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Monks of Lérins: Wine Tasting in January

16 December 2016


Every first Friday of each month, the Lérins Abbey organises their Wine Friday Formula, giving visitors the opportunity to sample a range of award-winning vintages.

Here in the picturesque surroundings of the St. Honorat Island, monks have been tending the 8 hectares of vineyards since 1073.

Originally, these grape gardens were grown to produce wines for fellow monks… and it wasn’t until the 1990s that their home grown produce was made available for purchase off the island. Since then, it’s fame has spread all over the globe.

Over centuries of pirate attacks, religious turmoil and the selling of the island, the winery has continued to thrive and today, on the same original vineyards, the monks still share their passion for wine. To them, wine is a wonderful way to communicate, inviting all visitors to get together around a drink.

Wine Friday Formula 

Lérins Abbey’s wine tasting, Formula Wine Fridays delivers a sensory journey, comprised of a 15-minute ferry transfer from Cannes, a tour of the vineyards and a tasting of two superb vintages. 

A ferry ride from the tip of the Porte de Cannes drops you on the small port of the island, known in the Middle Ages as “vineyards harbour”. On board, the air is warm, the sea divine and the vivid colours engulf you in a feeling of serenity. Aside from the peaceful atmosphere, this leisurely crossing allows you to discover hidden Cannes.

Upon arrival, you will be guided through a natural corridor of wildflowers and age-old pine trees before reaching the central part of the island, where an expert sommelier will welcome the group to Saint Honorat and show you around. The vineyards, encased within the ruins of centuries-old chapels, offer an unrivalled look over the legacy of the monks and their incredible vines. Brother Marie-Pâques says that at Lérins the monks want to produce the best quality wines coupled with the very best estates, because they have a unique terroir blended into a particularly rich plant nutrients. The effect of the nearby sea also adds to the impressive flavours of the wine.

The presentation of vintage bottles and salty snacks transforms the hosted tasting of two wines into an intimate experience. Here the stony, clay, dry and warm weather forms the creamy and floral aromas of St Pierre, enhanced by a crisp finish.  St Honorat is an excellent counterpart of St Pierre. This is a rare wine of very high quality with a fresh, lively and minerals on the finish. They are accessible early and can be enjoyed while waiting for the Pinot Noir to mature. By tasting them both you will uncover the jigsaw puzzle of Lérins wine life. As well as presenting both vintages, the sommelier will also describe the discovery of the vineyard. Wine flights can be savoured either al fresco or inside the shop in colder months. Alternatively, the group package offers a remarkable tasting for up to ten people.

Aside from fine wines, you can also enjoy an optional Mediterranean lunch at the terrace restaurant, La Tonnelle. The open-air brasserie has been revered as one of the Côte d’Azur’s most idyllic dining spots. The menu features seasonal dishes focused on grilled fish, seafood and salads, complemented by fresh Provençal citrus fruits and herbs. Everything is complemented by the renowned wines and liqueurs produced by the monks. With the Executive Chef allowing the natural flavours of the local produce to shine, you will be totally immersed in the surrounding landscape. With a glass in hand, you can enjoy striking views from the terrace whilst sinking your feet into the silky sand.

The Vineyards

What is most impressive about the wines is their freshness. Brother Marie-Pâques claims the unique terroir explains their crispness. It is a delightful surprise for visitors to find the Pinot Noir reaching for the sky in a southern climate. The likes of Jean Lenoir (creator of the Nose of Wine) and other connoisseurs helped to shape the vineyards and the style of the wines. They saw that they could produce wine on the island without being limited by the Provence, because the climate and terrior nurtures it.

To maintain the vineyard, the abbey employs two workers who commute every day from the mainland. The monks are usually occupied with preserving the monastery, and the only time they can concentrate solely on the vines and winery is at harvest.

The Lérins monks believe that in their search for distinction and quality, there is something more important that they want to share with the world: they want to highlight the importance of peace, justice, community and togetherness with devotion to economic development.

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