Synonymous with good living, Provence encapsulates the essence of France. From the style and sophistication to the appreciation of unspoilt nature with famous lavender fields, love of art, true craftsmanship, diversity of climate and landscape. Provence’s wine-growing and wine culture is a reflection of all of these passions and more. Moreover, the Provence wine region is famous for its lush vegetation, with distinctive aromas and flavours of lavender, thyme and other culinary herbs.
HISTORY BOX: The history of wine-growing in the Provence wine region starts with the Greek traders who came from Phocaea and found what is now known as Marseilles. The traders brought with them their distinctive pale-coloured wines and started to plant the vines that produced them. Later, the Romans came with their own red varieties.
Provence today produces many kinds of high-quality wines , however, the region is best know for its rosé wines.
The Passion for Rosé Wine
Rosé is not the only type of wine produced in Provence, however, it is certainly the most common connected with to the region. This passion for rosé, surprisingly, did not diminish over the centuries despite a catastrophic outbreak of disease at the end of the nineteenth century. The epidemic resulted in total replanting of the region’s vineyards.
Today, the Centre for Rosé Research, unique in the world, is dedicated solely to supporting makers of rosé wines. It does this through testing and teaching new techniques intended to modernize production and guarantee quality. The wine-producers are steeped in history and know-how. You will be surprised at the differences in flavours when tasting their wines.
Despite Provence’s devotion to rosé, the region is also home to some distinctive reds and whites without which the cellars of Provence would be the poorer.
Common grape varieties for reds and rosés: Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre.
Main grapes for white wines: Clairette, Ugni-Blanc (Italian – Trebbiano), Rolle (Italian – Vermentino) and Semillon
In comparison to the size of the region, there are just five appellations, three larger and two smaller where the grapes are grown. The latter two are no less significant, producing Cassis and Bandol.
Sunny Appellations of Provence
Three main appellations produce almost all of Provence’s region’s Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) wines. However, the diversity of the landscapes and soils, as well as the microclimates in the Provence wine region creates distinctiveness of each and every sub-region.
Côtes de Provence
Over the 20,000 hectares of vineyards, 123 million bottles are produced each year, 90% of which are rosé.
The Côtes de Provence is an area encompassing parts of the Var and Bouches de Rhone as well as a modest enclave in the Alpes Maritime department. Here, the warm, dry Mediterranean climate plays an important role. Within Côtes de Provence, five sub-appellations further exist, which guaranties further diversity rosé wines.
Out of the 27 million bottles produced here from 10,000 acres of vineyards, 12% are reds, 83% are rosé and the rest are whites.
The Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence appellation lies in the western part of Provence. It covers territory from west of Rhone Valley to the Sainte Victoire Mountain and descending from the River Durance to the Mediterranean. Here the effect of the dry Mistral wind has the greatest influence. Indeed, the Mistral not only brings cold air as well as endless hours of sun.
Coteaux Varois en Provence
The third appellation of Provence wine region, Coteaux Varois en Provence, has a more modest, 2,500 hectares of vines in the heart of the Var department. Approximately 16 million bottles originate from here annually. As in the other Provence appellations, rosés predominate here too. In fact, the climate here is milder and closer to the continental classification in contrast to the warmer Mediterranean regions.
And not forgetting …
There are two other appellations in Provence that are small, yet at the same time, characterful.
Cassis is the home to full-bodied whites, typified by herby aromas. The appellation takes its title from the coastal village of the same name.
Bellet, located in the area around Nice. Here, there’s an even split between whites, reds and rosés.
Therefore, the wines of both appellations supply almost exclusively to the local market which means a visit is essential to sample the best.
Wineries in Provence wine region
while travelling in Provence wine region, you should not miss visiting some of these wineries do learn more about the history and traditions of regional winemaking.
The name Provence derives from the Roman term Provincia Romana. Roman history permeates the region, providing some of the most spectacular tourist attractions on the coast. Meanwhile, in the hinterland, you will find a breath-taking countryside of with fields of lavender and golden sunflowers, have inspiring artists of all kinds.
France’s oldest city of Marseille
France’s second city is a melting pot of cultures thanks to its status as the country’s biggest port.
On the surface, Marseilles is loud and exuberant. The iconic Notre Dame de Garde monument (the good luck symbol for Marseilles’ sailors), is an essential stop for tourists. Delving deeper into the quartiers, the quaint village-like communities that make up the larger city, however, will reveal a cornucopia of delights.
If you’re looking for a more modern attraction, the Cité Radieuse, a unique apartment block designed by the architect Le Corbusier, is worth visiting. The Harbor of Marseille, with a lot of other monuments of the city, is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
St Tropez – Hub for Luxury Life
Since the 1950s, St Tropez has been a magnet for the rich and famous.
St Tropez is a gem for the most luxurious yachts at the town’s marinas surrounded with 40 beaches. This is the place to be seen during the high season, but St Tropez isn’t just about topping up the tan. The town has long been popular with artists and there are several important galleries, among them including the Annonciade Museum with works by Braques, Matisse and Dufy.
Avignon – History and Culture on the Rhône
Famous for the incomplete Saint-Bénézet Bridge, Avignon is a vibrant city of culture, history, art and more. From traces of the Romans to renaissance-style town houses, the old walls and symbols of La Belle Epoque and the history of Avignon is the history of France.
Indeed, after the bridge, the most visited attraction is the Popes’ Palace, also recognized by UNESCO.
Cultural festivals are the highlight of summer in Avignon: the city’s squares resound with music and the aromas of delicious local cuisine.
Arles – The Gateway to the Camargue
Perhaps one of France’s most eclectic cities, Arles is famous for flamingos, art and architecture.
The Romans left an impressive legacy: the breath-taking amphitheatre, which could hold an audience of 21,000. They also left “The Baths of Constantine”, another very popular attraction in the city.
Consequently, Art lovers are drawn to Arles for its connection with to Van Gogh and later Picasso. In fact, to this day, painters come to take advantage of the special light in this part of France.
For the nature lovers: 13,000 hectares of the Camargue Nature Reserve can be found nearby which is home to colonies of flamingos, the famous wild horses and numerous other types of flora and fauna.
Aromatics of Provence Gastronomy
Provence cuisine is characterized by locally grown vegetables, flavourful olive oil, seafood and aromatic herbs. The most famous regional dishes highlight these products.
This traditional Provençal fish stew comes from Marseille. It was originally made by fishermen who wanted a way to use the bony fish that they found difficult to sell at the market. However, today, it’s made with all kinds of fish. One thing that all chefs tend to agree on, is that bouillabaisse starts with a good stock flavoured with fennel, and often Pastis – an aniseed-flavoured spirit.
Courgettes, peppers and aubergines come together in a deep tomato sauce to make this vegetable stew. It is served warm alongside meat as a main course and occasionally cold as a starter. However, experts say it is important to cook each vegetable separately and then combine them at the end.
Don’t confuse it with Italian Pesto because Pistou is a soup of summer vegetables. Indeed, it contains a spoon of “pistou” which you swirl into the soup before you eat it. With some crusty baguette and a glass of wine, this soup is Provence in a bowl.
This savoury tart, which has much in common with pizza and is a classic dish in the city of Nice. It is thicker than that of a traditional pizza. The traditional topping for a pissaladière is onions, black olives and anchovies.
It’s usually a starter but in the past, it was breakfast food, sold on street stalls early in the morning.
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