Our Guide To Provence Wine
Let us take you on a journey to the South East corner of France to discover everything there is to know about Provence.
This fun and informative guide delves into the rich history of this renowned Provence region, talks about the diverse geography, sub-regions, Provence appellations and discusses the various Provence wines that are produced there.
Where is Provence?
Located along the Mediterranean coast of France, Provence spans approximately 150 miles long and is bordered by both the Côte d’Azur on the east and the Rhone River to its West. The geography of Provence is diverse with a blend of sloping hills, sheltered valleys and mountain ranges which form the rocky landscape and racing roads that the area is famous for.
The climate of Provence is fantastic for grapes with plenty of sunshine, the right amount of rain and the renowned ‘Mistral’ wind which not only helps the grapes to ripen quickly but keeps the skies clear and the vineyards dry and free of pests.
Across the vast terrains of Provence there is an abundance of wild, scented shrubs such as Juniper, Rosemary, lavender and thyme which thrive in the soils and can influence the overall flavour and character of the wines grown there.
The History Of Provence & Provence wines
Over 2,600 years ago the Phoceans founded Marseille and when they did, they introduced the grapevine to France, making Provence the very first wine region in the country. Throughout its diverse history, the winemaking and viticulture of Provence has been influenced by various cultures from the Catalans, Romans, Savoyards and Ancient Greeks to the Romans who all introduced various grapes into the region.
When the Romans settled on Provençal land four centuries after the Phoceans, they renamed the region ‘Provincia Nostra’ which means ‘our province’ and they began the cultivation of grapes to both produce and eventually export wine.
By around 100 BC the winemakers of Massilla had introduced different winemaking techniques including one that required a shorter maceration period before fermentation, the result of which produced a pale, rose-coloured wine which would go on to be known as rosé. Rosé wine went on to be a desirable quaff reserved for court and the aristocrats that frequented it and to this day is still the region’s most produced type of wine.
Provence’s Wine Regions
Viticultural Provence is made up of 9 main regions that are also referred to as ‘AOC’ – Appellation de’Origin Contrôlée. AOC is a French standard or certification that is awarded to suitable wines, cheese, butters and agricultural products with certain French geographical indications.
The largest and most diverse AOC, Côtes de Provence produces around 75% of Provence’s wine. There are 4 varied geographical sub regions which each have their own unique soils and landscapes that create distinctive wines to each particular area.
The second largest region, this area is famed for benefiting from the Mistral winds and contains vineyards dating as far back as 600BC. Its varied soils and location are perfect for producing a wide range of wine grapes.
Coteaux Varois de Provence
Known as the ‘heart of Provence’ this region consists of limestone mountain ranges, valleys and basins with frequently changing climates. The higher altitude of the vineyards mean that the wine produced by these grapes are more acidic, structured and complex thanks to the cooler temperatures and slow ripening.
The hottest region in Provence this areas vineyards are typically positioned on the rugged terrain of its inhospitable hillsides which are flooded with sunshine and perfect for producing luscious, ripe grapes.
Situated along the Mediterranean coast, Cassis was Provence’s first AOC and is known for its white ones making it one of the only regions in Provence that predominantly produces something other than rosé.
Located West of Toulon, on the East Coast of Marseille, the region of Bandol has a warm, coastal climate perfect for the late ripening ‘Mourvèdre’, a bold, smoky red which accounts for around 95% of this areas wine production and is one of Provence’s signature wines.
Nestled in the hills of Aix is Palette, the smallest appellation of Provence which is known for its dedication to preserving the traditional methods of wine making with mandatory ageing in oak for all wines. Palette produces white, red and rosés that include some unusual and rare grapes which make for some truly interesting wines.
Located on the far Eastern edge of Provence, outside the City of Nice the vineyards of Bellet can be found strewn across the region’s steep hillsides. Here the combination of the Mistral winds, higher altitude and Tramontane winds form a unique Mediterranean microclimate that benefits the grapes grown here including some uncommon varieties.
The most northerly and the newest of Provence’s AOCs, Pierrevert was established in 1998 and can be found in the Alpes de Haute Provence. Its location makes the vineyards here some of the highest in Provence and the combination of consistent sun and the cool climate produces rich, acidic and unique wine grapes.
The Wines of Provence
If you are looking for a specific Provence wine or would like some guidance and advice on what would best suit your tastes, then do not hesitate to get in touch and the friendly experts at Wine Affairs will be happy to guide you through making your selection