All about French Wines > Provence Wines, personality with a southern accent!
Improvised tasting, aperitif or drinks with friends, accompanying traditional or exotic cooking. Colours match the moods. Provence wines are a direct expression of the "terroir", the land, and the people who produce them: landscapes and faces with character, original, unruly, and different... Provencal, in short.
The vineyards in Provence run from west to east over around 200 km, from the Alpilles as far as the Estérel range.
Situated essentially in Bouches-du-Rhône and the Var, with an enclave in the Alpes-Maritimes, the appellations of Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, Coteaux Varois en Provence, Côtes de Provence and Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire produce wines with a great aromatic diversity, with very different accents, but all of which breathe the sun of the Mediterranean climate.
Historically specializing in clear, fruity and generous rosé wines, the Provencal vineyards also produce extraordinary powerful and full-bodied reds, suitable for ageing several years in a cellar, together with light, tender and delicate whites.
In Provence, two geological structures exist together, one crystalline and the other limestone. The entire western and northern area of the Provence vineyards consists of alternating hills and limestone ranges eaten away by erosion. There are outstanding locations like the Sainte-Victoire mountain, the Sainte-Baume range or the Gorges du Verdon, setting the northern boundary of viticultural Provence. Farther east, facing the sea are the crystalline ranges of the Maures and the Tanneron. Here the landscape differs enormously, made up of hills and small mountains with gentle curves, covered with shrubs and forests. Continuing eastwards, between St Tropez and Cannes, this crystalline structure is pierced by eruptive remains offering comprising surprising rock formations, like the coloured porphyries of the Estérel's volcanic structure.
Generally, the soil is poor and well-drained
Vegetable formations typical of the Mediterranean correspond to these two limestone and crystalline geological structures. The 'garrigue' on the limestone soil and the 'maquis' where it is more crystalline. Neither of these two types of vegetation provides any major supply of humus. As a general rule, the soil in viticultural Provence is poor, well-drained, but often sensitive to erosion. These shallow lands, without any excess humidity, are totally suitable for the Mediterranean vine.
Sunny, warm and dry Mediterranean climate
The first characteristic of the climate in Provence is the annual sunshine totalling between 2,700 and 2,900 hours each year. In summer, temperatures are particularly high but the diversity of the relief often means that differences can be considerable, at very short distances. As throughout the Mediterranean area, rainfall can be violent in Provence in autumn and in spring. Summers are dry and hot, occasionally sizzling further inland when there is no wind.
The Mistral, a violent wind indeed, but favourable to the vine
There are countless winds in Provence, forming an integral part of the climate in the region. Naturally, the strongest and the best-known is the Mistral. Blowing hard and icy in winter after crossing the snows of the Alps, in summer it brings some cool relief. Violent and whimsical, the Mistral does offer one outstanding advantage to the vines of Provence: it is particularly dry and protects the vine from the attack of ailments related to humidity.
Varieties of grapes:
In Provence, the variety of the relief and the climate gives us a wide range of varieties. More than a dozen are regularly used in producing the appellations d'origine wines in Provence. Some are a base that is found in most of the vineyards of the region while others are more specific to certain appellations.
This very small area to the south of Aix-en-Provence produces red, white and rosé wines. The whites in particular are worthy of interest and are among the best white wines of Provence.
* Les Baux de Provence
The AOC Baux-de-Provence area, lying around the splendid village of the same name (which is however unfortunately very popular with tourists), forms an enclave within the western part of the AOC Coteaux d'Aix area. It was accorded recognition in 1995, and is distinctive in its stricter production standards and clearly defined permitted grape varieties, using grenache and syrah as the basis for its wines. The appellation covers 300 hectares and produces only reds and rosés.
* Côtes de Provence
This covers a good third of the Var department, extends into parts of Bouches-du-Rhône and is also found in a small enclave north of Nice. The appellation produces large quantities of wine, mainly rosés (80%). Being the products of a broad range of different grapes and soils, they present a wide diversity of characteristics.
* Château de Peyrassol
* Château de Selle
* Château Ferry Lacombe
* Château la Tour de l'Évêque
* Domaine Richaume
* Mas de Cadenet
* Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence
The 3500 hectares of the AOC Coteaux d'Aix, situated to the west of Aix-en-Provence and to the south of Avignon, produce mainly rosés (70%). The reds are moreover often worthy of interest, and some of them can be left to age for 2 or 3 years and deserve to be discovered.
* Château Vignelaure
* Domaine de Trévallon
* Domaine des Béates
Planted on a dream site at the foot of very high cliffs, this is a very old-established vine-growing area. It covers 175 hectares, of which 123 are planted with white grapes. Indeed the white wine is the most interesting wine the appellation produces: it is lively and at the same time has depth and can very easily be kept for 3 to 8 years. The rosés are among the best rosés in Provence, and the reds are only a minute proportion of the wines from the appellation.
Spread out over several of the communes around Bandol, the appellation covers 1300 hectares and produces whites, reds and rosés. The reds, being made from the mourvèdre grape, are full-bodied and high in tannin. They are often of excellent quality and vary greatly thanks to the multiplicity of grape varieties allowed in their production. They can be kept for 10 years or more and are an ideal accompaniment for red meat and game-birds. The rosés still account for almost 60% of the wines produced and are in general also to be recommended.
* Domaine Tempier
* Coteaux Varois
AOC Coteaux Varois was accorded recognition in 1993 and extends over 1700 hectares: 60% of wines produced are rosés, 35% reds, and 5% whites. Whilst many of these wines are somewhat light and must be drunk when young, more and more producers are trying to produce quality wines.
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