The south of France is blessed with so many things – a rich history and beautiful landscapes, a wonderful climate, and green & fertile lands. This Garden of Eden produces a wealth of goodies, not least of which is the wine of Cote de Provence. Check out our list of vineyards in Provence here...
The area has produced wine for millennia (experts say for 2,300 years), thanks to the arrival of the Phoenicians and their vines. The appellation covers the region from the west of Marseilles to St Raphael in the east, through the area known as The Var. Whilst Cotes de Provence wines are mostly famous for their rose wines, rich, full-bodied reds are also produced, along with light and fresh white wines.
The region surrounding Provence is well suited to wine production, thanks to well drained soil and a favourable climate (hot but not humid, mainly thanks to the cool Mistral wind that blows down from the Alps mountain range). The variety of landscapes in Provence means that each terroir (the exact ground on which vine are grown – unique in their soil composition and geographical situation) is subtly different. Dozens of grape varieties can be grown in this part of the world which leads to the production of many distinctive wines.
The main red grapes are:
- Syrah (Shiraz) – produces full bodied red wines with hints of spice, red berries and vanilla
- Grenache – produces light, fruity red wines
- Cinsault – a local & prolific red grape with sweet berry flavours, it is used in blends to make rose
- Tibouren - a delicate red grape with a rich bouquet
- Mourvedre – producing deep purple wines, mourvedre adds structure and smoothness to blends
- Carignan – a high yielding vine rich in tannins with hints of red berries, it is widely used to blend wines
- Cabernet Sauvignon – A small amount of CS is grown in Provence, it is used to help age red wines
- Rolle – produces full-bodies, fruity white wines
- Ugni Blanc – originating in Italy, this white grape makes dry, acidic wines
- Clairette – an ancient Provence variety, this grape produces fragrant & fruity white wines
- Semillon – a small amount of Semillon adds smoothness & richness to blends
The wine-maker blends proportions of the grapes that he grows on the terroir (the proportions may change each year depending on the harvest – the goal is to produce a consistent wine each year), to ensure that the quality of the final product meets the requirements of the appellations d’origin controlee (AOC).
Typically, Provence reds are young, fresh and fruity, and are ideal to accompany barbecued meats. The better quality red wines can keep for many years, and when maturity is reached, make great partners for game and French cheeses. Provence rose tends to be a pale pink colour and have a wonderful fresh aroma, light yet fruity and delightfully rounded on the palette. Just the ticket to enjoy with Provencal summer dishes – preferably on a terrace overlooking the sea or the lush countryside. Such has been the improvement in quality in recent years that you should no longer be afraid of suffering a thudding head the following day… If you chance upon a Provencal white wine, try ones grown near the coast for a gentle & aromatic experience, or choose a wine from inland for a more robust example.
Famous local wines
Rose wine has undergone a surge of interest in the past 10 years and is now seen as the ‘de rigueur’ drink for summer. Lighter than red, and less sharp than white, the pale pink roses of Provence have become the consumers choice.
There are many Provence vineyards that are worth visiting and several outlets that you can go to to try all the varieties of local wines that are produced.