrates the 80th anniversary of Châteauneuf's designation as one of the very first AOCs (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) in France.  The AOC decree was first created by Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié (aka baron Le Roy), a winemaker at Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Château Fortia). That first year, there were five villages named: Châteauneuf, Monbazillac, Arbois, Cassis and Tavel.  

Each year the Printemps festival invites special winemaker guests from other regions so this year's guests of honor will be winemakers from the four other "first" AOC villages. (For an AOC update, see below.)

In years past, the tasting workshops (Les Ateliers Dégustation) at the festival have been super popular and this year seems no exception; two of three have already sold out. Last I checked there was still space left in the one called "Eraflé ou Non-Eraflé ? Telle est la question ..." which delves into the differences between "stemmed" and "non-stemmed" wines. For almost 20 years, two wine making styles have distinguished the cellars of Châteauneuf: The modern method (de-stemming) and the old-school (keeping the stems or the whole grape cluster).  The workshop is Saturday at 3 pm (30€); sign up online.

Les Printemps is organized by by The Young Winemakers Association of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and takes place at the Salle Dufays on the Place de la Renaissance in Châteauneuf. Hours are 10 am to 7 pm both days. Your 10€ ticket (pay at the door) gets you in all weekend and includes a tasting glass. There will be free parking...indoor and outdoor play areas for the kids...and food available on site.

For all the info click here and follow the festival on Facebook  and Twitter. If you have questions, you can email:

For general info about the wines of Châteauneuf, the village and the region, click here and here.  Or, you can call the Tourist Office: 04 90 83 71 08.

FYI about AOC: The European designation AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) is slowly replacing the French AOC for agricultural expect to see more AOP on wine labels in the months to come. Read more here and here.