Just above Nice, in the village of Saint Jeannet, vines have been grown for centuries. It is believed the purpose of planting vines was initially to stop rockslides and mudslides. The Vignoble des Hautes Collines, the oldest vineyard in the Cote d’Azur, has lovely silvery olive trees and ancient Cyprus trees overlooking the valley below.
And just like the Romans, the current owner George Rasse hand picks and foot stomps the grapes. The wine is bottled in large demijohns and rests in the sun anywhere from 3 to 8 months depending on which wine is being made. The vineyard offer reds (from Mourvedre, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache and Braquet a rare red grape specific to the Nice region) white (from Rolle, Ungi Blanc and Chardonnay) and rosé (from Grenache Noir and Mourvedre) as well as sweet wines made from Muscat and from vendange tardive – over-ripened grapes.
Mr. Rasse is passionate about his wine and the winemaking traditions he is trying to preserve. To his chagrin the terraced gardens that surrounded his estate that were growing flowers for the perfume industry in nearby Grasse are slowly giving way to the construction of villas.
Wine enthusiasts should most definitely visit the Vignoble when in the Nice, Antibes, Cannes area for a lesson on traditional winemaking.