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 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 50, March 2007   
ProvenceProvence  Contents 
Issue 49, February 2007 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 51, April 2007

Provence

Famous for its landscapes and its cooking strongly influenced by Mediterranean traditions, Provence is the undisputed homeland of rose wines of France

 French Provence is a place rich of charm. A suggestive landscape which has always attracted painters and artists which took their inspiration from the atmosphere of this French region bordering the Mediterranean sea. To attract tourists to Provence, besides the landscape and natural beauties, there is also cooking, which in this part of France becomes full of colors and the typical aromas of Mediterranean cooking. In Provence are in fact cultivated olive trees for the production of oil and in the woods are found plenty of aromatic herbs. The vicinity to the sea introduces fish in the cooking, which then meets the typical herbs and the many vegetables cultivated in the region. And then there is garlic, a fundamental ingredient which - together with olive oil - is virtually found in every dish. With garlic is produced the most famous sauce of Provence - aïoli - used to accompany the many recipes based on fish and vegetables.


The production areas of Provence
The production areas of Provence

 Provence is not landscapes and nice food only. In Provence are also produced wines and here the beverage of Bacchus mainly gets a pink color, the most prolific area of France for rose wines and, of course, the style of wine which is mainly consumed in Provence. In past times, the quality of Provence's wines was frequently doubted by many - perhaps also because the many prejudices against rose wines - however in recent times the enology of the region has started a new course aimed to the improvement of wine quality, a process which allowed the other wines of Provence to emerge as well. Therefore, not only rose wines. In Provence are also produced red wines - of which the most representative ones are from Bandol - and white wines, of which the most famous ones are from Cassis. Roses are however the most typical wines of French Provence and these are the wines mainly matched to local cooking, including fish.

 The influence of the Mediterranean area is pretty strong in Provence: the region benefits of 3,000 hours of sun per year and the temperature in summertime can also reach 40° C (104° F). The environmental conditions in Provence are positive for the cultivation of vine, including Mistral wind and sea breeze, both essential to mitigate the effects of dry air. According to the French quality system, Provence includes Corse as well, the suggestive island north from Sardinia, which can be defined as a mountain in the sea. It is believed vine was introduced in Corse by ancient Greeks, therefore the enology of the island has a millenary traditions. Also vineyards in Corse benefits from the sun, refreshed by the effects of sea breeze and altitude. In Corse are found varieties of French origin, however here are also found Italian varieties, such as Vermentino and Sangiovese, here known as Niellucio.


 

 Provence is among the most ancient area in France where it was started the cultivation of vine and the production of wine: it is believed - although there are no reliable information about it - these activities began in these lands before than in Narbonne, in the Languedoc. The exact period in which viticulture was introduced in Provence is in fact uncertain and subject of controversies. It is however a common opinion that when Phocaeans arrived in these lands in 600 BC and founded Phokaia - which will later become Massalia, today known as Marseille - vine was not present. It is very likely the renowned wines of Massalia at those times were indeed imported from Greece or from Italy, in particular from Sicily. Reliable information about the cultivation of the vine and the production of wines in this region are dated back to the times of Gauls, also thanks to the influence of enological culture and traditions of ancient Romans.

 In the course of its history, Provence was subject of dispute for its dominion, therefore undergoing the influence of Saracens, Carolinges, Holy Roman Empire, Counts of Toulouse, Catalans, René d'Anjou and - finally - House of Savoy. During these periods it is believed also viticulture has been influenced by the traditions and cultures which succeeded with time and, with that, also the production of wine. For most of the 1800s, Provence belonged to the Kingdom of Sardinia, period during which were introduced many varieties of Italian grapes, still found in the region. At the end of the nineteenth century - just like in other wine areas of Europe - arrived phylloxera, devastating vineyards and therefore interrupting viticulture and wine production. Despite viticulture was resumes after the phylloxera period, wines of Provence have never significantly attracted wine lovers, also because of the non truly noble quality which was common some years ago in this region.

 The succession of the many dominions in this territory have contributed to the cultural richness of Provence, also influencing many aspects of the region, including wine. According to an enological point of view, wines of Provence have been influenced both by Italian and French traditions. In Provence are in fact cultivated varieties both of clear Italian origin as well as of clear French origin. The influence of Italian varieties is also evident in Corse, where the influence of the neighboring Sardinia is pretty strong, in particular for the varieties of grapes cultivated in the island. Despite Provence is a strong tourist area, little attention has been paid to its wines, usually shadowed by cooking and the natural beauties found in this territory. Wines of Provence have therefore suffered of the fame of other attractions of the region and only in the last few years - also thanks to a radical change in the productive strategies, finally aiming to quality - Provence's wines began to emerge in the French wine scene, not only for the wide selection of rose wines, but also for red and white wines.

