Seemingly at odds with its full-on-rural Provençal setting, the Ultimate Provence hotel rather curiously identifies itself as an ‘urban wine estate’. Step inside, however, and it soon becomes clear. The ‘urban’ is in the attitude and the aesthetics. With its dapper young staff, swish mid-century styling, and low-key clubby feel, this is as far as you can get from a musty rustic winery. But wine still sits very much at the centre of the experience. Whether flopped by the chic swimming pool, swooning over the top-notch cuisine or bopping to a DJ set, you’re likely doing it with a chilled glass of vin de maison to hand.
33, which includes studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £100.84 (€113), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.53 per person per night on check-out.
Rates do not include breakfast. A continental breakfast is served for €25 each guest.
Be sure to book in advance for a sommelier-led wine tasting experience, either at the off-lobby bar or in the more exclusive mezzanine area.
The property opens from April through to December.
At the hotel
Swimming pool, spa, fitness centre, bike rental, 24-hour check-in, gift shop In rooms: TV, free WiFi, welcome tray, minibar, coffee machine and tea-making kit, air-conditioning
Our favourite rooms
We loved our ground-floor superior room which opened to a secluded terrace with peek-a-boo views through the foliage to the gardens. If you prefer vineyard vistas, ask for an upper-level superior, with balconies overlooking the pretty Provençal campagne.
At around 18 metres, the enclosed pool is long enough for your morning laps and is heated on chillier days. You’ll find pool towels already on sunbeds when you arrive, and food-and-drink service at the push of a button.
The wellness area is located in a separate building and draws largely from traditional Indian and Japanese healing practices, from Ayurveda to Reiki. Fully organic essential oils are used for their acupressure and massage treatments. For the full walking-on-air cleanse, try the three-day Panchakarma detox (although it does involve fasting).
Be sure to leave enough space to take home some of the estate’s much-lauded rosé – the beautifully designed bottles alone are worth tipping you over baggage allowance.
All common areas can be accessed by wheelchair, and one of the guest rooms has been adapted with wider doors and an accessible bathroom.
Kids of all ages are welcome, with family-friendly rooms and two-bedroom apartments available. Babysitting can also be arranged for €30 an hour. Don’t expect too much geared towards the little ones though – this is more of a grown-up getaway.
As part of an organic vineyard, Ultimate Provence has impeccable agricultural credentials, achieving top marks for HEV (High Environmental Value) certification. The estate is also recognised for bee-friendly policies and there’s a charging station for electric cars.
For panoramas over the surrounding vineyards, snag yourself a table in the far corner of the rooftop terrace. It’ll give you a good vantage point over the evening entertainment, too.
Slip on your dancing shoes, a few glasses of vin and the infectious Romani rhythms will have you wanting to move your feet.
With little else less than a drive away, Ultimate Provence has ensured that its onsite dining is an experience you’ll happily keep returning to during your stay. It’s mostly centred around the rooftop UP Restaurant, with live gypsy music cranking up the festive atmosphere as the weekend approaches. Resident chef Romain Franceschi mixes traditional French cuisine with the odd Mediterranean flourish, with produce sourced from the surrounding countryside and coast. There’s a treat for truffle-lovers, too, with each stage of the three-course dinner infused with the gourmet fungi.
For an even more exclusive experience, book yourself in (with 48 hours notice) for La Table du Chef, an eight-course odyssey showcasing Romain’s latest creations on a private kitchen terrace – with wine pairings, of course. Waterside dining is provided by UP Pool, where brunch and light lunches are served either on the sunbeds or the pool deck.
Forged from a shipping container set on the rooftop, the UP Bar comes alive by night with flickering candles and chilled-out tunes. A marquee-meets-tipi also provides a groovy spot under canvas for drinks and mingling. As well as a handful of the classics, also in the mix are a selection of signature cocktails featuring UP wine.
You can order up from a decent selection of lighter bites during kitchen opening hours (7.30am to 11.30pm)
The hotel is located next to the Provençal village of La Garde-Freinet in the Var département of southeastern France, which includes a stretch of the Côte d'Azur.
The two nearest international airports are Nice and Marseille, at pretty much exactly the same driving time of an hour-and-a-quarter. Both connect to major flight hubs around Europe and beyond. Call ahead to arrange transfers.
Nearby Les Arcs-Draguignan train station is a 25-minute drive from the hotel and connects directly to Paris in under five hours on the high-speed TGV. Trains run straight into Nice Airport’s Terminal 2 from here, too.
Your own set of wheels is a must if you’re planning to explore this corner of rural France or the glitzy Côte d'Azur. You’ll find a cluster of car-hire options in Saint Tropez, a 45-minute drive away, or just pick one up at the airport. Parking at the hotel is free.
Worth getting out of bed for
As well as wine, the hotel is big on wellness with regular yoga sessions and Reiki workshops to help ease yourself into the day. Positioned just on the edge of the Plaine des Maures reserve, you also have a vast natural playground on your doorstep. Choosing from hiking, cycling or horseback riding through pine-scented trails or around the nearby Lac des Escarcets with its striking African-savannah-like landscape. Ask the hotel to pack a picnic (and a bottle of wine) for a lakeside lunch. If you need to entertain the little Smiths, the Aoubré Adventure Park, with its treetop trails, petting zoo and butterfly garden, is a 20-minute drive. Or for a day at the beach, you’re half-an-hour away from the yellow sand of Plage de Grimaud.
Ask at reception for off-site dining options, and they’ll likely direct you towards La Tableat Château Saint-Roux, a 10-minute drive away. It’s set in an utterly charming 15th-century country estate with farm-to-table dining in a rustic-chic Provençal setting. Their prix fixe lunch is especially good value. Alternatively, you’ll find a cluster of quaint eateries in nearby La Garde-Freinet. Le Carnotzet has seating that spills out into the pretty central square and a menu of simple rustic fare. Just around the corner, the family-run Restaurant La Petite Fontaine offers more cosmopolitan cuisine with entrecôte and moules as their two standouts.
With its excellent bar, regular live music and low-key DJ sets, you won’t find anywhere nearby with better nightlife outside the hotel.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this French country hotel in Provence and unpacked their magnum of rosé and lavender sachets, a full account of their wine-centric break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Ultimate Provence in Var…
When you invite acclaimed design duo Humbert & Poyet to oversee the look and feel of your hotel, you can safely predict the result to be rather special. And the Monaco-based architects certainly upended conventions of what you’d expect from a French winery. On arrival, the hotel’s ubiquitous initials are forged in soaring oxidised metal, ushering you inside. Here, a casually sophisticated, lofty-ceilinged lobby instantly scores high on wow-factor. It’s the first of a series of airy interconnected spaces, including a library, restaurant and tasting room, each finished in an artful melange of subtle industrial-chic and mid-century modern style. The hotel’s Gallic good looks are backed up with top features, too, from lively destination dining to serene signature spa treatments. And it’s all surrounded by swathes of fragrant gardens and over a hundred acres of scenic terroir extending to rolling Provençal countryside. At this chic rural wine retreat, it’s not long before you’re drinking it all in.