Provence tourism: Les Baux de Provence

Les Baux in its picturesque setting

Les Baux in its picturesque setting

Les Baux-de-Provence is a commune, or township, in the Provence region of southern France.  It occupies a dominant position in the Alpilles mountain range.  The ruined remains of a castle sits on top of a rocky outcrop that looks out over the plains to the south.  The word “baux” refers to the prominent cliff of bauxite upon which the commune is located, discovered by geologist Pierre Berthier in 1821.

Historically, its defensive position atop the rocky outcrop encouraged inhabitants in Les Baux as far back as 6000 BC.  In the 2nd century BC, the village became the seat of one of the major Provençal families, which was subsequently deposed in the 12th century; Les Baux was  eventually incorporated into the newly-established country of France.  Les Baux was granted to the Grimaldi family of Monaco in 1642.  Although the town is French, the title of Marquis des Baux does remain with the Grimaldi family; Monaco’s Prince Albert II is the current Marquis.

Today, visitors come the Château des Beaux to see the remains of the castle, the medieval walls and the breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside.  The château-fortress also contains real sized medieval-style siege engines, including a catapult, covered battering ram, and a trebuchet, making for a fascinating visit for children and young adults.

After visiting les Baux, why not end the day with a glass of wine from the region?  The commune is also known for its red and rosé

Vineyard: Le Mas de la Dame, at the foot of Les Baux

Vineyard: Le Mas de la Dame, at the foot of Les Baux

wines made from grenache, syrah and mourvedre grapes. The predominance of red, and recently white, wines is a rarity in the Provence region, more often reputed for its rosé wines.  The classic Baux de Provence wine is a deeply colored red with aromas of mountain herbs, black olives, violets and stewed blackberries.  Only 25% of the wines made in this area are rosé.  Les Baux earned AOC status in 1995, and was the first AOC to require that all vineyards be farmed organically.  Many of the producers in the area were already using organic methods to cultivate their grapes, which eliminated the use of chemicals that could be spread by the strong Mistral wind that dominates the region. Wineries in the area include Terres Blanches, Mas de la Dame, and Mas Sainte Berthe.

You’re sure to enjoy your visit to this unusual village.

For more information:

On the wineries mentioned:

http://www.masdeladame.com

http://www.massainteberthe.com

http://www.terresblanches.com

Wine of the region:

http://www.lesbauxdeprovence.com

On the Château of les Baux de Provence:

http://www.chateau-baux-provence.com