In the heavenly landscapes of the South of France, vineyards abound. The rolling landscapes of Provence are criss-crossed with vines, some of which run right down to the blue-green sea, while other wineries sit back from the coast in gently rolling countryside, or perch high in the steep hills behind Nice.
The South of France has been blessed with the perfect wine-growing jackpot. The region is drenched in sunshine, benefits from an environment largely free of pests, and has excellent soils for vines which vary across the different areas: in the west, soil rich in limestone from an ancient inland sea, while granitic and volcanic soil dominates the east. There are also wild-growing herbs throughout the region, which are said to gently permeate the soil – and ultimately, the flavour of the wine. This variety of soil and landscapes lead to a wide variety of grapes being grown, and while the pale-blush rosés of Provence still dominate the winemaking reputation of the region, there are a growing number of exceptional red, white, and sparkling wines being produced.
Wineries and Yacht Charter : A Match Made in Heaven
From visiting the tiniest local producer to sampling famous vintages that grace Michelin-star menus, a wine journey along the French Riviera and Provencal coastline is an exercise in the good life. A French Riviera yacht charter is the ideal way to experience the spectacular wineries of the South of France, whether you’re dropping anchor off the Cannes Islands or taking a tender to a clifftop winery in Cassis. Floating slowly down the stunning coastline from Monaco to Marseilles against a backdrop of mountains and beaches, you’ll enjoy all the yachting pleasures of life on board, before coming back to land for your next winery experience. A yacht charter effortlessly avoids the hassle of daily transfers to and from your hotel (or moving between hotels as you travel down the coast), making it the ultimate luxury wine tourism experience.
You might even like to plan your South of France yacht charter for the fall, to coincide with grape harvest season and the local wine festivals of October – which is also a great time to take advantage of the reduced charter rates and blissfully quiet anchorages of the shoulder season.
Here are a few of the best vineyards to visit on a South of France wine-themed yacht charter. Our list predominantly features vineyards either on or in close proximity to the coast for effortless access; however, we have included a couple of show-stoppers that are well worth a gorgeous day trip into the Provencal interior.
Get your palates ready!
Chateau de Bellet, Nice
A day up at Chateau de Bellet is tinged with that ‘pinch yourself’ feeling a person gets sometimes on the French Riviera; that you have somehow fallen into a movie set; one where the expectation perfectly merges with the reality. Part of the appeal is the magnificent setting: elevated high above Nice with the vineyard terraces dropping away to distant views of the Mediterranean, Chateau de Bellet offers a glorious tasting room in a deconsecrated chapel, a brand new 8000m2 cellar, and tables on a sunny flagstone terrace overlooking the grand view of Alps and sea.
This centuries-old vineyard produces only organic wines, including the prestigious white wines, Cuvee La Chapelle, and Cuvee Baron G. This is a genuinely lovely place to wander among the vines, and is easily accessible from your yacht in Nice.
Abbaye des Lerins, Ile de Saint Honorat, Cannes Islands
In the pine-scented isles just off Cannes, you’ll find a vineyard out of a dream. Tended by Cistercian monks from the island’s medieval abbey, this tiny vineyard produces award-winning wines and liqueurs that appear on fine restaurant tables across the Riviera and beyond. The 8.5 hectare property grows Clairette, Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Mourvedre and Pinot Noir grapes, as well as making Limoncello and the herby 19th century liqueur, Lérina. The highlight is the Saint Pierre, a Chardonnay-Clairette blend with apple and honey notes and a delicate white fruit perfume.
With no cars on the island and an exquisite sense of peace, St Honorat is a lovely island to explore on foot, taking a walk along the coastal path to visit the 10th century fortified monastery and stroll among the sweet-smelling Aleppo pines and olive groves. You’ll want to stay on the island for lunch at La Tonelle restaurant, enjoying its glorious view back across the water to the neighbouring Ile Saint Marguerite.
The monks of the Abbey take a vow to live out their days on the island and never leave, and by the end of your day on Ile St Honorat, you may just think they’re onto something.
Chateau d’Esclans, Gorge de Pennafort
A bottle of Whispering Angel Rosé, frosted with condensation as it is pulled out of a solid silver ice bucket, is perhaps one of the signature sights of the superyacht world. Vast quantities of this pale pink rosé are quaffed on yachts each summer as guests drift down the French Riviera, partying in Cannes and dropping anchor off a beach club in St Tropez.
25 kilometres inland of Frejus, you can come and taste it for yourself at Chateau d’Esclans, a breathtaking vineyard with a view back across the coast. The first glimpse of the 19th century chateau through the avenue of trees is enough to make you gasp.
With the property once used as a lookout to spot pirates entering the Gulf of Frejus, the winery’s cellar dates from the Dark Ages and is the oldest in the region. The vineyard is renowned for the age of its Grenache vines, some of which are 90 years old, lending a greater concentration of flavour to the wines.
Chateau Saint-Maur, Cogolin
Just outside glamorous St Tropez, this exceptional vineyard was snatched from obscurity in 2011, when celebrated wine maker Roger Zannier saw the potential of the 70-hectare estate. It was a gamble that paid off, with a number of their wines gaining rapid acclaim, including the Cuvee Excellence White and the superb Clos de Capelune Rosé for its white peach flavours, light perfume, and heavy-based signature bottle.
Their high-tech vineyard sits opposite the historic Grimaud Castle, surrounded by cork oak forest and the Maures hills. Chateau Saint-Maur is considered one of the standout wineries of the Provence region, and tours are by appointment only.
Chateau de Berne
An hour’s drive inland of St Tropez lies the spectacular Chateau de Berne. Located near the village of Lorgues, this five-star hotel and winery is ground zero for Provencal wine tourism. This sprawling Provencal chateau houses a Cinq de Mondes spa and a Michelin-starred restaurant, and is set in a hilly landscape of vines and forest. It is a vision.
And in case you’d thought we’d forgotten we were here to talk about wine, Chateau de Berne has plenty to remind us. 200 acres of this 1480-acre estate is dedicated to viniculture, resulting in some of most acclaimed rosés, whites and reds in Provence.
Clos Sainte Magdeleine, Cassis
The final entry on our list has another jaw-dropping location, right on the cliffs of Cassis in the Calanques National Park. The vines grow right to the Mediterranean at Clos Sainte Magdeleine, making this winery extremely accessible from your yacht. Set on a private wooded headland, this limited-production vineyard benefits from limestone and clay soils, creating exquisite rosé and white wines.
Four generations of the family have grown wine at this art deco-style chateau, stretching back to founder Jules Savon, who won the gold medal at the World Fair in 1900. It’s not hard to see why the generations continue to live out their years making wine here; it would be difficult to come up with a reason to leave this heavenly place.
Making the Dream a Reality
This list is a mere fragment of the world-class vineyards you could visit on a week-long wine connoisseur’s yacht charter on the French Riviera. In fact, you may need longer than a week! To book a South of France yacht charter taking in the best wineries of the region, contact the French Riviera Yacht Charter experts at Bespoke Yacht Charter.
The Italian Riviera is north-western Italy’s coastal showcase, a place where the Ligurian Alps meet the Apennines with a dash of la dolce vita and a well-deserved reputation alluring yachts to one of the most popular yachting hotspots in the Mediterranean, Portofino.
Decades of tourism have ensured that the beauty of the Cinque Terre and Portofino rank highly on places you need to visit and the entire coastline has bewitched royalty, writers and celebrities who have been drawn to the Mediterranean climate, beautiful towns and the blend of old and new.
There’s no denying the appeal of Portofino, tucked into a sheltered inlet surrounded by colourful buildings and olive-clad terraces it has been grabbing headlines and attracting the international jet set for decades.
In the height of peak season, the town morphs into Italy’s version of Saint-Tropez, however if you’re looking for Champagne-spraying nightclubs and hedonistic beach clubs you’ve come to the wrong place.
Many visitors to Portofino don’t venture beyond the harbour and Piazzetta (small square), but renting a yacht on the Italian Riviera will introduce you to places of quiet beauty – especially in spring or autumn, ornate villas hidden amongst the trees and gorgeous scenery with romantic restaurants sandwiched between the mountains and sea.
Portofino is not off-the-beaten path, however it’s possible to escape the crowds of day trippers and celebrities who visit Portofino for one day.
