Les Baux de Provence
Located completely within the borders of Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, Les Baux de Provence is the only officially designated subregion of Coteaux d'Aix. Unusually warm-weathered for wine growing, the appellation is centered around the eponymous hillside outcrop village. Made entirely from biodynamic methods, the wines can often be quite unusual and interesting. Producers converted to biodynamic farming when it became clear that the mistral could blow chemicals off the hill into the neighboring areas, and as a result Les Baux de Provence is one of France's few entirely green wine appellations.
The intense, highly potent wines, made by only a handful of producers, can be overpriced but are worth aging. Made in a classicist style with little influence from newfangled methods of winemaking, they are GSM blends that share a number of similarities with the wines of the southern Rhône. Cabernet Sauvignon is beginning to make inroads here, but many producers want to keep things old-fashioned--and with good reason, since the wines here are quite consistent and reliable.
Les Baux de Provence was originally just a subregion of the Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, but the efforts of the winemakers and the distinctiveness of the region due to the biodynamic harvesting convinced regulators to give the appellation an AOC of its own in 1995. The village of Les Baux de Provence dates to the 900s, although it is not known when winemaking began there.
Climate and Viticulture
Though scenically located in a Van Gogh-esque mountaintop village, the vineyards face serious viticultural difficulty. The valley that Les Baux de Provence is nestled over is nicknamed "the valley of hell", because the climate is so exceptionally hot. However, the soil is thick, concentrated limestone, and the classical, very detail-oriented viticultural methods used here to produce the wines ensure that quality remains high despite the heat.
The red wines of Les Baux de Provence are generally GSM blends (made up of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre), a style which is most popular in the Rhône. The wines have powerful, roasted flavors of berry, plum, herbs and earth; they are somewhat reminiscent of the wines of the neighboring Bandol region. Cabernet Sauvignon makes the wines more earthy and tannic, but legally can comprise a maximum of only 20% of the red blends. The rosés, made from the same grapes, are also top-notch, with bright citrussy and floral flavors.
Clairette is very common among white wine grapes, though international grapes are also used. White grapes here have difficulty beating the heat, since they are by nature more sensitive to heat than reds, so white wine production in the region is very low.
With only about a dozen producers in total, all of whom follow the same classical methods of winemaking, Les Baux de Provence is hardly an appellation where you can find bad wines. However, a duo of producers stand out because their wines are commonly exported from France.
- Mas de la Dame: The basic red and rosé examples are decent here, but two cuvées show top Baux flavors: the smoky, plum-scented Réserve and the more generous, fruity, but also plummy Cuvée Gourmande. The Gourmande combines everyday appeal with subtle complexity.
- Mas de Gourgonnier: Gourgonnier has recently become the producer of ordinary, inexpensive, non-cuvée Les Baux de Provence. Their rosé is lively and accessible, with floral and citrus flavors, and it is also inexpensive. The red is more intense, with powerful woody fruit flavors.
There are no subregions.