Crash Course, Provence, Regions.

Crash Course: Provence

One of the most picturesque parts of France, the area of Provence stretches from the eastern half of the Grand Rhône, all along the southern coast of France until it meets with Italy. One of France’s largest regions (at 27 000 hectares), Provence has eight appellations. These include the well-known AOCs of Les Baux-de-Provence, Côteaux Varois, Bandol and Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. They are joined by the smaller appellations of Cassis, Les Baux-de-Provence, Luberon and Bellet. Provence is also home to the largest appellation in France, Côtes-de-Provence.

Provence has a history of winemaking dating all the way back to Roman times, before the birth of Christ. Provence has been trying to shake a reputation since the first century AD, when poet Martial remarked that Provencial wines are

“terrible poisons, and never sold at a good price.”

This began changing in the 1970’s as ambitious winemakers have begun occupying the area.

Mouvèdre forms the bulk of what is grown in Provence, although Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are rising stars. Other varietals include Carignan and Cinsaut, and the blending grapes of Braquet, Calitor, Folle and Tibouren. Provence also covers all the traditional white Rhône varieties of Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Viognier. Non-traditional varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Rolle and Ugni Blanc are also grown.

The great majority of wines in Provence are rosé, most commonly made from the Mouvèdre and Cinsaut grapes. Two regions: Cassis and Bandol, have developed a reputation for their whites and reds respectively. Winemakers are both challenged and assisted by the glorious sunshine of Provence, which ripens grapes very quickly and causes soils to become dry and arid. Thanks to the advent of more modern techniques/equipment and conscientious wine-growing, this can be managed, finally ridding the area of its centuries long reputation.