Read this Guide to Yacht Charters in Portofino to discover the best things to see and do while on a Portofino yacht charter, where you can discover some of the celebrated highlights and the charter spots less visited amidst the surrounding attractions of the Gulf of Tigullio.
Inspired by the beauty of the recent snowfalls, I started thinking of a white Christmas. With all the rich heavy food around, a crisp clean white wine is a refreshing tonic. Looking at three varieties in very different styles to give a harmonious theme to a meal and enough diversity to accompany a meal.
Starting off with a Blanquette de Limoux, traditionally held to be the oldest sparkling wine, created by the 16th century monks at the Abbey of St Hilaire in the Pyrenees. This gentle fizz, such as that from Domaine de Peyret, has crisp acidity from a blend of high altitude vineyards with three varieties: Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.
The crisp apple-fruit flavours of Mauzac can also be found further north in the vineyards of Gaillac. But looking for something that extra bit special, try the old vine, oak-fermented and aged Mauzac from Clos Rocailleux. Crisp, tart apple fruit with a hint of biscuit toastiness.
Chardonnay is a variety par excellence for the range of styles it can offer. To accompany any rich meat course, an oaked buttery and ripe fruit Burgundian Chardonnay has both the power and acidity to offer. The 2014 vintage has beautiful balance. Domaine Leflaive’s Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru is rich and intense while Domaine Raveneau’s Valmur Grand Cru has elegant minerality with floral hints for a slightly less rich meal. Both with great ageing potential.
Champagne might not be everyone’s first choice to accompany the cheese course, but Stefanie Köhler of Cuvée magazine recently conducted a mammoth cheese and wine report for her latest Champagne edition (www.cuvee-magazine.com/shop). She suggested three blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay): Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs with Cantal Entre-Deux, Champagne AR Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 1996 (recently released) Demi-Sec with an extra-old Mimolette or Champagne Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Brut with a Chaource.
To finish off with a dessert wine, a rich, botrytized wine made with Chenin Blanc has all the fresh acidity typical of the variety, much needed at the end of a rich festive meal. The Loire vineyards of Coteaux du Layon and Bonnezeaux, sloping down to the Layon river, produce high quality, elegant and luscious sweet wines. Domaine des Petits Quarts from Bonnezeaux, has rich baked quince, honey, ripe apricots and dried fruit.
This article was written for French Riviera Luxury by Elizabeth Gabay MW – A long-time lover of the wines of southern France, and based in the hills behind Nice, Elizabeth is currently immersed in all things rosé for a forthcoming book on pink wines around the world. Other passions are the wines of Hungary, the Mediterranean, unusual grape varieties and history. She writes about for various journals and websites, including her own – www.elizabethgabay.com
Winter on the French Riviera is an absolute delight, as the summer crowds thin out, the snow gathers on the Alps behind the coast, and the landscape is covered in a vivid yellow carpet of mimosa flowers.
Whether it’s a crisp blue sky day with endless views of sparkling sea, or a blustery afternoon where the palm trees bend and wave along the seafront at Cannes, there’s nothing quite as lovely as warming up after a walk with a steaming cup of vin chaud, a mug of rich hot chocolate, or a paper cone full of roasted chestnuts.
And with the Cote d’Azur lighting up with Christmas markets, and the ski resorts within easy reach of the coast, the French Riviera offers a winter experience with just the right amount of joie de vivre.
Here are some delicious wintry drinks and treats to enjoy in France, as well as a few select places to enjoy them.
Whether you want to call it vin chaud, mulled wine, or gluhwein, the fact remains: the first sip of this warm red wine spiced with cloves and cinnamon is pure Christmas in a glass.
And on the French Riviera, there are so many places to enjoy this wintery beverage!
Is there anything more festive than wandering around a brightly-lit Christmas market on a dark winter’s night, cold air on your face and a warm cup of mulled wine in your hand? We think not. Wonderful Christmas markets spring up all along the French Riviera in the wintertime, as well as in the pretty hill villages behind the coast. The Christmas markets at Nice and Antibes even have a giant Ferris wheel on site, giving dizzying views across the city, sea and mountains.
All of these Christmas markets have pretty little Christmas stalls with pitched rooves dusted in fake snow, their stallholders wrapped up tight in scarves dishing out steaming cups of vin chaud—as well as other warming treats like roasted chestnuts wrapped in paper, gooey Nutella crepes, and unbelievably moreish slices of socca sprinkled with pepper and wrapped in tinfoil.
The Christmas markets (and the yummy food and drink to be found at them) is one of the best things about a winter holiday in the South of France. Every time you drink mulled wine in future, you’ll be instantly transported back to that holiday feeling of winter on the French Riviera.
Local Cafés and Bars
If you’re looking for vin chaud outside the Christmas market experience, our best tip is to go local. Find a café or bar displaying the sign ‘maison vin chaud’, which means they make the drink in house. Perhaps even more importantly, look for a bustling café full of locals, because you want a busy place where the vin chaud isn’t allowed to get old, as it becomes bitter when it’s reheated.
Besides, the experience of walking into a warm, noisy French café on a cold winter’s day and taking a table to watch the comings and goings is so utterly French that you really can’t miss it when on holiday! Avoid the sophisticated bars aimed at tourists and go somewhere with a bit of local heart and colour if you can.
In Antibes, try one of the cheap and cheerful local bars up near the market, or Le Vieil Antibes café by the fountain on Rue Republique. In Cannes, you might like to enjoy the cosy atmosphere of 72 Croisette, sipping vin chaud as you look out across the boulevard to the superyachts in the port. In Nice, Bistrot Chaud Vin really ought to be a winner for mulled wine given the name, and in Monaco, try the unpretentious Monte Carlo Bar in La Condamine, any time of day or night.
One of the most incredible aspects of a winter holiday on the French Riviera is the proximity to the ski-fields, with the closest ski resorts only an hour away. And vin chaud is an unmissable part of the French ski field experience!
You might like to stop at one of the mountain terraces for a steaming cup of the mulled wine between ski runs, or get into the spirit of things with an après ski session, with hot mugs of vin chaud, spiked hot chocolate, or shots of schnapps warming up the chill in your bones.
Of the ski resorts within 2 hours of Nice airport, Isola 2000 has the most bars and nightlife if you want to get into the après ski spirit after a brisk day on the slopes, but you’ll find that all the ski fields in the area offer vin chaud and a welcoming buzz in the evenings.
Again, the key is to look for a busy place that won’t let the vin chaud sit around for long enough to get bitter!
The first question you must decide on: what is your perfect hot chocolate? Is it the powdered stuff you have at home, laden with marshmallows? Or is it French hot chocolate, with its dark and silken combination of real bitter chocolate and milk? Or perhaps your idea of perfect hot chocolate is Italian, which is so thick and gooey you can almost stand your spoon up in it?
You can find all three kinds of hot chocolate on the French Riviera, all coming under the title of ‘chocolat chaud’. You’ll generally find the powdered cocoa version at your cheaper cafes, but we urge you towards the decadent drinking chocolate experience to be found at the finer establishments of the Riviera.
Famous Luxury Hotels
Drinking top quality hot chocolate in one of the world’s most opulent hotels is not a bad way to spend a leisurely hour or two. A hot chocolate at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco is a memorable, refined affair, as is the hot chocolate served during high tea at the glamorous Hotel Carlton Intercontinental.
Perhaps the very best hot chocolate, however, is to visit one the French chocolatiers along the Riviera, whose thick delicious concoctions are pure bliss on the tastebuds. Jean Luc Pele’ has flagship stores in both Cannes and Antibes, where you can sit in the little nook overlooking the street and drink your hot chocolate and feast on their heavenly pastries and artisan chocolates.
As mentioned, many cafés now use cocoa powder in the American or British style, which results in a fairly thin, not particularly chocolatey drink. If you’re looking for thick, Italian style chocolate while on holiday, one very good option is Caffe Lalu in Cannes, which incidentally, also does very good coffee (not an easy thing to find in France!)
If you’re visiting the coast in February, you’re guaranteed to get a superb hot chocolate at the Antibes Chocolate Festival, ‘Bread, Love, and Chocolate’, which begins, rather fittingly, on Valentine’s Day. Warm your hands with a hot chocolate and take a wander through the port, where you’ll see crew on deck of the beautiful yachts, beginning to ready them for the spring yacht charters.
Make your own spiked hot chocolate
If your accommodation is self-catering, you can experiment by buying top quality chocolate and milk, with pouring cream to add if you like.
If you’re looking to really get in the spirit, add a glug of alcohol into the mix for a spiked hot chocolate. Boozy hot chocolate is utterly, utterly Christmassy and very warming on a cold night. A splash of dark rum adds a wicked depth, while liquors like Kahlua, Baileys and Amaretto are huge crowd pleasers.
People are getting ever more creative with their spiked hot chocolate creations, whether it’s the recent trend for red wine in hot chocolate, a dash of Guinness, or the magical combination of Nutella and Frangelico for the perfect hazelnut hot choccy.
Other Wintery Drinks to Enjoy in France
A glass of Armagnac, cognac, or calvados will light the fire in your belly, and are perfect tipples for a cold winter’s evening. Whatever your favourite liquor is, we suggest that you head to a bar with an atmosphere of French Riviera glamour, and preferably some classy live music. Think Bar Americain in Monaco, where live jazz and soft armchairs will put you in the mood, the historic bar at Nice’s stunning Hotel Negresco, or the piano bar at Bar l’Amiral at the Hotel Martinez in Cannes.
If you fancy something a bit more lively and a good sight less salubrious, it’s hard to go past the famous Absinthe Bar in Antibes, where you head downstairs into a vaulted cellar bar festooned with art deco posters and silly hats. Once you take a seat, you’ll choose off a vast absinthe menu, and a glass absinthe fountain is delivered to your table, along with ornate spoons and cubes of sugar. The absinthe is beautifully warming…and very alcoholic. Be warned!
On some nights there’s a musician playing piano, and this often leads to rowdy sing a-longs and much hat swapping. It’s a fabulous night out, but check before heading there, as winter hours can be wildly undependable.
Of course, there’s also the option of heading to a local café and enjoying a laid back glass of pastis, diluted with just the right amount of water. This is best drunk in a café with a nice warming fug and lots of activity for people watching.
With these decadent warming drinks on the menu, winter on the French Riviera will warm the cockles of your heart. Happy indulging!
Christmas is almost upon us, and villages and cities across France are preparing for the seasonal Gallic rush on oysters.
The French have a proud history of oyster growing, with cultivation stretching back to ancient Roman times, and world-beating rates of oyster consumption, eating an impressive 4.4 pounds per person per year—more than anywhere else in Europe.
Of those oysters, 50% are eaten in the single week between Christmas and New Year. Vive la France!
The French are justifiably proud of their oysters; they are, after all, considered some of the finest on earth. With a shared language of ‘terroir’ and ‘cru’ and descriptive terms like ‘crisp’, ‘buttery’, or ‘fruity’, the French appreciation of oysters goes hand in hand with their appreciation of wine.
But the French are also far from alone in their love and pride of their home grown oysters, with many other countries across the world vying for the title of the world’s best oyster.
For those of you celebrating the festive season in Europe, here are a selection of the finest oysters available in Europe this Christmas, as well as what to drink with them.
(N.B. There are many other deserving candidates further afield, such as in Australia, New Zealand and America, but as we know, the freshness of an oyster is paramount, so this list will concentrate on the best of European oyster growers.)
The Finest Oysters in Europe
Possibly the most famous oyster of them all are the Speciales Gillardeau, grown by the Gillardeau family near La Rochelle in Western France. Meaty, nutty, firm and savoury, the oysters are grown and carefully tended for four years, and due to their cultivation process are less briny than many other varieties. Known as the ‘Royals Royce’ of oysters, these very fine oysters come at a premium.
FINES DE CLAIRE
This sweet, fruity oyster grows in Marenne-Oleron on the west coast of France, the largest oyster growing region in Europe. The crisp fruitiness of the oyster is derived from the way they are cultivated, with a minimum ‘fattening’ period of two months spent in the nutrient-rich water of salty marsh beds. Prized by the Parisians, this delicate oyster is found in fine restaurants around the world.
For something deliciously salty and fleshy with a fruity aftertaste, try Bouzigues oysters, which are farmed in a saltwater lake called the Etang de Thau. With a salt water content higher than the sea and no tides to contend with, the oysters grow rapidly and are some of the fleshiest in France. There are both flat (native European) and creased (Pacific rock) varieties cultivated in the lake, some have an almost hazelnut aftertaste, while some are reminiscent of watermelon.
Bouzigues may not be able to compete with the above two producers for notoriety, but their name is growing. Besides, oyster preference is an extremely personal thing, and one that does not always correspond with either fame or price tag. Let your tastebuds be your guide!
DELTA DE L’EBRE, CATALONIA
Located between Barcelona and Valencia in the pristine wetlands of the Delta de l’Ebre National Park, these delicious oysters benefit from the salt water of the Mediterranean and the fresh water of the River Ebro. The resulting oysters are silky in texture, with an addictive sweet-salty flavour.
(Don’t tell the French, but nearly 80% of the oysters here are exported to France and many are then sold in France and internationally under a French label. Tut, tut.)
While most French oysters are now Pacific Oysters, the Kelly Galway native oyster is an extremely fine example of the native flat European oyster that used to be prevalent in France, before disease and overconsumption almost entirely wiped them out.
The Kelly Galway is a very large oyster grown in wild oyster fisheries along Ireland’s West Coast, before being moved to oyster beds to fatten and develop their flavour, giving them the flavour of the Atlantic and the fresh waters of the Clarinbridge and Kilcolgan rivers. Due to their unique taste, their longer maturation (up to 6 years), as well as their relative scarcity compared to the Pacific oyster, the native Kelly Galway oysters are prized by connoisseurs and chefs alike.
Julius Caesar claimed that Scotland’s Loch Ryan oysters were ‘the best in the world’, or so the story goes. Whether true or apocryphal, these are some mighty fine oysters, famed for their tangy, lingering flavour.
Like Kelly Galways, Loch Ryans are native oysters of the European variety, and they have been grown by the Wallace family since 1701, when King William II gave the family the rights to harvest the beds.
As the only oyster fishery still operating in Scotland, and a very slow maturation time of up to 8 years, the Loch Ryan oysters are a true delicacy to savour over Christmas and New Year.
What to Drink with Your Oysters
The general rule for oysters is the accompanying beverage must be crisp, and it must be dry. For white wines, they should be young rather than aged as complexity competes with the oyster flavour, and only the very bravest attempt red wine, although some spirits and stouts can be excellent choices.
As mentioned above, there’s a language of ‘terroir’ and ‘crus’ that accompanies oysters, particularly in the French oyster industry, and some of the very best pairings are when an oyster is paired with a local wine, particularly in regions where the soil the vines are grown in was once seabed, and therefore rich in marine sediment.
Here are a few superb pairings for your oyster feast this Christmas:
Champagne and Sparkling Wine: Sparkles and Salt are a Match Made in Heaven.
The crisp, acidic flavour of dry sparkling wines- whether prosecco, cava, or any other iteration, work splendidly with oysters, cutting through the creaminess of the meat and singing with the salinity.
However, the reigning champion must always be true Champagne from the Champagne region, partly because it is grown in soil which is rich in marine sediments and chalky notes, creating a magnificent mineral, almost saline partnership with the salty oysters.
Go for a Brut (dry), bright, citrusy, non-vintage champagne. This is an occasion where you don’t need to fork out hundreds for a bottle of Cristal- and in fact shouldn’t, as the complexity of a vintage champagne will only compete and clash with the oyster’s flavour profile.
A Brut Blanc de Blanc (100% chardonnay) is a very good choice, such as either Pierre Gimonnet Premier Cru Brut NV, or Chapuy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne.
Outside the Champagne region, a bottle of Cremant de Limoux will go down very nicely.
White Wine: Chablis and Sancerre, if you please.
The best white wine pairings for oysters are cool-climate, high-acidity wines grown in mineral-rich soils. Make it a young wine, as you’ll again run into the pesky complexity clash with older vintages, and don’t overchill, or you’ll ruin the flavour.
