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Provence


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Provence vineyards

A château and vineyards in Provence. Photo by EmDee on Wikipedia. License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.

Due to its many beautiful palaces and buildings, amazing green landscapes, impressive rock quarries, and scenic beaches, the Provence region is a major tourist attraction. Provence's history runs concurrently with a long pedigree of fine wines. As a result of Provence's varied history, the wines produced there are diverse. Nowadays most attention is focused on rosés, but there are also plenty of good reds.

Southern French wine is growing in popularity as people begin to look for less expensive but still high-status alternatives to the more conventional, often pricey wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. And Provence is one of the major appellations of France for truly inexpensive wines; they are not $20, but more like $10-$12.

History

Provence has a long, colorful history, first having been planted by the Greeks back in 600 B.C. Due to its location, Provence was owned by various countries throughout history. As a result of this heritage there exists a potpourri of winemaking traditions in the area, and this explains the diversity of the wines.

The Provence region was hit hard by the phylloxera epidemic, which wiped out many excellent plantings. However, after replanting the region gradually began to thrive again, although it is said that if the phylloxera epidemic had not occurred the wine would be much more prestigious than it is today. In the 1930s and 1940s many of Provence's AOCs were created; the remainder were formed between 1977 and 1995.

Climate and Viticulture

Provence has a Mediterranean climate similar to that of many Italian regions. The weather is warm, with mild winters and balmy summers. There is also very little rainfall. Provence is more similar to Tuscany than to Bordeaux in terms of climate. Within France, it is very similar to the Languedoc and Roussillon regions and somewhat similar to the Rhône.

Another factor in the Provence climate is the mistral, the powerful wind that occurs especially strongly in that region. The mistral often acts as a natural selector, simply blowing away thin and unhealthy vines, but it can also adversely impact production.

Soils in Provence generally vary as much as they do in the rest of France, ranging from sandstone and clay on mainland plains to limestone on river embankments. This explains why there are so many different types of wines that can be produced in the region.

Grape Varieties

The problem with white wines in the region is that most white grapes simply cannot produce good results in regions this warm. However, a few white grapes do well under the hot sun, such as Italian grapes Trebbiano and Vermentino, as well as Rhône varieties like Roussanne.

There is much more diversity among red grape varieties. The five red grapes commonly seen in the Languedoc are popular here too: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut, and Carignan. In fact, Mourvèdre, usually just a blending grape, makes its best varietal wines in this area.

Major Producers

The largest and most wide-ranging producers of this region include La Bastide Blanche, Château Calissanne, Commanderie de Peyrassol, Mas de Gourgonnier, Miraval, Domaines Ott, Château Pradeaux, Revelette, Domaine Richeaume, Domaine Sorin, and Domaine Tempier. Smaller producers sometimes offer higher quality and/or more reliable wines, but their wines can be more difficult to find and also more expensive.

Notably, Provence also has a producer-based classification of 18 winemakers whose quality is estimated to be higher than normal in the region. Created in 1955, this is the only official producer-based classification in France besides those of Bordeaux. The list follows.

Subregions

There is no Provence AOC, but the appellation has nine official designated subregions, which are listed here below: