The best winter foodie experiences on the French Riviera, taking in cooking schools, olive oil tastings, and vineyard tours.
The Mediterranean might have that winter sparkle and the Alps wear their mantle of snow, but the French love affair with food continues unabated during the winter months. In fact, some of France’s most hearty, delicious food comes into its own in the cooler months— and it’s all the better when washed down with a glass of Provencal red by a roaring fire, or indulged in at a market stall in the crisp winter air.
Savouring French food and wine are integral parts of the French Riviera experience, and just because winter has arrived doesn’t mean that your Cannes holiday can’t be rich in amazing gastronomic experiences such as cooking classes, olive oil tastings, markets, and vineyard tours.
All cooking schools listed here are English-speaking and are open year-round. However, classes do run less regularly in the wintertime and often by appointment only, so we thoroughly recommend that you book in advance.
Eco-farm cooking at Graine & Ficelle, Saint Jeannet
For those seeking an idyllic farm-cooking experience with a focus on seasonal and bio-organic ingredients, it will be impossible not to be charmed by the Graine & ficelle cooking school. Set on an eco-retreat in the rolling countryside near La Colle sur Loup, the cooking workshops use ingredients picked from the farm’s own organic garden, and provide delicious alternatives to gluten and dairy. Half-day classes start at 90 euro per person and cater for all skill levels.
Gastronomy with a Michelin-starred chef at La Bastide Saint Antoine, Grasse
Learning from a Michelin-starred chef in France is the dream of many an amateur cook, and the stunning surrounds of La Bastide Saint Antoine Hotel in Grasse is the perfect place to fulfil that dream. Celebrated chef Jacques Chibois runs cooking classes for amateur food lovers at this 18th-century hotel estate, which is surrounded by 5 acres of olive groves and parkland. You’ll observe and participate in the brigade as you move from larder to pastry chef, and eat your meals at the communal table. Early birds can even accompany the chef to market at 5:30 am on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Learn the art of cooking with flowers with Chef Yves Terrillon, Antibes
‘We eat with our eyes’, as the saying goes, and at this Antibes cookery school you’ll learn the art of delicate French cooking with the flowers of Provence, from the rose of Grasse to the jasmine and violets of Tourette sur Loup. Winter courses include ‘Les Secrets Gourmands’ (3 hours), and a matching food and wine ‘Les Accords d’un Plat’ (90mins). Classes are run at a venue in Antibes, but if you have a venue such as a holiday villa, chef Yves will come to you.
Olive Grove Tours & Tastings
La Royrie estate, and La Royrie shop in Grasse
Take a guided walk through 500 year old olive grove, La Royrie Estate, in the winter sunshine on a stunning estate in Grasse. Explore the medieval garden and herbarium, visit the 18th-century peasant houses, and taste the olive oils and produce from the garden. Tours are one hour and 15 minutes long, are conducted in French and English, and cost 10€. Alternatively, go to the welcoming La Royrie shop in Grasse for olive oil tastings, as well as seasonal samplings of fig puree, wild rosemary syrup, and pumpkin jam.
There are an abundance of high-quality vineyards within driving distance of Cannes, and luckily, many of them stay open for cellar door tastings in the winter. The off-season is a great time to visit these estates, as you can take your time to taste, savour, and chat with the vintners without feeling hurried by other people. You may wish to take one of the excellent day or half-day tours so that you can learn from experts along the way (and not have to count your drinks.) The below operators were both shortlisted for the Luxury Travel Guide 2016 Global Awards and enjoy an excellent reputation for their tours.
Azur Wine Tours
Day tours are led by head guide Raphael Vigneau, a passionate French winemaker who has sat on the pre-selection panel of the coveted Paris Wine Fair. The day tour at Azur Wine Tours visits four Provencal wineries and stops for lunch in the clifftop village of Chateaudouble, offering tasting tips and knowledge of the terroir and scenery along the way. Tailor made tours are also available, and all tours include pick-up and drop-off from your Cannes accommodation and English speaking guides.
Bandol Wine Tours
Bandol & Riviera Wine Tours offer full day excursions visiting three or four vineyards and a delicious Provencal restaurant lunch, three-quarter days with two vineyards and lunch, or half-day tours offering two vineyards with refreshments. Each stop includes guided tours of the domain and cellars, as well as wine tasting and tips. Tours leave from Saint Tropez, Cannes and Nice, but they can pick you up from your accommodation anywhere on the Cote d'Azur.
Provencal Market, Cannes
No foodie worth their pink Himalayan salt will go past the covered Provencal market, which is open year round. Crammed with local produce and colour, the local delicacies worth trying include a slice of socca, a wood-fired chickpea crepe which is served all hot and delicious in tin foil and is the perfect warmer for a wintry morning.
Free of the summertime crowds, a winter foodie escape to Cannes will allow you to stop and chat with the winemakers, chefs, shopkeepers, and stallholders, and savour the local life and quiet beauty of the Cote d’Azur in the off-season.
Any great foodie experiences we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!