Chablis is one of the finest choices, as its chardonnay grapes are grown in soil that was once the ocean floor, lending it a flinty, racy, palate cleansing acidity which complements the oysters of that region supremely. A bottle of Domaine Servin Chablis Premiere Cuvee les Pargues could be just the drop.
Sancerre is another excellent pairing. Coming from the Loire Valley, this cool climate wine is grown on an ancient sea bed known as the Paris basin, and its bracing acidity, citrus notes, and mineral profile matches exceedingly well with oysters. The Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre does nicely here.
For other strong white wine accompaniments, a very dry Muscadet from the Loire Valley promises a clean and crisp flavour profile, while a dry German Riesling is outstanding with meatier, creamier oysters. You can very rarely go wrong with a Pouilly Fuisse when eating oysters, or a pale, crisp Provencal rose could also be considered.
Sherry: dry, dry sherry.
Not sickly sweet stuff, but the desperately dry Manzanilla, which delivers acidity, crispness and salinity in droves.
Spirits: Gin Martini, up with a twist.
Its lovely cucumber notes make Hendricks Gin a standout for oyster accompaniments, but any good gin will do. Whether you’re fancying a gin and tonic, or a shaken martini, the marriage between gin and oysters is a thing of beauty.
Bartenders are getting creative with their martini and oyster collaborations; some now make martinis with an actual oyster thrown in there to take place of the vermouth, while others pop the oyster’s own salty, delicious juice in there to take the traditional olive’s ‘dirty’ role.
Beer: Guinness is Good for…Eating Oysters
Some say a crisp, dry pilsner is just the ticket, but the Irish beg to differ. They’ve drunk malty, creamy stout with their oysters for generations, and it works surprisingly well with the salty hit of the oysters. The famous advertising slogan for Guinness ‘Guinness is good for you’ rings true in this case, but Murphy’s or your preferred Irish Stout will be just as good.
So now that you know which oysters you want, and which drink to pair them with, it’s time to join the oyster rush in time for Christmas. Expect some competition, as for the French, getting the best oysters is somewhat of a national sport. Sharpen your elbows, grab your shucker, and join the fray!
Less known for its wine production than the city of Bordeaux, the glamorous coastal town of St Tropez in the Cote d’Azur offers a delicious selection of celebrated wines. The region may be renowned for its refreshing range of rosé wines, which have become the de rigueur summer choice for discerning jetsetters over the past ten years. Yet, St Tropez also produces young, fruity, but full-bodied red wines, as well as light, crisp white wines.
Some of the favoured spots for wine production in the area include Gassin, Ramatuelle and Sainte Maxime. Here, a patchwork of vineyards and wineries veils the landscape, meaning real estate in Sainte Maxime, Gassin and Ramatuelle are in great demand. Some of the real estate in Grimaud even overlooks certain vineyards – such is the close proximity of the residential areas to winemaking territory. Residents and visitors to the vineyards enjoy tranquillity, sweeping vista views, and the finest local produce one could imagine.
We’ve handpicked the best wines of St Tropez – each of which is produced at wineries that offer unmissable tastings and tours of picturesque vineyards.
The quintessential rosé of St Tropez, M de Minuty Rosé is made using the lesser known Tibouren grape – a variety almost exclusively grown in this part of the France. The wine provides the perfect accompaniment to a tomato and mozzarella salad or fresh shellfish dishes, with its citrusy notes and subtle floral hints.
Domaine La Tourraque
Meanwhile, the Domaine La Tourraque vineyard produces three wine labels: Cuvée Joseph Brun, Cuvée Classic, Cuvée Harmonie – each of which consists of a white, red and rosé and all offer a myriad of gustatory delights. The real showstopper of the collections, and a regular medal winner, is the vintage 2016 white Cuvée Classic, which wows critics with its fresh aroma and slow-revealing notes of white fruit and citrus. The vintage 2016 white Cuvée Classic is the perfect partner to rich-tasting tapas.
Domaine des Tournels
With its rose petal-infused hue, the Côtes de Provence Cuvée Speciale rosé vintage is the standout diamond in Domaine des Tournels’ crown. A two-time winner of the Concours Général Agricole in Paris, the wine boasts an expressive range of ripe and exotic fruits in a well-rounded palate. It is well partnered with grilled meats or a sweet, red fruit dessert.
Château des Marres
Château des Marres refers to its Cuvée 1907 rosé as ‘an invitation to exceptional pleasures.’ And with its delicate balance of white flowers and fruits, it lives up to this promise from the first to last sip.
The exceptional level of care and dedication that goes into creating Château Volterra’s wines is second to none and is evident in every savoured mouthful. The winery produces two delicious, but very different white wines, yet it is the Château Volterra Red 2008 that steals the show with its silky, elegant taste, that is complemented by hints of spices and smoke. Partnered with spiced, red meat, this wine is pleasingly powerful as well as fresh.
For the discerning, environmentally conscious oenophiles, there are also a number of organic rosé options available in the region, including Jas d’Esclans Cote de Provence and Alpilles Rosé Longchamp – both of which summon reveries of hazy summer days spent gazing over fields of fragrant lavender and sunflowers.
With such a broad variety of grapes – reds range across syrah, grenache, cinsault, the lesser known tibouren, mourvedre, carignan, cabernet sauvignon, while whites include rolle, ugni blanc, clairette, and semillon – and such a rich selection of wines, you are guaranteed to find a tipple for every preference and taste in St Tropez.
You know the South of France summer is in full swing when celebrities and their bodyguards are popping in and out of boutiques, and charter guests speed back to their yachts, their tenders laden down with shopping bags full of designer gowns and swimwear from the world’s great fashion houses.
It’s far from unknown for superyacht guests to drop a cool €100,000 on a morning’s shopping trip in the glamorous boutiques of Saint Tropez, Cannes, or Monaco. But that’s not to say you need to have a spare hundred grand to enjoy the shopping experience during your South of France yacht charter.
Our Riviera shopping guide takes you from the haute couture fashion houses and elite ready-to-wear designers, through to local boutique gems and colourful local markets. And as no-one fancies giving money to the tax-man unnecessarily, we’ve also included some information on how to shop duty-free on the French Riviera.
Shopping in Monaco
If you begin your yacht charter in Monaco, there’s no better way to start than taking an afternoon stroll through the Principality to find a stunning designer outfit for your first evening on the yacht.
The Cercle d’Or & Summer Pavilions
The haute couture designers and luxury jewellers hang their shingles around the famous Cercle d’Or, where it’s just one prestigious fashion brand after another, including Prada, Gucci, Valentino, Cartier, Bvlgari, Hermès, Salvatore Ferragamo, Dior, and Chanel.
During summer 2017, 40 ultra-luxe brands will be displaying in the ‘Promenade Monte Carlo Shopping’: an exclusive installation of summer pavilions near the Place du Casino. The ideal route for a Cercle d’Or shopping tour begins at the Pavilions before carrying along the famous Avenue de Monte Carlo and onto Allée Francois Blanc.
If you’re a bargain-hunter roaming this part of town, slip behind the casino and away from the Cercle d’Or to Avenue Saint Michel, where Stock Griffe boutique offers big name brands for up to 70% off.
In the town centre, Boulevard des Moulins, Boulevard d’Italie, and Avenue Princesse Grace showcase many high end boutiques, including local offerings such as Monegasque luxury brand, 209 Mare.
The Condamine area down by the marina has more than 200 boutiques of dazzling variety and budget – from fashion and homewares to gourmet stores. For those shoppers who love to explore, La Condamine holds many treasures, including Le Dressing: a vintage designer shop featuring second-hand beauties from designers like Chanel.
Monaco even does shopping malls with exceptional style. Galerie du Metropole is one of the most luxurious malls on the planet, with acres of marble, porters to help with your bags, and 80 luxury stores including Armani and Brunello Cucinelli.
If you’re after a more low key or practical shopping experience, head to Fontvieille shopping mall, where you’ll find electronics, fashion stores, and a large Carrefour supermarket.
Finally, despite its high-end shopping reputation, Monaco also does a wonderful daily market in La Condamine featuring Mediterranean produce and local crafts, and a funky little flea market at Fontvieille on Saturdays.