 

Classification of Provence

 Wines of Provence are classified according to the quality system in force in France. The lowest level of the system is reserved to Vin de Table, followed by the Vin de Pays classification, then Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure - shortened as “VDQS” and not very used in France - and finally Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, shortened as “AOC”. The wine areas defined as Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée of Provence are eight and precisely: Bandol, Bellet, Cassis, Coteaux d'Aix-En-Provence et Les Baux-De-Provence, Coteaux Varois, Côtes de Provence, Palette and Vin de Corse. Of these appellations, the most representative ones are: Bandol, Cassis, Coteaux d'Aix-En-Provence et Les Baux-De-Provence and Côtes de Provence. The Vin de Corse appellation includes five local appellations (Vin de Corse - Cap Corse, Calvi, Sartène, Figari and Porto-Vecchio) two communal appellations (Ajaccio and Patrimonio) and one Vin Doux Naturel: Muscat du Cap Corse.

 

Production Areas

 Provence is located in the south-eastern part of France, along the coast of Mediterranean sea, a position which introduced in the region typical customs and cultures of the Mediterranean area, including cooking. Only in recent times the wines of Provence are getting more and more popular among wine lovers, after in the region has been started a radical change aiming towards quality production. Provence is famous for its rose wines - the wine style produced the most in this region and which typically matches the variegated local cooking - however there also are interesting examples of red and white wines, produced with grapes of French and Italian origins. The main white berried grapes cultivated in Provence are: Bourboulenc, Chardonnay, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Ugni Blanc - known in Italy as Trebbiano Toscano - and Vermentino, here known as Rolle. the main red berried grapes of Provence are: Braquet - known in Italy as Brachetto - Cabernet Sauvignon, Calitor, Carignan, Cinsaut, Folle Noir, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Tibouren, Sciacarello and Niellucio, name with which it is called Sangiovese in Corse.

 

Bandol

 Among the appellations of Provence, Bandol is the one which is getting the higher worldwide attention. Bandol is a relatively small wine area - as small as 600 hectares - and it is located at about 50 kilometers east from Marseille (about 30 miles) along the coast bordering the Mediterranean sea. Despite in this area is being produced a huge quantity of rose wine - just like in all the Provence's territory, after all - Bandol is mainly famous in the world for its red wines. The grape mainly used for the production of Bandol wines, both rose and red, is Mourvèdre, which in this area finds excellent conditions. Red wines of Bandol are made for at least 50% of Mourvèdre, whereas the remaining part is made of Grenache Noir and Cinsaut. It should however be noticed most of red wines in Bandol are made with 100% Mourvèdre. The same grapes are also used for the production of rose wines, frequently aged in cask for about eight months. White wines of Bandol, produced in small quantities, are mainly made of Clairette, Bourboulenc and Ugni Blanc.

 

Cassis

 If Bandol is famous for red wines, Cassis it is for white wines, the wine style mainly produced in this area, whereas the production of red and rose wines is pretty marginal. Cassis is located few kilometers east from Marseille, along the coast of the Mediterranean sea. White wines - in which are frequently found aromas of aromatic herbs, in particular rosemary - are mainly produced with Clairette and Marsanne grapes. Sometimes, in the composition of white wines of Cassis, can also be used Ugni Blanc grape as well as small quantity of Sauvignon Blanc. White wines of Cassis are pretty dry and light, usually consumed with the dishes made of seafruits typical in Provence's cooking. Red and rose wines of Cassis are mainly produced with Grenache Noir, Cinsaut and Mourvèdre grapes.

 

Coteaux d'Aix-En-Provence

 The city of Aix is one of the main tourism place of Provence and to the north and to the south of this ancient city is found the wine area of Coteaux d'Aix-En-Provence. Inside this area is found a sub appellation and in which are being produced interesting red wines: Les Baux de Provence. The soil which is found in this lands - as well as the climate - is in fact pretty suited for the cultivation of red berried varieties, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre and Grenache Noir. In this area is also produced a small quantity of white wine - usually with Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes - as well as rose wines. Rose wines of Coteaux d'Aix-En-Provence are generally produced with the bleeding technique - that in France is called saignée - during the production of red wines. The red wines of this appellation are usually allowed to age in cask for at least 12 months.

 

Côtes de Provence

 Côtes de Provence is the largest appellation of Provence - with an area of about 18,000 hectares - and here are found more than 80% of the vineyards of the region. The territory of this appellation begins in the neighboring of the city of Toulon and goes up to the city of Sanit-Tropez, along the coast and in the inland parts. Vineyards are scattered in the whole territory, sometimes distant one from each other many kilometers, therefore quality and characteristics of Côtes de Provence's wines are pretty variable, both because of the differences of the soil, as well as because of the difference of climate. About three quarters of the production in this appellation is about rose wines, generally obtained with Grenache Noir, Cinsaut and Tibouren grapes. In Côtes de Provence are also produced red wines - generally from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Tibouren grapes - as well as a small quantity of white wines, generally produced with Clairette, Rolle - name with which it is known in Provence Vermentino grape - Sémillon and Ugni Blanc, known in Italy as Trebbiano Toscano.

 




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  ABC Wine Issue 50, March 2007   
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