The second largest appellation in Provence, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence includes vineyards in around 50 villages; in total the appellation has around 8,500 acres of vineyards. Vineyards are centered around Aix-en-Provence, the 72-square-mile regional hub that is an important center for finance, tourism, and the birthplace of Paul Cézanne and Edward Manet. Noted for the use of Cabernet Sauvignon in its red wines, the appellation is known in shorthand as Coteaux d'Aix.
Coteaux d'Aix contains Les Baux de Provence, which is, due to the heat of its vineyards and its unusual viticultural practices, its own appellation. The Coteaux d'Aix appellation includes much of the Provence land that is not located on the waterfront; as a result, heat and aridity are serious climatic challenges here. However, the best producers supersede these problems and make many of Provence's best wines in this region.
Like most of Provence, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence has had quite a long history. Originally cultivated by the Romans, the region has flourished in winemaking terms ever since it was first planted. The region was part of the second wave of Provence appellations, created in 1985.
Climate and Viticulture
Although the Coteaux d'Aix climate is not as notoriously arid and stubborn as that of enclave Les Baux de Provence, it is still pretty difficult to make wine here. The area gets little rain and is excessively hot. But producers have persevered, and due to centuries of trial and error, winemakers have figured out how to overcome climatic obstacles to make good wine here. In recent times, the introduction of Cabernet Sauvignon has helped the area to modernize, and is especially promising since Cabernet tends to do well in harsh climates.
Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence makes some quite good red wines, generally comprised of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Cinsaut. Cabernet Sauvignon, surprisingly, blends quite well with these Rhône transplants, making wines high in both tannin and acidity. The best of these wines have a solid, pleasant flavor core of black cherry, berry fruit, smoky earth, chocolate, coffee, and herbs. Rosé wines have lighter, more floral flavors derived from the same grapes.
As for white wines, there are some unusual plantings here in addition to the usual Clairette: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sémillon. Although known for doing well in warm climates, these grapes don't produce particularly attention-worthy wines most of the time.
Although there are a large number of producers in Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, most of them are unheard of outside France. There are, in our opinion, a trio of really great ones that are commonly exported. They are listed below.
- Bieler Père et Fils: Bieler's Sabine rosé, with its everyday price of under $15, is one of the best wines of this appellation. The flavors are of exceptionally powerful red fruit and herbs, with strong floral nuances as well. The cuvée is also seriously ageworthy.
- Commanderie de la Bargemone: Another good rosé producer. Their main wine has flavors of red and orange fruit and significantly more powerful floral notes, as well as a citrus kick on the back end. This is another surprisingly ageable rosé.
- Château Revelette: Revelette is likely the best producer of reds here, though their rosé is also a full and unusual wine. Made generally from international grapes, with a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon influence, the reds are exceptional, both the spicy but very structured, deep, coffee-tinged Rouge and the more thick, tannic, complex, woody Grand Rouge.
Among producers whose wines are rarely exported but are also good, Domaine les Béates should be mentioned.
Within Coteaux d'Aix, the enclave subappellation of Les Baux de Provence AOC lies on a mountain completely within Coteaux d'Aix's borders.