Things worth knowing
There’s a 20% VAT surcharge on goods you buy in Monaco: it may be known as a tax haven, but unfortunately that doesn’t apply to the shopping experience! However, if you’re a visitor from a country outside the EU, you will be eligible for a VAT refund on purchases over €175 made in a single store.
Shopping in Cannes
Cannes is one of the world’s ultimate shopping destinations, and you’ll feel the excitement in the air as you skip from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent to Dior, passing celebrities carrying little dogs in their Hermès handbags.
Cannes Croisette is a byword for luxury shopping, with flagship haute couture boutiques lining the boulevard beneath the palm trees and ornate Belle Epoque hotels. As well as the big global names such as Dior and Chanel, there are also some very fine French boutiques worth knowing about, such as Paule Kar, Chacok, and Leonard Fashion.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a glamorous evening gown for your night out in Cannes but have a bit of an eye on your budget, try MyAnnika, a boutique specialising in evening dresses at affordable prices.
During the Cannes Film Festival, there’s even a red carpet laid out along the shopping strip, and the Croisette is largely pedestrianised on summer evenings as of 2017, making this prestigious shopping destination even more drop-dead gorgeous than ever. And if you’re in the mood to get a head-start on the summer crowds with a spring yacht charter, the Croisette hosts a shopping festival each April, with fashion shows and season previews. Be still, my beating heart.
If you must drag yourself away from the Croisette, Rue d’Antibes is the place to do it. This famous street just behind the Croisette is the other fashionable place to shop in Cannes, with a succession of luxury brands like Vilebrequin and famous high street brands like Zara, as well as sunglass stores and decadent chocolate shops for gifts to take home.
And as if it couldn’t get any better, the block between the Croisette and the Rue d’Antibes completes the famous Carré d’Or, where fine jewels are laid out in the window displays between chic bars and swimwear stores.
Rue des Etats-Unis
This recently-updated shopping street features high-end interior design shops to find that perfect French piece to ship home.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to shop like a Cannois local, then Rue Meynadier is for you, with its eclectic mix of affordable fashion and artisan food stores.
If you’re still hungry for more, the Galerie Gray d’Albion shopping mall is located just by the Croisette, featuring a range of high-end stores including La Perla. If you’re looking for more practical shopping, head to the neighbouring town of Cannes La Bocca.
To get the true Cannes experience on your yacht charter, a visit to the local markets is a must, and Marche Forville delights with its bustling atmosphere, and colourful stalls of fruit and flowers, cheese and fish.
Things worth knowing
Like Monaco, you can claim a VAT refund on purchases over €175 in a single store if you hail from a country outside the EU. If you’re planning a South of France shopping spree, apply for a Global Blue ‘shop tax free card’ so you can automatically be refunded at participating stores, or just ask in the store for a detaxe’ form to claim at the airport upon departure.
Shopping in Saint Tropez
Welcome to little boutique heaven, where the towering names of the fashion world sit on cobbled laneways next to unique Saint Tropez boutiques. The village of Saint Tropez isn’t big and all its boutiques are a leisurely stroll from each other, so just grab your credit card and explore to your heart’s content, with a focus on the luxury triangle between Place des Lices, Rue Gambetta, and Rue Allard.
Global Fashion houses
You’ll find the instantly-recognisable names of Hermès, Armani, Dior, and Louis Vuitton emblazoned above the doorways of Saint Tropez’ pastel facades, as well as Zadig et Voltaire, Lanvin, Swarovksi and Eres, just to name a few. However, it’s worth noting that the luxury shopping scene is just as much about the local as the international in enchanting St Tropez.
Arguably the most famous item in a Saint Tropez wardrobe is the iconic Tropezienne sandal, which was established by the Rondini family in 1927, with stiff competition from the K.Jacques family who set up shop 5 years later.
As you might expect, swimwear is also a hot item in sunny Saint Tropez, where the local Vilebrequin and Kiwi St Tropez boutiques began their meteoric rise on the superyacht fashion scene.
For jewellery, Gas Bijoux delights with its chunky, colourful designs, while Au Soleil de Saint Tropez is the last word in boho chic (as worn by the stars.)
There’s something for everyone in fashionable St Tropez. If you’re feeling nautical, Blanc Blue is a local boutique full of sailor-style stripes and scarves, while those up for a spot of polo at the St Tropez polo club will find all the right attire at La Martina. Bla Blas is an absolute treasure trove of quirky labels, while Be Shorts— well, you can guess what they sell.
Markets and Cellars
One St Tropez shopping experience which is not to be missed is a Saturday morning at the Place des Lices market, where Provencal produce, gifts, and clothing are spread out in stalls underneath the shade of century-old plane trees.
And finally, if you’re wanting to take home some excellent Provencal wine for a gift or to cellar, head to La Cave de Saint Tropez or Terre de Mer.
Things to know
The same tax free opportunities exist in St Tropez as in Cannes, with a Global Blue card definitely the way to go if you’re planning on splashing some cash.
A yacht charter is the perfect way to make the most of a luxury shopping adventure along the French Riviera. Where land-locked tourists have to battle with summer traffic in the South of France, you just float along between the great shopping destinations of the Riviera, falling ever deeper in love as you go.
The coolest label to join the international fashion market in recent months, 209 Mare is redefining men’s luxury beachwear in 2017. The company’s innovative and dynamic apparel can be spotted in the chicest beach destinations around the world, worn by discerning gentlemen who are not afraid to play by their own rules. Men’s beach club attire that brings the elegance of the art deco period to the in-vogue destinations of today, the 209 Beach Blazer and the 209 Swim Shorts merge style with functionality. As the fashion label is headquartered in the Principality of Monaco, the sophisticated blazers are increasingly popular on the Cote d’Azur. We sat down with Gabriel and Federico Uribe, the Owners of the brand, to find out which beachfront establishments they recommend in the town of Cannes – one of the South of France’s most glamorous summer hangouts.
The first words uttered from the Uribe brothers were . The sister venue of Cannes’ most exclusive nightclub of the same name, the beach club and restaurant encapsulates the glitz of Cannes and the Cote d’Azur. Serving fine sushi and Mediterranean cuisine, and an array of thirst-quenching cocktails, Baoli Beach is located between the Carlton and the Majestic hotels on Cannes’ Croisette. It benefits from the largest pontoon in the area – the perfect place to witness Cannes’ majestic sunsets.
What 209 Mare said: “Visiting Baoli Beach is a very unique experience. It is the best place to understand why 209 Mare was born on the Cote d’Azur.”
Set on a long stretch of Cannes’ golden sands, Riviera Beach offers the quintessential beach experience. Relaxation is the top priority at this pet-friendly, private beach club. From 9am until late, seven days a week, Riviera Beach caters for a distinguished clientele, serving fresh seafood dishes with an Italian twist. Once your food has digested, there is a swim platform out at sea, which offers the perfect spot to look back and admire Cannes. Recline on the club’s blue and white striped sunbeds and understand why so many likeminded travellers enjoy Cannes each year.
What 209 Mare said: “The sunbeds at Riviera Beach are set roughly 2m from the water’s edge. Make the most of the impeccable service on offer by ordering a cocktail to be delivered to you, as you bronze under the warm summer sun.”
A legendary venue on the Cap de la Croisette, Gotha enjoys the reputation of being among the best of Cannes’ nightclubs. It is surrounded by sea on three sides, meaning it is a magnificent sight to behold. With a line-up of celebrity performers that is consistently impressive, you are guaranteed a great time at Gotha. Noteworthy performers to grace the venue with their presence include David Guetta, French Montana, Martin Garrix, Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Rocky, Akon, Bob Sinclair, and Paris Hilton, but the list goes on. This is the place to see and be seen in Cannes.
What 209 Mare said: “Gotha Nightclub needs no introduction. Its events regularly push the boundaries of entertainment, setting the standard for the international party scene. This is the ultimate place to break the rules in style in our 209 Beach Blazer.”
One of the best ways to experience a yacht charter destination is immersing yourself into its gastronomic pleasures – regional food, good wine, harvest festivals and local markets. On the French Riviera, discovering the food markets ashore highlights a Provençal ritual and the link between farm, orchard, ocean and table. With a fabulous climate that sustains agriculture, to experience any French town or city at its core it’s worth being there on market day.
