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Southern France - Winegrowing Areas of Provence

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Wicker-covered bottle © Provided by DKBooks Wicker-covered bottle

Wicker-covered bottle

Photo: View of vineyard in the Côtes de Provence © Provided by DKBooks View of vineyard in the Côtes de Provence

Vineyards and citadel in Les Baux de Provence

Photo: Vineyards and citadel in Les Baux de Provence © Provided by DKBooks Vineyards and citadel in Les Baux de Provence

View of vineyard in the Côtes de Provence

Winegrowing Areas of Provence

The lifestyle, food, and climate of Provence have made rosé the principal wine to be made here. A growing number of individual producers are, however, making reds of note from blends of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Serious reds, made essentially from Mourvèdre, are found in Bandol.


soil type: gravel, sand, clay
red grape variety: Folle Noire, Braquet, Grenache, Cinsaut
white grape variety: Vermentino, Chardonnay
wine styles: white, rosé

In the Alpine foothills behind Nice, a handful of producers maintain the name of AOC Bellet. There were over 1,000 ha of vineyards here in the early 19th century, but this has now dwindled to around 50. The cool hill sites are suited to the production of fresh, aromatic white wines made mainly from Vermentino (Rolle). Nice’s Italian genealogy is seen in the use of the red grapes Folle Noire (Fuella) and Braquet (Brachetto). Most of the wine is consumed locally.

Côtes de Provence

soil type: sandstone, limestone, granite, schist
red grape variety: Cinsaut, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon
white grape variety: Clairette, Vermentino, Sémillon, Ugni Blanc
wine styles: red, white, rosé

The only generalization to be made about this appellation is that 80 percent of the production is rosé. Otherwise, its sheer size—20,000 ha under vine—and diversity of topography and climate make it extremely disparate. Zones vary from the coastal area around St-Tropez to cooler hill sites north of Draguignan. The rosé is made mainly from Cinsaut and Grenache and is consumed by an insatiable local market. There are growing numbers of producers offering interesting reds from blends that can include Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre.

Coteaux Varois

soil type: limestone
red grape variety: Grenache, Cinsaut, Syrah, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon
white grape variety: Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Sémillon, Ugni Blanc
wine styles: red, white, rosé

Centered around the town of Brignoles, Coteaux Varois was upgraded to full AOC status in 1993. The grape varieties are much the same as in Côtes de Provence: what marks the difference is the location of the vineyards, which are inland away from the coast and all at a higher, cooler altitude, making the wines a little more intense. It is a district for which the potential has yet to be fully realized or a particular character of wine defined.


soil type: limestone-and-clay
red grape variety: Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsaut, Syrah, Carignan
white grape variety: Clairette, Ugni Blanc, Bourboulenc, Sauvignon Blanc
wine styles: red, white, rosé

Provence’s most serious appellation takes its name from the fishing port/vacation resort of Bandol. Rosé provides the volume, but it is the red that holds the interest, a steely, tannic wine with a herbal nuance and good aging potential. The vineyards form a terraced amphitheater overlooking the Mediterranean. The aspect and elevation, up to 1,300 ft (400 m), provide an annual average of 3,000 hours of sunshine, helping to ripen the grapes, while sea breezes temper the heat. The conditions are ideal for the awkward Mourvèdre, which represents at least 50 percent of the blend for the red. The wine has to be aged in cask for a minimum of 18 months.


soil type: limestone
red grape variety: Grenache, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre, Carignan
white grape variety: Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc
wine styles: red, white, rosé

Urban development poses the greatest threat to the pretty fishing port of Cassis and its wines. Located to the east of Marseille, AOC Cassis has just 175 ha cultivated in a small arc, producing mainly white wines, which are fresh but low in acidity, and much in demand locally.


soil type: limestone
red grape variety: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsaut
white grape variety: Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Muscat
wine styles: red, white, rosé

The particularity of this tiny appellation of barely 35 ha is a distinctive limestone soil called calcaire de Langesse and wines—red, white, and rosé—that benefit from bottle age. The principal reference here, Château Simone, produces firm, minerally whites and long-lived but rather idiosyncratic reds.

Coteaux d’Aix en Provence

soil type: limestone-and-clay, limestone-and-sand
red grape variety: Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Syrah, Cinsaut
white grape variety: Bourboulenc, Vermentino, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc
wine styles: red, white, rosé

This large AOC stretches north to south from the Lubéron to the Mediterranean and east to west from the town of Aix-en-Provence to the Rhône Valley. In all, some 3,500 ha of vines are planted at an altitude of anywhere between sea level and 1,300 ft (400 m). Rosé is the mainstay (55 percent), with 40 percent red and a complement of white. A diverse range of grapes is permitted, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, and the more obscure Counoise, which make fresh, round rosés and reds with a certain depth and intensity.

Les Baux de Provence

soil type: limestone
red grape variety: Grenache, Cinsaut, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre
wine styles: red, rosé

Les Baux de Provence used to be part of Coteaux d’Aix but was given independent AOC status for reds and rosés in 1995. Whites are still labeled Coteaux d’Aix en Provence. The vineyards are located in the foothills of the Alpilles Mountains with traditional southern grape varieties cultivated alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, which is permitted up to a maximum 20 percent. There are only a dozen or so domaines in this tiny district, producing fruity reds with a little tannic grip. Many are run organically, the climatic conditions being conducive to this type of viticulture.


The mountainous island of Corsica lies 105 miles (170 km) off the coast of France. Overall it has a dry, sunny climate, but there are local variations caused by altitude, the sea, and winds. Vermentino is the principal white grape, making soft, aromatic wines. Reds and rosés are made from traditional southern varieties Grenache, Carignan, and Cinsaut, as well as Nielluccio (Tuscany’s Sangiovese), and the native Sciacarello. International grapes have gained steadily, producing varietal wines under the eyecatching Vins de l’Île de Beauté label.

Vin de Corse is the generic AOC for the island, to which five subregions can add their names. Ajaccio, noted for delicate reds made from Sciacarello, and Patrimonio, with rich, powerful reds from Nielluccio, are two specific AOCs.

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