Saint-Honorat: a secret island off Cannes

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Côte d'Azur - French RivieraNature and Outdoor ActivitiesFood and WineSpiritual TourismCultural HeritageCoastal

SEMEC - KELAGOPIAN / Hervé Fabre
© SEMEC - KELAGOPIAN / Hervé Fabre

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 18 August 2023

In the Lérins archipelago off the coast of Cannes, the island of Saint-Honorat has belonged for centuries to a community of Cistercian monks who jealously protect its tranquillity and the wine-making secrets of its vineyard. A nugget of sea and nature where you can spend a day out of time.

Did you know that there was an island just opposite the Palais des Festivals du Cinéma in Cannes? Saint Honorat, a tiny tongue of red earth and pine forest embroidered with vineyards, barely 1,500 m long and 450 m wide, unfurls its heavenly coves on a porcelain sea, less than a kilometre from the Côte d'Azur coast.

But if this island - the smallest of the Lérins Islands - is only a few minutes by boat from the pontoons and the big yachts of Cannes, it is light years away from the glitter of the Croisette.

Jérôme Kélagopian
© Jérôme Kélagopian

Here everything is preserved, scented with eucalyptus, everything is discreet, full of serenity: the Cistercian monks, who have lived here since 410, produce a renowned wine and observe the rule of Saint Benedict, which is based on prayer and work. An enchanting retreat currently occupied by 21 brothers aged between 29 and 89.

An interlude of calm

One comes here for a few hours or for the day, the time of a parenthesis far from the tumult of the Côte d'Azur cities. And you let yourself be guided along the paths of the island by Brother Marie, the cellar master, or by one of the lay friends trained by the monks and passionate about the history of Saint-Honorat.

This is an opportunity to discover another facet of Cannes: wild beaches and undergrowth of Aleppo pines, humble stone chapels and monasteries classified as historical monuments, Napoleonic ball ovens and wooden cisterns.

The monks are inexhaustible about this tiny vineyard of 8.5 hectares, cultivated in an ancestral way...

C’est au printemps que la balade est la plus belle, quand les gros murs de guingois de la vielle tour du monastère (XIe siècle) vacillent dans l’air léger sur la mer transparente et que les coteaux couverts de vignes emplissent le paysage de géométries vert tendre.

Les moines sont intarissables sur ce minuscule vignoble de 8,5 hectares, cultivé de manière ancestrale, où l’alchimie entre les sols argilo-calcaire, l’influence maritime et un ensoleillement exceptionnel, produit des vins de syrah, de chardonnay, de mourvèdre… très recherchés par les grands chefs étoilés.

SEMEC - KELAGOPIAN
© SEMEC - KELAGOPIAN

Seulement 35 000 bouteilles sont produites sur l’île chaque année et chaque cuvée a son nom : Saint-Honorat, Saint-Sauveur, Saint-Pierre, Saint-Césaire... Here, all the saints of the calendar waltz on the labels.

Only 35,000 bottles are produced on the island each year and each vintage has its own name: Saint-Honorat, Saint-Sauveur, Saint-Pierre, Saint-Césaire... Here, all the saints of the calendar waltz on the labels.

Tasting and prayers

Tastings are offered in the company of the monks under century-old olive trees or in the extraordinary parish garden, overgrown with sprays of flowers, every first Friday of the month during workshops on wine.

At the end of the day, the monks welcome those who wish to attend a mass in the abbey church. Their song will then rise in the great nave, echoed by the monastery's guests. A great moment of peace before returning to the bustle of the modern world!

To go further:

Discover the island of Saint-Honorat

The guided tours, organised by the monks, are for small groups of 10 people. The price per person is 22 € for the tour and 15 € for the return boat trip. Several types of catering are available on site.

. Préparez votre séjour à Cannes

By Eliane Cognet

Journalist

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