Let’s get what must be said out of the way early. Marseille—that maligned, magnificent port city—is rarely included on a French luxury yacht charter itinerary, with the majority of charter yachts floating down the coast as far as St Tropez, before turning back to cruise back up the French Riviera to glittering Cannes and Monaco.
Yet what are yacht charter guests missing by not venturing a little further down the Var coast to Marseille? A whole lot, as it happens. Marseille is located on one of the wildest, most magnificent stretches of coastline in the Mediterranean: a region of towering limestone cliffs and turquoise fjords, Caribbean-like islands, and ancient villages surrounded by rolling vineyards. With the appeal of pretty Cassis and Bandol, the astonishing Calanques National Park, and the exotic Islands of Gold off Hyeres, the Marseille coast is simply unmissable.
One of the highlights of a French Riviera luxury vacation is travelling slowly down the coast from Menton to Saint Tropez, revelling in the astonishing cuisine of the region and dining in some of the world’s finest restaurants.
A luxury yacht charter along the glittering Cote d’Azur is the ultimate foodie experience, as you dine at Michelin starred restaurants on garden terraces with dizzying sea views, and in opulent dining rooms of golden vaulted ceilings and dripping chandeliers.
If you’re seeking a luxury yacht charter that offers an entirely different experience than traditional Mediterranean hotspots such as the Amalfi Coast, French Riviera or the Balearic Islands, then head to Corsica where you’ll be charmed by an island of diverse landscapes, vast history and robust cuisine.
Located at a maritime triangle between the coasts of northwestern Italy, southeastern France and the neighbouring island of Sardinia, Corsica is underrated and largely unspoiled by commercialism – imagine an island where herders still shuffle their mountain goats through the scented maquis of rosemary and lavender, crumbling Genoese fortifications line the wild coastline instead of glitzy resorts and wind-bent pine trees border the shores of spectacular beaches.
Inland, you’ll find an even quieter Corsica with pigs and donkeys roaming the twisting mountain roads, artisans selling almond cookies and hazelnut oil roadside and tiny villages staunchly professing their Corsican identity.
Saint Tropez, originally a sleepy fishing village catapulted into the realm of the international jetset from the 1950’s and has remained the essential summertime playground for the famous and wealthy, where superyachts and sophistication bring savoir faire to the shores of the Mediterranean.
A must-visit stop for yacht charters on the glittering Côte d’Azur, the town has an unrivalled energy during busy months and a genteel charm of true Provençal ambience in the off-season.
Immerse yourself in our ‘Luxury Guide to Yacht Charter in St Tropez’ with practical advice on top places to dine, where to find the best shopping and useful tips about how to book a French Riviera luxury yacht charter.
The French Riviera isn’t well-known for its islands, yet just a stone’s throw from the glitz and glamour of Cannes and Saint Tropez lie tranquil archipelagos of exceptional Mediterranean beauty, where you can stroll through pine forests and rolling vineyards, explore ancient forts and monasteries, and sunbathe on soft-sand beaches in clear turquoise coves.
Stepping ashore on the Cannes or Hyeres islands, you cannot help but feel like you’ve travelled back to a simpler time when Provence was still a sleepy place inhabited by monks and fishermen, ruled by the rhythms of sunny days and the summertime buzz of cicadas. No cars are allowed on the islands and there are few inhabitants, so if you’ve ever wondered what the Cote d’Azur was like before the grand hotels and apartment blocks sprung up along the coast, you simply must visit the enchanting islands of the French Riviera.
Sunshine, superyachts, and Saint Tropez: can there be a more wonderful combination? But for many, the dream of a Saint Tropez yacht charter hovers just out of reach. Until now.
We know that not everyone has the time or funds for a leisurely week-long superyacht charter along the French Riviera. But that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the best bit of all: a weekend superyacht charter in Saint Tropez. In Saint Tropez, you have a magical stretch of the Riviera which combines all that’s special about the Cote d’Azur: a rolling Mediterranean landscape, soft white sand beaches, picturesque Provencal villages, glamorous boutiques, Michelin-starred restaurants, hedonistic nightclubs — and a whole lot of celebrity sparkle.
So if you want to experience the best of the French Riviera by yacht, but only have a weekend to do it in, then a Saint Tropez weekend yacht charter is your dream solution.
Glamorous, decadent, and dripping in celebrity history, the beach clubs of the Cote d’Azur have long been synonymous with the superyacht set. Yet of the hundred or so beach clubs along this stretch of storied coastline, which ones should you visit on your superyacht charter?
The best beach clubs have a seductive magic about them, an allure that goes far past the sophisticated decor, the handsome charm of the waiters, or even the softness of the sand where white-cloth tables sit before the sparkling sea. At the top beach clubs—the ones that the A-list compete to get into in the long, languorous days of a Mediterranean Summer — there’s a lingering sense of summers past, of all the famous people who have mingled, dined and danced here, passing happy days diving off pontoons and basking in the sun.
So join us as we float from the towering cliffs of Monaco down to the Gulf of Saint Tropez, dropping anchor at the most glorious beach clubs along the French Riviera.
Monte-Carlo Beach Club
This prestigious beach club at Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel offers the most impressive selection of options of any Monaco beach club, with a private beach with watersports and luxury tents; an Olympic sized saltwater swimming pool with diving tower, and a Michelin star restaurant on a deck overlooking the glittering sea. Laze back in your cool striped cabana with a hookah pipe, go parasailing high above the Mediterranean, or dine on fresh deliciousness at Elsa, the first all-organic restaurant to be lauded by the Michelin inspectors. Naturally, there’s also a spa onsite to take your pampering beach club experience to the next level.
The global Nikki Beach franchise has extended its reach with a pop-up ‘beach’ club on top of the Fairmont Hotel, which will return for another bout of party madness in April 2017. All the action at Nikki Beach Monaco takes place around the pool, which is surrounded by luxurious white deckchairs, from which you can indulge in some quality people-watching or gaze out at the endless Mediterranean views. With chilled DJ beats ramping up as the day wears on, Nikki Beach Monaco feels very much like a daytime nightclub, so it attracts a young crowd bent on having a good time.
If the idea of loud DJ music and enthusiastic young things spraying Champagne makes you want to retreat with haste to a place of cool, calm exclusivity, there can be no better oasis than La Note Bleue in Monaco. This sophisticated beach club at Monaco’s Larvotto Beach offers a garden-like setting by the sea, with decadent daybeds with wispy curtains, soft white deckchairs by the water, and elegant dining tables shaded by graceful sweeps of canvas. At night, drink and dine by soft lantern-light as notable jazz musicians play to an appreciative crowd.
For sheer celebrity history and Mediterranean charm, it would be hard to go past Paloma Beach, an iconic beach club nestled on a small cove in exclusive Cap Ferrat. Family-run since 1948 and named after Picasso’s daughter, the beach club at Paloma Beach offers heart-soaring views of cliffs and blue-green sea, with opulent villas climbing the steep slopes behind. Paloma Beach isn’t shiny and decadent— in fact it’s slightly rustic compared to its Monaco counterparts, with the same “shack” from 1948 serving up fresh-grilled seafood and family-style service to the dining tables scattered along the pretty pebbled beach. Paloma Beach promises the French Riviera experience… as it used to be. After a refreshing swim in the crystal clear water, lie back on a deckchair with an icy glass of rose’ and listen to the cicadas buzzing in the nearby pines. A place of family tradition, celebrity patronage, and the bewitching nostalgia of summers past, Paloma each is the French Riviera, and it would be remiss not to stop here on your Cote d’Azur yacht charter.
Return to where the French Riviera legend truly began, at the gloriously pretty Plage de la Garoupe. This stunning powder-white sand beach is where an American socialite couple called the Murphys launched the French Riviera as a summertime destination in the 1920s, clearing the beach of seaweed and fishing nets and inviting Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Picasso to sunbathe and swim in the crystal clear waters. Today, Plage Keller is the pick of the beach clubs along this pretty cove, offering excellent Mediterranean food in a sophisticated setting and beautiful views across the Bay of Angels to the distant Alps. Take a table on the silky soft sand or a deckchair on the long jetty, shaded by jaunty yellow umbrellas. Celebrity history is everywhere on the Riviera— if you only know where to look, and the refined Plage Keller beach club is the ideal beach club to celebrate the birthplace of the Riviera as we know it.
