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It is impossible to think of France without immediately thinking of food and drink. They are inextricably linked in our minds and the region of Provence, immortalised by Cezanne and known for its robust flavours, fulsome wines and lively markets, offers its rich gastronomic heritage to the traveller without hesitation.

The secret lies in its unique location in the southeastern region of France, which borders the Mediterranean to the south, the Rhone to the west and the Southern Alps to the east.

This varied landscape offers lime-rich soil perfect for growing grapes and Mediterranean herbs; the ideal climate to produce excellent olives, mountainous areas much-loved by goats and azure seas to supply fresh fish.

The Provence summers are long and hot when ripe tomatoes and fresh goat cheeses from Banon are eaten out of doors. Its winters are cold when the famous wind of ‘Le Mistral’ blows relentlessly through the sleepy villages of the Luberon and thoughts turn to gutsy glasses of red wine from Gigondas and slow-roasted legs of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary.

When to visit Provence

There is never a bad time to be in Provence because no season is fruitless and each month heralds a fresh treat. Spring delivers tiny new season vegetables to the countless local markets, summer boasts plenty at every meal and the joys of alfresco dining, autumn brings mushrooms and the much-anticipated grape harvest and winter is truffle season in the Vaucluse when the black gold of the forests is hunted by prize pigs on damp, atmospheric mornings. Whatever the season, there is always a new flavour to experience and a classic recipe to add to your repertoire.

Authenticity

Provence and its people are authentic by nature. Away from the glitter of the Cote d’Azur, much of Provence is still rural and centred upon agriculture and subsistence farming. The cultivation of food is second only to tourism in the Provencal economy, which makes it an ideal destination for gastronomes, epicureans and oenophiles looking for real food and drink experiences.

Small pleasures

The region lends itself to food and drink tourism. With its stunning scenery and delicious dishes, there could be no better place to sample a ‘degustation’ or tasting menu. Why not try Tapenade, known as the ‘black butter of Provence’ smeared on a crisp baguette from one of the area’s heritage bakeries? A simple Salade Nicoise eaten next to the sea is a simple pleasure to indulge and a glass of refreshing rosé at the close of another hot day is a must for every weary traveller.

To suit all tastes

No visit to Provence could be considered complete without trying Pistou, the traditional soup of the area filled with hearty fresh vegetables. Similarly, Ratatouille is a hearty Mediterranean stew of garlic, tomatoes and late summer vegetables, which is inexpensive to produce but rich in flavour and nutrients. This cuisine favours vegans and vegetarians and is gluten-free and low in carbohydrates, making it everyone’s friend. For the committed carnivore, Provence offers Beef Daube, the classic winter-warming dish which is robust in nature but refined enough to tempt even the most delicate palette. The sweet-toothed traveller will find the fresh fruits of the area hard to resist when served with Miel de Provence, the honey made by bees in the lavender fields of Mont Ventoux.

Provencal provenance

Perhaps the best aspect of Provence is that real food can be found everywhere, not just in the many cafes and restaurants but also at the farms, vineyards and growers. Food miles are anathema here and the local producers of cheeses, wines, olives and truffles make it their business to be engaged with their audience. They are justifiably proud of their products and why not, when they produce some of the very best and most memorable food in the world? Nothing makes food taste better than knowing where it comes from and a visit to a vineyard for a wine tasting or a trip to sample cheeses at a farm adds depth to the experience and adds provenance to the wine and food on offer.

A genuine delight

True French food is essentially peasant food that infuses every mouthful with honesty and heritage. It is real food from local soil, which means quality. Whether you plan to visit the producers directly or prefer to find the very best hidden restaurants known only to locals, every day can be filled with chances to taste, savour and enjoy. Food is a way of life in Provence. Recipes, passed from one generation to the next, are treasured here, making Provence one vast family recipe book just waiting to be read.

Soak up the culture

Nothing says more about a nation than its food, and gastronomic food tours and wine tours, led by experts, are the perfect way to immerse oneself in Provencal culture and heritage. Whether you are travelling alone, as a couple or a family, it is a great way to learn and see the real France. It also means you are travelling with like-minded people and allows you to meet clever artisans, chefs, producers and merchants who know their business and are experts in their fields. Furthermore, can one imagine a more convivial way to pass an afternoon than at a vineyard, tasting wines grown on the slopes beneath you or eating a traditionally prepared Bouillabaise next to the quay where the fish was caught?

A universal language

Delicious food is an international language understood by all. Taste is the ultimate lingua franca, which means that food and wine really do provide the keys to other cultures. Provence teaches the traveller that to savour is to enjoy. Its stunning and diverse landscape provides us with a bounty of delicious goods to enjoy and dishes to treasure. So, whether you are searching for the ultimate Fromage de Chevre, the best Nougat or a glass of Pastis, Provence has it all.

Check out the Provence food and drink experiences available at tabl. today.

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