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All you wanted to know about Provencal wine!

Provence! The mere name invokes images of fields filled with lavender and sunflowers, bustling markets stocked with locally produced delicacies and plenty of sun. It’s not always the first region that springs to mind when talking about French wine however. Overlooked it may have been, but that’s rapidly changing and Provençal wines are soaring in popularity. And so they should… wine has been produced in Provence for over 2,600 years so the regions winemakers have definitely had time to perfect their craft! Whilst Red and White wines are produced here, Provence is becoming famous for its Rosé with some 88% of the regions production devoted to it. There is even a research institute dedicated to the style which shows just how seriously Rosé is being taken in Provence! A little bit about Rosé People often wonder just how Rosé gets its beautiful pink colour. The assumption is often that a Rosé starts life as a wine produced from white grapes and acquires its colour throughout the production process. Whilst this is true of a small number of Rosés, most (including those produced in Provence) are produced using the juice from Red grapes in what is known as the Maceration Method. When red wine grapes are crushed, the juice produced is actually white, not red as you might expect! Red wines acquire their colour from the crushed grape skins which are left to ferment in the juice for an extended period. For Rosé, the winemaker leaves the crushed grape skins in contact with the juice for a much shorter period. As you might imagine, for a paler colour Rosé the skins are removed more quickly and for a darker Rosé they are left in for longer. However, you’re talking hours instead of days or weeks when compared to a Red wine. Concentration is required from the winemaker as a distraction at this stage might result in a batch of Red not Rosé wine! 2 Best served chilled, Rosé makes a perfect aperitif but also is fantastic when paired with food and is enjoyed from lunchtime onwards! In a hot climate it really is incredibly refreshing which makes it perfect for Provence. The region So why does Provence produce such fantastic wines? A significant factor is the climate. Vines need around 1,400 hours of sunshine to produce ripe fruit. Provence has on average 3,000 hours of sunshine a year – my apologies if this makes you a little envious if you’re currently in colder climes! These long sunny days ensure there is ample opportunity for the grapes to achieve the perfect level of ripeness before being harvested. Provence has a reputation for sunshine, but you might also have heard of the Provencal Mistral Winds, famous for bringing sometimes bitterly cold weather in the depths of winter. We shiver in them for a couple of weeks a year, but in summer, with the cold gone, they actually help keep the vines free of pests and nice and dry ensuring the grapes don’t get an opportunity to rot on the vines. In addition to the perfect climate, the Provençal landscape also plays a significant role. We have a diverse landscape here with numerous mountain ranges which help break the land up into gentle slopes and sheltered valleys. Vines love a slope and thrive in the limestone soils found across much of the region. 6 In common with most wine growing areas of France, Provence is broken up into 9 main wine growing regions or AOC (Appellation de’Origin Contrôlée). Growers are restricted on what types of grapes they can grow and how many can be harvested annually. Rules dictate the blending percentages of different varieties, the alcohol and sugar content. This means you should know exactly what you’re buying and that the wine will (hopefully) be of a high standard! Drinking! So, enough about how the stuff is made – what about drinking it! Well, without doubt the best place to enjoy Provençal wine is right here, in Provence! Everything just fits perfectly… the sun, the scents from lavender, the view of fields of sunflowers all go to complement the glass of chilled Rosé you hold in your hand. It’s an incredibly refreshing drink on a hot summers day and works well with almost all foods. The ideal choice for a Provencal picnic lunch of breads, cheeses, some incredible tomatoes and a fresh green salad. Or if you’re sitting down to a more substantial evening meal let’s not forget the amazing red and white wines produced in this region too! I’d suggest a crisp white made from Clairette grapes grown in the Cassis region – these whites have a wonderful elegance and intense aromas of citrus and honey. 4 For the red drinkers amongst you, try a red wine from the Bandol region and made with up to 95% Mourvèdre grapes for a rich, intense experience. Vineyards If all this talk of Provençal wine has made you want to throw some clothes in a bag and hop on the next plane down here (it’s worth the trip I promise!) then you’ll want to take the time to visit a vineyard or two for the full ‘Provençal Wine’ experience! There are hundreds of Vineyards producing all manner of spectacular wines dotted across Provence. From large Chateaus to small local producers you’re spoiled for choice. Many Vineyards will happily welcome you in, show you around and provide you with a tasting session, often without charge, hoping you’ll like what you try and drive away with a few bottles! It’s a great way to explore new areas and you may well discover a hidden gem of a wine! The two vineyards I know best and would recommend a visit to are Moulin de la Roque and Domaine des Salettes. Both are located within 20 minutes of Bandol on the South West coast of Provence. The sea air may just go towards accounting for the particularly spectacular wine they produce! 1 Moulin de la Roque was founded in 1950 and has been producing wines ever since. Set over 305 hectares the vineyard benefits from a micros-climate favourable to producing the optimal ripeness of Mourvèdre grapes (mentioned earlier). The vineyard makes the most of modern winemaking techniques using state-of-the-art equipment whilst applying ancestral methods to the wine production which have been passed down through generations. Picking of the grapes is exclusively done by hand with each batch of grapes being meticulously checked for ripeness and soundness. Such attention to detail ensures some spectacular vintages are produced. You’ll be more than welcome to visit the Vineyard – take the opportunity to enjoy a half or full day’s tasting session hosted by Jean-Luc Poinsot, an esteemed winemaker of 10 years experience. Jean-Luc will guide you through the Bandol terroir, the history of Mouline de La Roque and explain the different stages of wine making before you’re invited to taste between 6 and 8 wines (definitely a highlight of the experience!). If you opt for a full days wine tasting then you’ll also be provided with a sumptuous lunch and taken on a tour of the Vineyard and historic winery. 5 Domaine des Salettes is another stunning Vineyard, located in the heart of the Bandol appellation. They produce 10 unique wines including the rather fab ‘Ooh Sallettes!’ range. Domaine des Salettes has belonged to the same family since 1604. The Vineyard has a strong focus on sustainable production and is currently converting to fully organic status. You will receive a warm welcome from the Vineyard which is open to the public from May through to the end of September each year. No appointment is necessary and you’ll be able to enjoy a tasting session if you wish! Just make sure you leave enough room in the car to take a few bottles (or perhaps a case or two) away with you! Red, White or Rosé… whichever you choose, there is a vibrancy and freshness to Provençale wines that you don’t find anywhere else. If you’re able to come and experience them for yourself here in Provence then so much the better. But if you can’t make the trip just yet then don’t despair! Many Vineyards and Wine Merchants will be able to ship bottles straight to your door, almost no matter where you are in the world. Just remember to drink the Rosé cold and preferably in the sun! Santé! Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Su Stephens

Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. Olives & Vines is a luxury holiday company based in the South of France offering stays at their beautifully designed holiday house and boutique hotel in Le Castellet.

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One Comment

  1. 2,600 years is incredible, I never would have guessed that. Rosé is definitely my favourite wine, it’s definitely the most likeable out of the wines – especially for those who aren’t huge fans of alcohol! I can imagine that Provence is a beautiful place to escape to.

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