This historic region sits along the Mediterranean coast of France, bordered by the Rhone River to the west and the Côte d’Azur on the east. Physically, it’s only about 150 miles long and 100 miles north to south but its impact is profound. Wine has been made here for over 2600 years, making Provence the oldest wine producing region of France. It is also the only place to focus on Rosé and is home to the only research institute dedicated to the style.
Provence is blessed with a fantastic climate, especially for grapes! The region gets lots of sunshine and not too much rain with warm days and cool evenings. The Mediterranean moderates the temperatures and the famous “Mistral” wind keeps the vineyards dry, free of pests and the skies clear.
Tons of Sun: Vines need a minimum of 1400 hours of sunshine (degree days) to produce ripe fruit. Provence averages 2700-3000 hours per year.
The geography is diverse with numerous mountain ranges that texture the landscape providing gentle slopes (vines love hills!) and sheltered valleys. The soils are diverse as well. Limestone rules in the western part of Provence where the land was once covered by a warm, shallow ancient sea. Travel east and the soil is mostly chrystalline schist (granite) and, in one small area, volcanic.
Throughout Provence, wild, resinous shrubs like rosemary, juniper, thyme and lavender grow almost everywhere. Many say these plants, collectively called “Garrigue” (on limestone/clay) or ‘Maquis” (when growing on crystalline schist), influence the character of the wines.
With all these different soils, climate, altitude and historical influences, it only makes sense that Provence is home to many varieties of grapes. Some of them will be familiar and some not so much as they are found only here:
White Wine Grapes:
White grapes of Provence include:
Rolle (aka Vermentino)
Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano)
Red Wine Grapes:
Most of the traditional red grapes are found elsewhere in France and the Mediterranean; these include:
Have you heard of Tibouren, Braquet, Calitour, Folle Noir and Barbaroux? These are some of the more obscure and unique red varieties of Provence.
About 36 wine varieties are allowed in Provence. They originate from France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Hungary.