Wine Folly: Essential Guide to Provence Wine Region

Provence is blessed with a fantastic climate, especially for grapes! The region gets lots of sunshine and not too much rain with warm days and cool evenings. The Mediterranean moderates the temperatures and the famous “Mistral” wind keeps the vineyards dry, free of pests and the skies clear.

Viticultural Provence is comprised of 9 main regions (with sub-regions) of AOCAppellation de’Origin Contrôlée“:

  • Côtes de Provence – the largest AOC, and the biggest producer with about 75% of wine production (of which 89% is Rosé), this region is also the most diverse
    • La Londe – soils with lots of quartz (heat-retaining, lower acidity), little rainfall and constant sea breezes
    • Pierrefeu – located 20 miles from the Mediterranean, north of the city of Toulon
    • Sainte-Victoire – limestone soil and sheltered vineyards, this area was made famous by artists like Matisse, Cezanne and Van Gogh
  • Coteaux d’Aix en Provence – second in size, this region is heavily influenced by the famous Mistral winds. The vineyards here date back as far as 600 BC
    • Les Baux de Provence – this is probably the toastiest part of Provence; so hot it’s home to the Val d’Enfer or “Valley of Hell”
  • Coteaux Varois de Provence – aka “The Heart of Provence”, this region in the middle of Provence features undulating limestone mountain ranges
  • Fréjus – on the eastern edge of the main Côtes de Provence area, volcanic vineyards in the foothills of the Massif de L’Esterel mountains
  • Cassis – along the Mediterranean coast of Provence where steep, white limestone cliffs of the Massif des Calanques meet the sea and this is where you find the very first AOC of Provence
  • Bandol – if Cassis is all about whites, then its neighbor to the east is the perfect opposite – its signature wines are the rich, intense, red wines made with up to 95% Mourvedre
  • Palette – nestled below Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and coming in at only 100 acres, Palette is the smallest AOC of Provence
  • Bellet – the vineyards dot the steep hillsides surrounding the city of Nice. The dominant white varietal is Rolle (Vermentino) and it’s the only AOC in Provence that is allowed to use Chardonnay
  • Pierrevert – the newest (1998) and the most northerly Provence AOC, situated in the Alpes de Haute Provence.

The main red grape varieties are Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Counoise, Tannat, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of more obscure and unique red varieties include Tibouren, Braquet, Calitour, Folle Noir and Barbaroux.

White Provence grapes include Rolle (aka Vermentino), Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano), Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, Marsanne and Bourboulenc. Less commonly used are regional grapes such as Pascal, Terret Blanc, Spagnol (aka Mayorquin) and Pignerol.

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