Like ebony and ivory, Siegfried and Roy and jam and bread, wine and art were meant to be together. At least that's what the tourist board, and various wineries, of France's Var region in Provence would have us believe. These days, it's nigh on impossible to walk through a Provencal vineyard without stumbling over some kind of contemporary sculpture or installation-based art. It's all part of a boom in 'oenotourism' that has seen countless wineries in the region take the opportunity to showcase temporary exhibitions of largely contemporary art.
A number of those wine producers have banded together to form 'Art et Vin', a consortium of independent producers showcasing their art collections. Though the majority of these vineyards show art by a range of local French artists, some producers are impressively more ambitious. The following three may not feature in Art et Vin, but they are the pick of the bunch (pun intended).
With works by major international artists like Gavin Turk and Antoni Tapies nestling alongside some of the biggest names in French art – César, Arman, Jean Tinguely, Jean Dubuffet – in Peyrassol's sculpture park, this vineyard is a cut above its Varois neighbours. Some of the more valuable pieces, the Dubuffet installation for example, are in their own enclosures – but the majority of the works stand en plein air among the vines. Highlights include a Tapies painting on the side of the main winery building and a large, flat-fronted César sculpture deep in the domaine's woods.
An hour away from Peyrassol, near the tourist-magnet Aix-en-Provence in the Bouches-du-Rhones département of France, sits the jewel in the region's art and wine crown. The architecture is impressive on its own, with the Tadao Ando-designed visitor centre, the Jean Nouvel winery and Frank Gehry's actual 2008 Serpentine Pavilion dominating the domaine. But the art is the real attraction here. Most domaines in the region simply buy art to dot around their land, but what sets Château la Coste apart is the site-specific work by artists including Andy Goldsworthy, Liam Gillick and Tracey Emin - all invited by Irish owner and property magnate Paddy McKillen.
Goldsworthy's stunning oak room, dug into the terraces of the vineyard, Richard Serra's giant slabs of iron jutting out from the hillside and a brand-new Emin piece make la Coste an unforgettable place to visit. McKillen has big plans for his domaine, including a hotel and installations by Olafur Eliasson among many others. It's 15 euros for the art and architecture walk, which should take you just under two hours. It's a long walk, but you can always reward yourself at the end with copious amounts of wine.
Roseline may not have the modern glitz of Chateau la Coste or the big French names of Peyrassol, but it does have something unique up its sleeve. Alongside a program of temporary exhibitions, which last year included a show of sculptures by American pop artist Jim Dine, the domaine plays host to a 14th century chapel. But the Chapelle Communale de Sainte Roseline isn't just a medieval relic, because behind its huge oak doors lies a unique and hugely intricate mosaic altar piece by 20th century master Marc Chagall. There are also stained glass windows by modern French artists Jean Bazaine and Raoul Ubac and a bas-relief by Diego Giacometti, gifted to the chapel by the famed collector Marguerite Maeght, but it's the Chagall that's the real draw here. And the wine, obviously. Don't forget the wine.
Online exclusive August 2013