Provence | Where Rosé is Crafted to Perfection

Winery in Provence, darkening clouds over the vines

While Provence has quite recently become synonymous with Rosé production, a variety of wines have been made in this region dating all the way back to around 2,600 years ago. All beginning with the ancient Greeks founding the city of Marseille in 600 BC. 

As a Mediterranean fringed region in South East France, Provence has been heavily influenced throughout its history, by the newcomers that arrived on its shores, and the grapes they brought with them. The grape varieties often were of Greek and Roman origin, as well as Spanish and Italian yet always alongside traditional French wine grapes.

Nowadays, the main grape variety to be found throughout Provence is Mourvèdre, a primary component in many red and rosé wines. Within just Provence itself, there are over 1,000 kinds of wines.

There are nine wine appellations with AOC status. Some of the most well known include:

Côtes de Provence AOC

Provence’s largest appellation, producing 75% of all of Provence's wine. This section stretches right across the region, and is responsible for a lion share of Rosé production, with 80% of its wines being some sort of RoséThe remaining 15% and 5% comprise red and white wines respectively. The main grape varieties are Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Tibouren. There has been a slow increase in the use of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Additionally, Rolle (known elsewhere as Vermentino) is the region's most distinctive white grape.

As one of France’s driest and sunniest regions the grapevines receive more than 3,000 hours per year of sunshine, and as a result fungal diseases are less of a threat than elsewhere allowing for a much better terroir for organic viticulture.

There are still remnants of traditional winemaking in the Côtes de Provence however, and some producers still use the traditional regional wine bottle having distinctive form which is between an amphora vessel and a bowling pin.

Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence and Les Baux-de-Provence

These significant appellations are less famous for Rosé, with almost 60% of the production being red wine, followed by 35% rosé and 5% white wine. The major grape varieties include Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

December is notable in this appellation specifically for the production of its white nouveau wine (young wine) which is released following the harvest and only two weeks after the release of Beaujolais nouveau. (Provencal white wines are not required to have the words nouveau or primeur on the label however.)

Within the Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence is the smaller Les Baux-de-Provence AOC. The climate of this region is very hot with the surrounding valley known as the Val d'Enfer (Valley of Hell).

Bandol AOC

Located near the coast east of Marseille and Cassis, Bandol is one of the most internationally recognized wines of the Provence region. Known for characterful, warmly spicy oaked reds made predominantly from Mourvèdre grapes, they are based around the fishing village of Bandol. This AOC is produced by 8 communes notable for their silicon & limestone soils, which with the warm, coastal climate are ideally suited for the late ripening Mourvèdre grape. This grape varietal thrives in the warmer climate, and can be relied upon to ripen just about every year.

Cassis AOC

Also located on the coast, Cassis is unique to the region of Provence as nearly 75% of its production is white wine. The dry white wines are characterized by their full bodies, low acidity and herbal aromas that pair well with the local seafood cuisine such as bouillabaisse.

gavoty wine bottles on beach and in front of house

Pairing 

A well made Provençal wine will have flavours and aromas that reflect the open shrubby vegetation (known as Garrigue) of dry Mediterranean regions, including wild lavender, rosemary and thyme. The rosés of the region are normally dry with zestiness derived from their acidity. The red and whites are characterized by their full bodies and intense aromatics.

As always, the nature and impression of the wines is dependent on whether they are consumed as an apéritif or paired with food, particularly the traditional flavours of Provençal cuisine. The rosé wine in particular is a famed accompaniment for garlic based dishes, everyone loves a touch of aioli with their rosé!

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