When Swiss businessman Andreas “Andy” Rihs began building his dream “village-hotel” in a disused 11th-century French hamlet in the early 2000s, his vision was to create the destination hotel of Provence. It is a sentiment that is echoed today, and one that has undoubtedly been realised.
Coquillade Provence is not quite a hidden gem, but it does exude a certain discretion, and is not the glitzy, opulent resort one might imagine of a five-star hotel set across 42 hectares. But as soon as you roll up to the gated driveway entrance, lined with ubiquitous lavender shrubs and precision-trimmed Cypress trees, you know you’re in for something special.
The story goes that Coquillade Provence started life in the 11th century as a hamlet built by Cistercian monks from the neighbouring Sénanque Abbey. Today, the region is renowned as rosé country, and vineyards appeared on the estate a couple of centuries after the hamlet was built. Today, some 30 of the hotel’s 42 hectares are vineyards, which are available for guests to explore, and which produce the excellent Coquillade-owned Aureto wines.
When it opened as a luxury hotel in 2008, Coquillade was home to a modest 28 bedrooms. Now there are 63, built in keeping with the traditional style in “Bastide”-style country houses and cottages, with five new luxury suites – all with a private pool – planned for early next year. A brief closure during the pandemic saw a major refurbishment of the lobby, restaurants and a new bar. And new for 2022 is a Vespa-style scooter for hire, full-moon parties and DJ sets on the bar terrace and improved spa experiences and treatments. Change at Coquillade over the past 14 years has occurred at a Provençal-esque gradual pace, with nothing deviating from Rihs’s founding vision.
Andy Rihs sadly passed away in 2018, with the hotel now in the hands of his two sons. His legacy lives on at Coquillade, most notably in the hotel’s famous cycling facilities. Aside from being an entrepreneur, Rihs was an avid cyclist and owner of BMC Racing Team. As such, cycling is an integral part of the Coquillade experience and a dedicated BMC Cycling Centre operates from the hotel. This is no humble rental shack, but a state-of-the-art cycling hub that attracts bicycle fans from all over the world. For novice cyclists, or those who enjoy a more leisurely pace, an E-cycling guided tour of the region and nearby towns is a must. The electronic assistance is a godsend while traversing the steep cobbled streets of perched villages Gordes and Roussillon in the punishing summer heat.
Elsewhere, Coquillade features a helipad for extra-curricular excursions, tennis courts, table tennis, pétanque and two dreamy swimming pools. The award-winning spa is one of the largest in Provence at more than 2,000 sqm, with an additional gym space and daily fitness classes.
French food is renowned the world over, and the cuisine of Provence is arguably the finest in the entire country. Acres of rolling hills and sun-kissed vineyards and olive groves aren’t just for show; they provide the region with exquisite and abundant produce. Coquillade makes the most of this with its own on-site organic garden, which provides the kitchens with seasonal produce, herbs and edible flowers. Even the honey served at the breakfast buffet comes from the hotel’s beehives, and the exquisite body scrubs at the spa are also made from natural, local ingredients. There are three restaurants on site (one, Avelan, is currently closed) and two bars. Le Jardin dans les Vignes is a picturesque alfresco restaurant overlooking the Aureto vineyards, offering traditional and elevated Provençal cuisine, while Cipressa, set tantalisingly close to the swimming pools, is an Italian-inspired affair with beautifully cooked pizzas, pasta, meat, fish and vegetarian dishes and an antipasti buffet option overflowing with freshly prepared delicacies (and more cheese than you can shake a baguette at). There’s a handy pool bar, plus the main bar with a large terrace and Thai food offering, for those who want to mix things up a little, gastronomy-wise.
It says a lot about Coquillade’s prestige that the majority of its guests are fellow countrymen. The rest are mostly made up of Swiss, German, British and Francophile Americans. The founding desire to be one the leading hotels of the region is apparent, but there is a genuine humility and tranquility to the resort that makes you feel welcome and alleviates any stress or anxiety in an instant. And surely that is the true definition of luxury.
Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa offers rooms from €750 per room, per night including a welcome gift, a selection of the minibar, breakfast, access to the spa, fitness classes, and access to the Aureto winery throughout your stay. To book, visit coquillade.fr or call +33 490 74 7171