The Valley of the Sauvebonne
The prestigious Concours Général Agricole Paris each year awards gold, silver and bronze prizes to agricultural produce across the country, but most notably the wine. Most well-known internationally for its rosé, the Cotes de Provence label has been increasing in popularity. Now it is winning medals for both red, white & rosé wines as well as highlighting areas that have hitherto been hidden from international gaze.
One of those areas is the plains inland from Hyeres and La Londe Les Maures through the Valley of the Sauvebonne and around the medieval town of Pierrefeu du Var up to the mountains of the Barre de Cuers. It now boasts gold medal-winning wines from various houses including Cru Classées rosé and white for Domaines Fabre, rosé for Vignoble Kennel & Domaine Listel and white for Blanc-Sumeire Monique all at Pierrefeu. Rosés from Domaine Lolice & Domaine de la Sauveuse at Puget-Ville, Saint-André de Figiuere, Domaine du Carrubier, Vignes Chateau Vert, Rosé Jean-Pierre at La Londe Les Maures, white from Chateau Maravenne and red from Chateau La Tour Saint-Honoré also at La Londe have been honoured in the last two years. Silver medals are even more numerous.
So why is this area so good for wine-growing? The first known civilisation here commenced with the Greeks & then the Romans at what is now Hyeres and the Giens Peninsula. It became quickly apparent that this area benefited from a very clement climate all-year round. It also benefits from the river Real Martin and Canal de Provence – the run-off from the Alps and the Maures mountains, so adequate water is available in even the hottest of summers. Today it is well-known for its agricultural produce of all sorts, garden nurseries and cut-flowers as well as the vineyards.
In the heart of the vineyards is the medieval village of Pierrefeu du Var sitting at 240 m above sea level overlooking the plains below. The name itself comes from « pierres à feux » or « stones of fire » alluding to the quartz & white rocks that are found in the Maures mountains and together reflect the light. The medieval history is still visible today with the narrow streets in the Chapel St Cross quarter.
The links with the wine industry have been strong throughout history with the famous cork factory dating from 1899 using the natural cork omnipresent in the Maures mountains. At its height between 1915-1920, it produced 200 million corks per year. Closed down in 1971, it remains a feature of the village as public rooms.
History also links the village with the history of love in the 12th Century. The lords & ladies of Provence came together to create an etiquette or code for love affairs. This didn’t just encompass the correct way to conduct affairs and the finesse required, but also elements of psychology and the more malicious side of the art. The château of Pierrefeu keeps records of a few of the ladies involved including Rostangue, Lady of Pierrefeu, Mabille de Fos, Lady of Hyeres & Bertrane, Lady of Signes.
In property terms, Helen Shackleton of Leggett Immobilier indicates that prices are generally more reasonable than the norm. Bearing in mind that you are only about 20 minutes to the beaches, you can expect to buy at around 2,500-3,500 € psm. There is a real variety of properties available from a modern architect-designed villa in the town of Pierrefeu itself recently reduced in price to 673.250€ (22363HS83) to a 1920s/30s hunting lodge style property on the banks of the Real Martin (19385HS83) at 897.000€.
You can own your own vineyard with a modern “mas” or farmhouse (P397HS) or a newly built villa in the traditional provencal style in the middle of the vines (21855HS83) – another bargain at 630.000€.
Come & discover this stunning area of Provence that blends the countryside with proximity to the sea, medieval hilltop villages, the Maures mountains & the plains covered in vineyards – or equally just stop by for a glass of rosé!