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Wine, Food, History – Go To Extremes In Provence


Extreme Wine

If you’re the kind of person who hungers for limitlessness, you’re going to want to grab your glass and read on…

Provence is one of several planetary hotbeds where massive tectonic plates collide. But in addition to hosting a jousting match between Africa and Eurasia, Provence is also the location of La Verrière – a boutique wine estate on a UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve, gleaming in the shadows of Mont Ventoux. And La Verrière is the location for the world’s ultimate wine course, Extreme Wine Experience.

It took ten years to wrest the property from the ravages of time. The 9th Century Priory and 18th Century Bastide had to be completely restored, and the 40-year-old vineyards restructured – taken back from decades of marauding sheep and weather’s ambivalence. But the painstaking renovation allowed the property to be fitted with contemporary luxuries as well as antique heirlooms. Modern comforts to coordinate with the rustic furniture. Ancient history combined with tennis courts, a helipad, infinity pool, and a state-of-the-art wine tasting and seminar room. It is in this wine room where Extreme Wine’s students are transformed from enthusiasts to accredited wine scholars.

Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is widely recognized as one of the premier wine education programs in the world. La Verrière’s version has been called the “Rolls Royce of wine courses.” Maybe that’s because each student sets his or her own pace, or perhaps because some of the world’s most celebrated winemakers make special appearances – live and closed-circuit – for this particular program. Maybe it’s the 100+ wines of distinction (worth over $4000, in total), that are tasted over the five-day course, or the catered meals, or the tiny class size (limit of 14 people), which allows guest learners to literally drink in as much knowledge as they can hold.

Although the estate is just 45 minutes northeast of Avignon, the seminar is intended to be a sort of on-site “luxury bootcamp.” Vineyard tours, tastings, lessons and study groups are set in the center of the region’s lush greens, slate mountaintops, and ancient ruins. At the end of the day, those guests with extra post-instruction energy can enjoy twilight hikes or tennis, a round of petanque, a massage, or even a yoga or French class, all offered on the property. Companions without a vigor for vino are welcome to join their partner at the resort (for an additional fee). Activities like golf, horseback riding, sightseeing, shopping and fishing can be arranged by the estate, while the significant other “slaves” away over his or her crystal goblet.

But Extreme Wine Experience isn’t just about the location or the instruction (classes are led by Clive Barlow, MW and Nick Dumergue, two wine industry veterans with almost 40 years of experience between them). The wines of the La Verrière estate – (called Chêne Bleu, after the ancient “blue” oak tree in the center of the property) are, themselves, a mind-expanding experience. Students get to wander the vineyards, touching, tasting and talking about the fruit that goes into these biodynamic, hand-picked, small batch bottlings. Of course, there is plenty to drink, as well.

Chêne Bleu wines carry depth and minerality and a slew of awards behind them. They represent a commitment to quality and a “sense of place.” That place – La Verrière, set in the ancient, changing, lavender-scented cradle of continental development called Provence – is a commanding place to have a sense of, whether one merely tastes it in the wines, or if they embark on the consummate wine vacation, Extreme Wine Experience.

Prices start at around $4500 for a six-night stay. Extreme Wine Experience 2012 is from June 17-21.


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