This designer-chic beach club is part of the Hotel Martinez, and is famous for its wide beach area and vast pontoon with teak decking and deliriously comfortable lounges. The most sought-after beach club experience in Cannes, Z Plage has an adjoining restaurant, a smoothie and cocktail bar, and a beach cabana offering Givenchy spa massages during July and August. Find your heaven under the shade of a white umbrella, or find an oasis of privacy between wisps of white curtains that wave gently in the afternoon breeze.
This glamorous beach club is a sister venue to the famous Baoli nightclub in Cannes’ Port Canto, and attracts the same A-list crowd of the young and genetically blessed. With a premier position by the majestic art deco façade of the Carlton Intercontinental hotel, Baoli Beach is the perfect venue to have an elegant lunch at a table on the sand or soak up the sun on the large jetty covered in plush deckchairs. The white and cream décor is set off perfectly against the blue sea and sky, and as the day heads into afternoon there’s a party vibe in the air that carries on long into the summer nights.
When talking of beach clubs in Saint Tropez, you simply must start with Club 55. In 1955 when filming And God Created Woman, Brigitte Bardot’s husband Vadim mistook a simple bungalow on the beach for a bistro, and asked the owner if the film crew could have something to eat. His wife kindly agreed to cook them a meal, and so history was made. That film would propel both Bardot and Saint Tropez to global stardom, and with it, the humble bungalow that would soon become the infamous Club 55 beach club.
Today, the bungalow still stands, surrounded by tall stands of bamboo and tamarisk trees that bend gently in the afternoon breezes which skip up off the water. Tables are shaded by swoops of white canvas, deckchairs are set up on the soft sand with stunning views, and as the day goes on and the inhibitions loosen, people begin to dance. Club 55 is beach club royalty, and the guest list shows it.
For a younger and wilder crowd, head to Nikki Beach St Tropez where beautiful young things dance on tables to big-name DJs, and as much Champagne seems to get sprayed as is drunk. This is hedonism at its most energetic.
In Summer, expect your A-list crowd of young celebrities and racing drivers to be tempered with a crowd of party-goers keen to brush shoulders with the superyacht set. Despite the name, Nikki Beach St Tropez isn’t actually right on the beach, so all the action centres around the pool, which is surrounded by the signature all-white lounges and daybeds of the Nikki Beach franchise.
Tradition is important in Saint Tropez, but it is not everything. Every once in a while, a newcomer announces its arrival with such success and fanfare that it immediately rockets to the top of the ‘must-visit’ list. Bagatelle Beach is one such venue, expanding to Saint Tropez after success in St Barts, Rio, and New York. After a fire destroyed the beach club in early 2016, Bagatelle Beach reopened and is going from strength to strength. The décor is coastal chic, with wicker chairs, white tablecloths, and flashes of bright blue — all reflecting that air of bright light and sparkling sea which makes the Riviera so entirely irresistible to anyone with a touch of romance in their soul.
Bradley Mitton, founder of Mitton Wines and Club Vivanova brings a new level of sophistication to the world of wine for expats in the French Riviera and Monaco.
Hi Bradley. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your business?
I left the UK twenty five years ago to travel and experience Australia and Asia and through various work opportunities, I developed my career in the food and beverage industry and worked for eleven years amongst a number of reputable fine dining restaurants in Australia’s Gold Coast, Cairns, Hong Kong, Manila, Subic Bay and Seoul. The affinity of food and wine played a large part during my last eight years working in Asia and when I moved to Seoul in 2000, I managed an international business that focused on gastronomy, Australian wines and cigars and I acquired the ability to successfully market and promote wines, menus and events. It was when I moved to Berlin in 2002 that I started working primarily in wines and I decided that it was time to set my own company up so on a shoe-string budget, I established Mitton International Wines. The company is based in Berlin, we import boutique Argentinean, Australian, New Zealand and South African wines to Central Europe and we sell exclusively to leading hotels, private clubs, villas, yachts and international restaurants across the Continent. I then pioneered Club Vivanova that runs events in parallel with my wine business in locations that list our products as a service to build relationships with our gastronomy partners. Both Club Vivanova and my wine business work hand-in-hand to develop relationships between our wines and our clients and they are growing dynamically in the seven European countries that we work in. I currently travel throughout Europe training and educating hotel and restaurant employees in the diversity and regionality of New World wines and hosting my wine events that are mostly sold-out in Barcelona, Berlin, Milan Monte Carlo, Prague and Warsaw building great business and social connections for me and my partners. We host around 80 events per year.
Why did you decide to switch gears from being a chef to wine importing/distribution and event management?
It wasn’t something that I planned as I loved running and working in restaurants but as my career progressed, I started moving more towards sales, marketing and events and in 2002, I was flown to Berlin from Seoul and employed by a German wine importing company to channel their portfolio towards the New World and so I went from running restaurants to selling into them and the move was seamless. Having a good understanding of your clientelle is important and I understand the gastronomy business well, so I was naturally able to build a good rapport with my sommelier and restaurant managing clients. Looking back, I am happy I made the move, the restaurant industry is a killer; long hours, heavy pressure and it’s tough to make money in this sector, there’s just so many flaws in the industry that cause financial loss. The social life is great but the financial benefits just didn’t weigh up for me so I think simplifying to a trading operation made business life somewhat less stressful for me and more clean in an operational point of view.
You’ve been running your company now for 13 years. How long did it take for it to become successful?
I’m still working on that. The first five years was just building, setting-up clientelle, establishing a database, changing portfolios, learning from mistakes, losing money left right and centre and basically trying to get a start-up business on the road. It was very tough, long hours but inspirational and a great learning curve. I see my business as an train, with an engine and carriages and you have to continuously fine tune the engine to keep it moving ahead but also make sure the carriages (employees, administration and back-office) are keeping up as in our business, it’s the weakest link that is the threat. The wolf is only as strong as the pack and the pack is only as strong as the wolf; so you have to have the whole package running like clockwork from purchasing to pricing and stocking, communication then delivery and of course, the after-sales. We run a slick and specialist operation, I refuse to accept mediocrity and I’m always challenging ourselves internally to do better and be better and grow but carefully and in a planned and selective manner.
You mentioned that the first few years were tough. How did you keep yourself motivated?
I used to take each day as it came, there are always fires to put out with the business and issues to deal with and you’re going to have battles and you win some and lose some but you’ve just got the make sure that you win the big war, that’s the main objective and you’ve got to always be trying to streamline the way the company runs. The motivation comes from within, you need to be hungry, you have to want to survive and succeed and if you are not driven , you just won’t make it and if you’re not strong, it’s no use even starting out. There are employees and there are entrepreneurs and we all have our place in life and I think I was just born ready; I motivate myself and focus on my targets, taking very little notice of distractions and negative people or influences, I take most of my business decisions myself and I am driven to be the best and I think even though that can sometimes be a bit dangerous, that is the key to success, if it is controlled and not erratic. Never take no for an answer and if you fall down failing, just get up, and start again, keep going. Winston Churchill once said that when you’re going through hell, keep going!
You’re originally from England but have lived in Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, South Korea, Germany, and now France. Which place has been your favorite so far and why?
I’ve enjoyed everywhere that I’ve lived for different reasons and at different times, they showed me many different facets of life; but my favourite part of the world is the South of France. I studied French at school for eight years and I fell in love with the language, the literature, the culture, the food, the art, the women, the fashion, just everything, it was all so romantic and so when I moved back to Europe after Asia, I decided to develop my wine business in Monaco and travelled frequently and just fell back in love with the lifestyle. Eventually I had enough business there to be able to move and now live in the hills behind Cagnes Sur Mer looking down over the Mediterranean and it’s serene. The food is wonderful as are the wines, you can be in many of Europe’s business cities quickly and the pace of life is slow so I can balance that with my frantic, travelling and pressured corporate life running events and wine sales. One thing I have always respected though is my work ethic; it’s a relaxing and ambient place to live but you’ve always got to make money, if you start to get too comfortable here, you can end up on the slippery sslope of just having fun and then waking up one day with nothing. So I still work as hard here as I have ever done, but I just enjoy life in this region so much more than anywhere else I have lived. And I think that if you’re willing to give and commit in business in this part of the world, there are amazing rewards.
