Sometimes we all need a bit of escapism - a book or a movie that takes us back to summer and long sun-dappled days. One of those movies for me is A Good Year, directed by Ridley Scott close to his house in the Luberon and based on a book by Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence, and an old neighbour of Scott’s.
The premise has its roots in many a cosy daydream: a young man (Russell Crowe) inherits a dilapidated vineyard in Provence after the death of his uncle. He has a high-pressure job in the City of London and can hardly spare the time from making money to take a non-business phone call – until he makes a flying visit to France to see it. The film also stars Albert Finney and Marion Cotillard…and the Château la Canorgue, a mile or so from Bonnieux.
It’s one of those films that may not have been a huge box-office success when it was released in 2006 but has become a quiet hit on DVD. And quite rightly so: it’s warm and romantic with gentle dollops of wine, food and country wisdom, the kind of film you find yourself watching again when you want some uncomplicated relaxation.
There’s some lovely cinematography of the landscape and anyone who knows the area will enjoy spotting the familiar sights of the castle at Lacoste, and the views across from the Café de France there over to Bonnieux, as well as the Café de la Rennaissance at Gordes in a key scene.
Le Château la Canorgue makes a beguiling backdrop. The mellow umber faҫade of the main house slumbers under shady trees, a grand old lady of all our Provenҫal dreams. There’s nothing overdone here. The plaster flakes at the same rate as the bark on the plane trees.
In front of the house is an ornamental pond, which may or may not have been constructed for the film. Now it is clear and serene with a sentinel cypress overlooking the immaculate vines, in contrast to the atmosphere of tangled neglect in the scene from the film (below my photo).
In real life, the wines produced here have been going from strength to strength. The rosé, in particular, with its juicy strawberry notes and inviting pale peach colour, is a fixture on almost every restaurant list in the area. Winemaker Jean-Pierre Margan, whose family has lived and worked here for generations, has been named Winemaker of the Year by the Gault-Millau magazine.
When we went in to buy a case a few months ago, the cool of the wine cave was a tantalizing place to linger while outside the countryside was almost silent in the heat. The château itself itself isn’t open to the public but for the curious and romantic, I suggest a comfortable sofa, a nice glass of wine and a look around – especially the dreamy view of the terrace – by settling down in front of A Good Year on the DVD player. Santé!
PS: And if you've seen the film and are curious about what Cucuron - where the romantic date took place at the outdoor cinema set up over the vast bassin - looks like in normal circumstances, click here.