Wines of Provence August 10 2018, 0 Comments

This month Calisson by Gilles takes you to the vineyards of Provence.  This region is definitely filled with wonders! 

 

The Provence is blessed with a rich history and beautiful landscapes. It also has a wonderful climate with a wide variety of fertile lands. Provence inhabitants understood it and started to produce wine very early. The production of wine in Provence is millennial and it stretches now from the West of Marseille to the East of Nice. The variety of landscapes makes each terroir unique.  Location, ground composition, exposition to the Mistral wind and many others parameters impact directly the final product. 

 

In Provence there are a dozen of AOC (Appellation Origine Contrôlée). It is an official label of the French Government which certifies and guarantees the quality of the wine produced in a clearly defined area. Inspectors are constantly checking the production and respect of the rules. They are driving all year throughout Provence visiting and inspecting each part of the production process. Hence there are many areas detaining their AOC Label in Provence. Calisson by Gilles gives you an overview of the main ones in this article.

The grapes which are used in the wine-making process are registered in the statement of work of the AOC label, and the AOC of Provence produces excellent results. There are about twenty grape varieties that are used in Provence which produce many distinctive wines. 

Here is an overview of the main grapes which are used within the area of Provence. 

Red grapes:

  • Syrah: It produces red wines with a hints of spices, and develop aromas of red berries and vanilla
  • Grenache: This grape produces red wines which are light and very fruity.
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  • Cabenet Sauvignon: Predominant within the Bordeaux area, the Cabernet Sauvignon is not used much in Provence. The grape is used to help red wines age well. In France, we use the term “vin de garde” for a wine that can be kept many years. 
  • Mourvedre: This grape produces deep purple wines, and can be added to bring structure and smoothness to the wine.
  • Cinsault: It is a local red grape which has a berry flavor that is also used in blends to make Rosé wines.

White grapes:

  • Clairette: This is an old variety of Provence, this grape produces fragrant & fruity white wines, its equivalent on Red Grape family would be the Grenache.
  • Semillon : The grape of Semillon is similar to the Mourvedre grape on the red side, wine makers use a small amount of Semillon grape to add smoothness & richness to blends.
  • Rolle: This white grape produces full-bodies wines and is always used in the composition of white wines. This grape is very useful to obtain very well balanced white wines.
  • Ugni Blanc: As this name indicates, its origin is from Italy, so we can guess it has been used for a very long time in Provence. This white grape is dedicated to make dry and acidic wines.

In France, the wine-makers always blend their grapes, mostly from the grapes that are growing in their vineyard. The proportion of each kinds of grapes used in the composition of each wine is a well kept secret.

The aim of each vigneron (wine maker) is to produce wines with a constant taste from years to years. It is a big challenge! To make the taste of their wines so the customer can identify the products and moreover, keep buying it.

There is a technique which has been borrowed from the Champagne industry which consist to assemble wines from different years to smooth its taste through years and ensure a constant quality. 

The notion of vintage is the opposite. If a bottle shows a 2015 Millésime, that means that the grapes used in the wine making process are exclusively coming from that year. 

The inconvenient is that the taste of each wine can differ totally from one year to another. Parameters are numerous and totally unpredictable like weather, rain level, wind, etc …

Typically, the red wines of Provence are young, fresh and fruity. We are in South of France where the summer is hot and dry and where we often have barbecues during the week end. So this kind of red wines are ideal. The red wines of Provence are not confectioned to be kept for many years but some of them can. These ones are especially suited for the numerous French cheeses you can buy within the markets of Provence (see our previous edition of January 2018). https://www.bygilles.com/blogs/posts/the-markets-of-provence

 

The Rosé wines of Provence have a slight pink color with fresh aromas which breath summer time. Perfect for an evening with friends or family by the swimming pool coupled with our sweet delicacy, Calisson by Gilles. 

If you are looking for a light Provençal white wine we would suggest to pick one of the vineyards near the coast.  You will get a good quality wine with a fresh & aromatic taste. On the opposite if you are looking for  a more robust wine you should choose one which come from the inlands.

Let us give you a short list of the main appellations for AOC, their localization and the main characteristics of their wine. This will help define your wine escape in Provence. 

 

Discover the main appellations of Provence

Coteaux d'Aix en Provence

This appellation covers a wide area of more than 7,000 acres divided into 49 vineyards. The appellation stretches from from Aix en Provence to the beginning of the Alpilles and also includes vineyards around Etang de Berre (The city of Martigues is at the entrance of the Etang de Berre, see our last month blog). The proportion of volume produced is roughly 48% red and 48% rosés and 4% white wines. The latter are young since the vineyards are about 20 years old. The main production remains the red wine which are known to be strong. 

Côtes de Provence

This famous appellation covers an very large area of 45,000 acres including inlands parcels of the Var department up to the Mediterranean coast of Hyères, Fréjus. Considering the size of the area we can find a lot of differences in soil and climate,  the wines of the AOC have a large variety of taste. The rosés represent 75 % of the harvest, the reds make up 20 % and the whites only 5 %, although this does not mean they are of lesser quality.

Coteaux des Baux

This appellation was created in 1995 and covers a small area of 800 acres in the middle of the Alpilles moutains. Although the volume is limited, you can find a wide variety of wines. Nevertheless the reds represent 70% of the harvest.  Strongly flavored and well-structured, they deserve to be aged for 5 or 6 years. 

Cassis wines

The "Vins de Cassis" appellation dates from 1936 and it is the oldest AOC in the region.

Limited to only 500 acres , 12 vineyards produce this excellent wine. The wine of Cassis is known for being dry with a delicate fruity taste. Here the volume of white wines reaches 80% of the production. This is a great value wine that marries perfectly with local fish based meal such as Bouillabaisse. 

Côtes du Luberon

The Côtes du Luberon appellation covers 8,000 acres and is located between Cavaillon and Apt, with 36 districts sharing the vineyards. 70% of production is red, the Côtes du Luberon wines are appreciated for its delicate and complex bouquet. It is generally better to drink the Côtes du Luberon wines when they are young. The reds are well balanced, the rosés are fresh and nervous. 

Côtes du Ventoux wines

Situated south-west of the Ventoux Mountain, in the region of Carpentras, these vineyards are shared between 51 districts. Volume repartition is 80% red wine, 15 % rosé and only 5 % white, the Côtes du Ventoux wine is light and fruity. Like the Côtes du Luberon it is better to consume these when they are still young.

Côtes du Rhône wines

Situated in the southern Vaucluse between Avignon and Bollène, the "Côtes du Rhône" AOC includes amongst famous vineyards with an international reputation such as Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas or Vacqueyras.

Concentrated mainly on reds, they can either be aged or consumed while relatively young. This is a safe value for people who are Red lovers. 

Vins de Palette

This appellation is the smallest one of Provence given that it is only 30 acres wide and located in the districts of Le Tholonet and Meyreuil (few miles from Aix en Provence). 

Formerly created by the Carmelites in medieval times, the vineyard is today exploited by only two properties. The red wine is warm, the rosé is said nervous and the white one is, according to enlightened locals, one of the best of Provence. Notice to wine lovers…

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.