Notes in Modern Tasting ⏤ Château Saint-Martin, Central Var
Château de Saint-Martin at Taradeau, nestled in the hills of central Var, has an ancient history. Though the winery in southeastern France has been handed down for generations since 1740, its current owner, Adeline de Barry, is quick to point out that her noble ancestors, who gave the domain its name, were not the first to settle. From the second century BCE to the seventh century of our era, the land was inhabited by Romans. Then, from the Middle Ages up until the eighteenth century, by the wine-producing monks of Lérin. The richness of the soil, the abundance of light and the diversity of the local flora all contribute to the reasons the area has retained symbolic values since ancient times: it is a place that inspires an innate amour de la vie, or more prosaically, a love for life.
Address: Route des Arcs, 83460 Taradeau, France
Perhaps what has attracted civilizations for centuries is precisely the thing that makes the region so special. When we ask Madame de Barry her thoughts, she responds that Provence is above all a place that emphasizes l’art de vivre, the art of living. Whether through “the climate, the temperature, the light and the scents we breathe, or the local wine and gastronomy,” Taradéens and Taradéennes, as the locals are called, are very much driven by the quality of life.
Less glamorous, yes, than the towns on the coast, Madame de Barry explains that Taradeau is about a thirty-minute drive inland. Because of its relative distance from the sea, the location has preserved an authentic character, and visiting the village feels like stepping out of time. Atop a hill in a valley, circled around a Saracen tower, the medieval village is surrounded by woods and bushes, and boasts cafés, restaurants and little shops with artisanal character.
"The richness of the soil, the abundance of light and the diversity of the local flora all contribute to the reasons the area has retained symbolic values since ancient times [...]"
Because of the difficult nature of getting around – the landscape is irregular, made up of rocks and sinuous hills – the local cuisine has largely been preserved over the years. As a result, Provencal cuisine is rustic and varied, and heavily centered on fresh produce, healthy fats and copious amounts of wine. Particular gastronomic specialties include la bouillabasse, a fish stew made with the “catch of the day” and saffron sauce (the name comes from the combined words bolhir, to boil and, abaissar, to reduce or simmer), and la ratatouille, a simple dish that takes advantage of flavourful summer vegetables, served simply, with generous doses of olive oil.
The philosophy of Provencal art de vivre, which does very much with very little, is perhaps best encompassed in a simple meal called le grand aïoli, served around Easter to welcome spring and rebirth. Assorted vegetables along with a protein source, usually fish,
are traditionally served on a platter around a carefully-whisked sauce of garlic and oil, called aïoli, which becomes the centrepiece of the communal table. The garlic mayonnaise gives the meal its richness, and dining in good company is as much part of the enjoyment as the presentation and varied flavours are.
Visitors to the Var can expect distinct sceneries, varied hills and leisurely hikes. For those seeking dramatic sights, the Rocher de Roquebrune is a rocky outcrop that has attracted pilgrims for millennia and is said to be home to a hermit. Not far off, the Gorges du Verdon, a canyon with a turquoise river, inspires another kind of emotion. Bref, as you will note when you unwind with a glass of wine, a traditional meal and some good company after a day of sightseeing, the luminosity that has contributed to producing wine at the Château de Saint-Martin for centuries accompanies an undeniable appreciation, and love, for life.
"[...] the location has preserved an authentic character, and visiting the village feels like stepping out of time"
Subscribe for More Local Travel Tips & Insights
We invest ourselves in curating valuable content for the curious traveler. Subscribe to our periodic newsletter to receive all of our upcoming co-hosts interviews and local travel tips and insights by email. We value your time and will only reach out for sharing meaningful information with you.