If there is one winegrowing region worthy of highlighting on the map with the color pink, it’s Provence. Conditioned by warm days, windy afternoons and fresh air blowing from the nearby Mediterranean Sea, this special region along the French Riviera is home to refreshing pale pink wines that have set the precedence for the term rosé around the world.
Wrapping around the seaside city of Marseille, Provence stretches 150 miles from the Rhone Valley in the west and Cote d’Azur in the east. The original vineyards were planted by Greek traders in 600 B.C. Since then, the region has blossomed into becoming the birthplace of dry rosé wines, which develop their brilliant pale pink hues from a brief period of skin contact before being quickly pressed and fermented. This process helps to preserve the fragrant aromas and flavors of red fruits, fresh herbs, mineral, and bright natural acidity of the freshly picked grapes.
Today, 88% of all wines produced in Provence are rosés. The main grapes grown in the region include Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tibouren and Cabernet Sauvignon. The remaining grapes are used to make red and white wines.
There are three appellations inside the boundaries of Provence. The first is Cotes de Provence, a lovely area known for its blue skies, hillside villages, and stunning coastal towns that include St-Tropez and St-Raphel. The four sub-appellations in the zone are Cotes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, Cotes de Provence Frejus, Cotes de Provence Sainte-Victoire La Londe, and Cotes de Provence Pierrefeu. The unique soils in the area is a mixture of limestone, mica schist, alluvial fans, gravel, and a smaller amount of red clay soil of the Maures Plain. Whereas, the second appellation, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, features chalky soils; while the third, Coteaux Varois en Provence, is best known for its rockier soils, warm daytime conditions, and heavy Mistral winds in the late afternoon.
Currently, rosé wines make up 30% of total consumption in France and 17% of high-frequency drinkers in the United States. Over 100 producers in Provence sell their wines in the American market and most are members Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence (CIVP), a non-profit organization that oversees the quality of the fruit and promotes the wines of Provence around the globe.
Grape Expectations: Provence
Whites: Rolle (Vermentino), Ugni Blanc
Reds: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignane, Cinsault, Tibouren, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Taste Sensations: Provence
Pink Wines: As a rule, roses from Provence are not sweet. Instead, many are light and graceful with a crisp, dry finish. Others are more medium-bodied with generous flavors of red berries, fresh herbs, and subtle spices. There are also full-bodied styles which feature more concentrated flavors of wild berries, dark fruits, mineral, dried herbs, firm tannins, and bright acidity.
Red Wines: The total production of red wines from the region is 8%. Many of these wines are Grenache-based blends.
White Wines: Refreshing alternatives to the pink wines of the region, these specialties of the region are more focused on aromas of freshly picked spring flowers, lemon, grapefruit, and lively tropical flavors. Overall, white grapes make up around 4% of all wines produced in the region.
Food Pairings: Provence
When pairing food with the wines from Provence, get imaginative. Of course, the classic bouillabaisse fish stew is at the top of the chart. From there, oysters, appetizers, fresh salads, chilled soups, shellfish, prawns, lobster and sushi come directly to mind. Thanks to the combination of body, texture and high acidity, many of these wines can also be very complimentary to a wide range of fresh salads, gourmet sandwiches, grilled vegetables and meats, turkey burgers, chicken, pork chops, and other special Provencal dishes. On a more adventurous level, think spicy Indian, Mexican and Asian cuisine as well.