Have you ever experienced any major culture shocks?
Yes, plenty and especially in Asia; it’s an amazing place and just has so much to offer and the diversity of cultures is quite astonishing. I’ve lived in mud-huts and tree-houses and travelled extensively through East Timor, Komodo, Lombok, Bali and other parts of Indonesia in the 1990s. I spent a few months in the North of the Philippines living amongst the rice paddies in villages without power and I set-up a restaurant in Boracay (Philippines) before it had any power and the restaurant and kitchens were run off generators. I have many wonderful, humorous, humbling, sad and inspirational stories from my experiences and they all built me to be the person I am today. I’m going to write a book.
Where would you say people are most conscious of how they dress and how they present themselves?
I can’t say France as I think in general, the fashion in this part of the world can be superficial and scruffy so I will say Milan; locals always look sharp and Italians have a wonderful and diverse fashion sense; it’s not a style, it’s a statement and in Milan, everything is fashion, the people, the buildings, the restaurants, the designs, the hotels; they just like to make things look good and they like to look good themselves. It’s a great pleasure walking around Milan seeing how people really take pride in what they wear and how they look; I like that, it shows self-respect and pride and a drive to look and feel well.
The traditional English and French styles are quite different. Would you say living in France has had an influence on your style?
I haven’t lived in the UK for 25 years; the styles are at different ends of the fashion spectrum. Living in France has made me dress less formally but with an open-mind to believing that most clothes fit together, jeans with a jacket and formal shirt, colours that would normally not go in the UK, for example brown shoes with blue trousers is forbidden in the British scene, I’ve become less classical and more Continental and I like it, it’s relaxed. I buy most of my suits from Ermenegildo Zegna, shirts from Gucci and Dolce Gabbana, ties from Hermes and shoes from Tod’s. You can mix and match here as long as you’re looking elegant.
How would you describe your style? How has it evolved over time?
Yes, definitely, we evolve as we get older. I would say I’m a classic dresser, I like clean-cut, blues and whites; I try to dress sharply but casually, open-necked shirts, dark colours and not always formal clothing but I have to look professional and elegant as I’m meeting and doing business with leaders of the greatest hotels on the Continent and they want to deal with like-minded, executive, quick-thinking and clean-cut partners. You have to be able to walk into a room and make an impression in my business and wearing something sharp but acceptable to the eye is important.
What items will you never leave home without?
I never leave home without my sunglasses (unless it’s evening) or a jacket. I always wear a jacket, I think it’s a great accessory to turn any outfit into something that makes a statement. I also always wear one ring, a gold one my Mother gave to me; it’s a charm, but I think minimal jewellery is also important and of course a good watch.
Why is it important to present yourself well?
As I’ve mentioned, the people I deal with in business and the people that I like to surround myself in general in life are international business leaders. They run exceptional and highly professional operations in which success, efficiency and leadership is key and so I have to have an effect on these people when I meet them and in turn, they also want to also do business with sharp, sincere, executive and elegant people. So I have to look the part, to fit the sector that I work in and that means dressing well, not over-dressing but just to be clean and crisp and I have to wear that character well to present myself in the right manner. It’s not just what you wear though, it’s how to carry that but the impression has to be right and of course the style of clothes you wear is important.
Turning back to Club Vivanova – what are the most important elements of a good event?
Again, I think it all comes back to relationships and efficiency. One of my regular attendees recently sent me a testimonial, it said “Bradley is the soul of Club Vivanova, the brains and the heart behind it, and that is a guarantee in itself for us that he will continue to attract new and interesting people.” My club members and my clients trust my judgement and they expect excellence, they expect the best and I cannot give anything else, no waivering, no excuses, we have to perform at the absolute top level as reputations are always at stake and so we have to put on a good show. If we have partners involved, they have to fit the profile, they hav to be leaders in their sector. The most important elements for a successful event are good communication, promotion and advertising of the date, an excellent and tested menu with specialist wines that match, a unique venue that is managed well so there are no disappointments and then of course I run each event like my own open pop-up restaurant, we manage the door, the aperitif, the service, the menu, wines, presentations then the finale of the event with appreciations, after-service images posted online and so on. We have to have a well-run, professionally executed package so people arrive, and they know I’m taking care of business until the end of the night. It is tough work as we’re dealing with temperamental human beings, alcohol and food it can get complicated but it is inspirational and challenging and I love it, because we always do it right and so we always succeed.
What are your future plans for your businesses and your “brand”?
I just keep my head down, keep pushing for better and more exclusive events, inspirational event partners, out-of-the-box thinking in regards to the concepts but all the time, remembering that it’s the clients who have to enjoy themselves so we have to feature projects that will impress or interest them. Our plans include two galas in 2016, one at the Fairmont on 12th March and one at the Café de Paris on 23rd April. I’m also releasing and wine and food cookery book and we’re just going to keep pushing to be better, fine-tuning all the time, listening to our clients, re-focusing and using all of the criticism we get positively to drive the brand forward fast. The brand has grown extensively in Monaco, though it is always important to be grounded in this part of the world and stick to the basic guidelines of running a successful business. Success goes to people’s heads, not mine, we’re still the same, caring, small company we were ten years ago, straight and true and I’ll never lose that special sincere touch that we give to everything that we do.
Are there any rules or principles that you live by? What keeps you grounded?
Principally, I try to be a gentleman. I believe in truth and sincerity, there is no other way; and that you only get out of life what you put in, I am a non-believer in luck or fate, business and success is 0% luck and 100% determination and grit. My father always taught me that there are two ways of doing things in life, the right way and the wrong way and the right way is always the hard way and so getting to the top is painful and sometimes lonely but when we strive for that and drive ourselves to do things correctly, no short-cuts, no excuses, then we normally get to where we want to be. And then when we get there, we aim for the next plateau and so on. Driven people are never satisfied, they just want to keep becoming better and better and so I stick to my principles and strive for greatness in work and in life. I’m grounded because I’m a father, my son is 16, he lives with me in France and so I have a wonderful home life, full of love and happiness. I cook a lot at home, I entertain and run my home like an extension of my old restaurants and that is what gives me the grounding that I need. I love nature and so spend lots of time in my garden and I run most mornings between 5 and 10 kilometres, it clears my mind, focuses and channels my thoughts and once I arrive at my desk, I’m ready to challenge anything that comes my way.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
In my field of sales and marketing, I would advise entrepreneurs not to take on anything that you are passionate about, you have to work with a business almost remotely as if you’re tuning a racing car, feelings and personalities have to be left behind. If you’re too close to your business personally, you’ll make emotional decisions, not good. Decisions have to be made clinically and with a view to total survival. I’m not saying that you have to be impersonal but business is business and business is cut-throat these days and if you want to succeed and build something substantial in a lifetime, you have to be ready to challenge, sacrifice, accept physical and mental pain and sleepless nights and drive yourself to perfection. Nothing in this life is easy, there is no free lunch, so be prepared to do it the right way, the hard way and always surround yourself with amazing, smart, sharp and successful people and always be true! “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you. The world will be yours and everything in it, and what’s more, you’ll be a man, my son.”
As with these words from Renoir, visiting the French Riviera can only be felt by experiencing it, going to see the same landscapes that attracted famous painters, dining at the same restaurants that hold Michelin accolades and chartering a yacht in the same bays that writers and poets gain inspiration from.
Cannes, a major destination in the south of France, is an excellent starting point for yacht charters on the French Riviera. With easy accessibility to both Nice Côte d’Azur Airport and Cannes-Mandelieu Airport, Cannes has a well-established infrastructure for major conferences and events, and ample luxury offerings to satisfy any yacht charter guest.
Time ashore can be spent dining at great restaurants from traditional French bistros to fine cuisine, browsing some of the best luxury boutiques on the Côte d’Azur or sightseeing at world-class art museums and galleries.
The French Riviera’s most stylish resort, Cannes, is a showcase for the beautiful, glamorous and covetable. Host to prestigious events such as Cannes Film Festival, Cannes Collection, Cannes Lions and Cannes Yachting Festival there’s no shortage of celebrities, luxury offerings and high-octane parties.
We’ve curated an Insider’s Guide to our favourite luxury places to shop, eat, stay or party like an A-lister in Cannes.