Provence, mon amour!

roman transport
A Gallo-Roman relief depicting the transportation of wine barrels. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

 

Histoire

Rosé is likely the oldest style of wine in the world. The reason for this is usually attributed to the fact that during a time when wine techniques were not as advanced as they are today, rosé was simply the most straightforward and reasonable way to make wine. Grapes were often pressed shortly after harvest, with the resulting juice given only a day or so to macerate (the process of resting juice with grape leftovers to impart color and tannins), producing that quintessential salmon colored wine (in some instances even light, near translucent reds). With enough time, these vin d’une nuit became largely standardized and most people preferred it to the darker, more tannic red wines of the time. This appetite for rosé lasted well into the Middle Ages. However, within the last few years, rosé has been enjoying a nice resurgence of popularity, particularly within the US markets.

This brings us to our preferred style of rosé ,

with a rich history as beautiful as its wines: Provence, France. In the West, the period of wine production began there, around 600 BCE, with the Phocaeans resting their first plantings along the coastal hillsides of Southern France. It didn’t take long for word of these pinks wines of Southern Gaul to catch on, and by the time the Roman Empire arrived (125 BCE) Provence already enjoyed a strong reputation for quality wine.  After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Christian monks were thereafter responsible for the maintenance and development of wine techniques which may have otherwise been lost.

monk
A Medieval depiction of a Christian monk tasting the finished product, much in the same way it is done today. Photo from affinity-holidays-france.com

Provence has been widely affected by the multitude of people and cultures that have passed through it, whether they be inspired growers seeking broader horizons, migrants simply establishing roots, or opportunistic European kings looking to quench their thirst, all have had an indelible effect on the viticulture of Provence making it one of the world’s most diverse and internationally-acclaimed wine regions.

But before we get into it, how does rose even come into being; what is rose?

Summer is hailed as the season of pink wine, which seems appropriate enough considering their playful and inviting hue. But in order to acquire their distinctively pink color a few steps are taken:

First, the grapes (generally red) are pressed of all their juice and cast into a vat along with the stems, seeds, and skins of the grape—this is called the ‘must’. The time these ingredients sit together is called the maceration period, and it is the crucial process of imparting tannin and color to any given wine. As can be expected, red wine has a much longer maceration period than rosé, and as such the former is imparted with a much deeper, ruby tone; rosé is only allowed an exceptionally brief maceration period, absorbing only a small degree of the tannins and color, hence the pink.

maceration
The must undergoing the maceration process. Photo from Winemaker’s Academy

After the maceration period, the juice is separated from the rest of the must ingredients and set aside to ferment and eventually age. Naturally, the aging process is brief, so as to preserve the wine’s crisp and buoyant nature!

van gogh
Vincent Van Gogh’s The Red Vineyards near Arles (1888). Photo from grapecollective.com

 

 

A classic Mediterranean climate, with hot days, cool evenings and minimal rainfall.

lavender
Wild Provencal lavender. Photo from Monrovia.com

 

In fact, Provence receives an average of 3,000 hours of sunlight a year, twice the required amount, giving the grapes a ripe, luscious flavor. Provence is also covered in wild shrubs like lavender and juniper, which many believe have a significant influence on the finished wines!

Provence has many regional grapes growing throughout, producing hundreds of different types of wines. Yet the most common are the following:

Grenache Noir, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvèdre , Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds.

Rolle, Ugni Blanc, Bouboulanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc for the whites.

 

provence_map
Highlighted map of Provencal wine regions. Photo from terroir-france.com

 

Provence can generally be broken into 9 major AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée), demarcated areas for wine production following very strict laws based on traditional practice:

Côtes de Provence AOC is the largest of the 9, producing 85% rosé, with the remaining wines either red or white of modest repute. A noncontiguous region, spanning across 85 communes, Côtes de Provence is further broken into 4 sub-regions with varying conditions

  1. La Londe: Quartz soils, there is little rainfall and a constant sea breeze; primarily Cinsault and Grenache are grown here.
  2. Pierrefeu: Shale soils, the home of wild fennel, where the primary grapes are Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Toulon.
  3. Fréjus: situated along the foothills of Massif de l’Esterel, with volcanic soils ideal for Tibouren (one of those obscure regional grapes).
  4. Sainte-Victoire: predominately limestone and clay based, Sainte-Victoire was made famous by a variety of 19th-Century artists.

Coteaux-d’Aix-en-Provence AOC dates all the way back to 600 BCE and was a widely-known favorite of 15th-Century royal courts. Here, rosé blends are made of the Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Syrah blend.

Coteaux Varois en Provence is the “Heart of Provence”, and appropriately located at the center of the region. It contains a multitude of limestone mountain ranges and as such has many different meso-climates. Situated at a high altitude, these grapes experience slow ripening, producing wines with good acidity, structure, and a complexity of flavor.

Coteaux de Pierrevert typically produces rosé using the Saignée method, the extraction of a portion of the juice from the must so as to impart a deeper concentration of flavor to the remaining juice. Typically, the Saignée method is used on a primary red wine, with the separated “bleed off” then made into rosé; effectively taking a high-end red wine and making rosé out of it.

Bandol, the Great House of Mourvèdre! Sun-drenched, well-draining limestone soils of Bandol are ideal for Mourvèdre, producing their signature reds. While the soils can also produce equally as elegant whites and rosés, Bandol is best known for its 95% Mourvèdre red wines.

Cassis was the first AOC of Provence, and is situated just along the Mediterranean south of Marseilles along the cliffs of the Massif des Calanques. Cassis is covered in limestone and produces primarily white wines made from Marsanne and Clairette, featuring elegant aromas of grapefruit and earth.

Bellet, off on the eastern edge of Provence, near the city of Nice, is the AOC of strange varietals. The main white grape is Rolle (Vermentino in Italy), but Bellet is also the only Provence AOC allowed to grow Chardonnay. The rosés are of the Braquet and Folle Noir variety, featuring a distinct aroma of rose petals.

Palette is the smallest of the Provence AOCs (only 100 acres!), just below Coteaux-d’Aix-en-Provence. Grapes were first cultivated here by the Romans in 100BCE, who recognized its rich limestone-clay soils as ideal for quality wine production. Now, over 2,000 years later, Palette maintains very strict regulations: all harvesting is done by hand, with specific aging and blending rules. Over 25 varietals are used here, with the main grape as Mourvèdre; reds receive 18 months in oak, with rosé and whites receiving 8 months.

Les Baux-de-Provence is home to the val d’Enfer (Valley of Hell), as it is the warmest region in all of Provence. The vineyards lie off the hillsides of the Alpilles Mountains, where the terrain is rugged and dry, capable of growing little other than grapes. Here the organic and biodynamic wines of Provence can be found (composing 41% of all its wine production!), as the terroir is ideal for such purposes. The wines are primarily reds of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

From July 23-July 30, all our Provence Roses are 10% off! And just look how pretty that are:

our roses

 And don’t forget to download our MOBILE DELIVERY APP for even more deals!

Santé,

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