France: Provence

Aix en Provence and Les Baux

Wines from Aix en Provence and Les Baux de Provence
By Liz Berry MW

This Guide was last updated on 16 February 2010
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Main appellations

Much infighting in this area results in wines being sold as Vin de Table, Vin de Pays (Alpilles or Bouches du Rhône), or as AC Cotes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, or Les Baux de Provence, all according to the individual producer’s whims.

Côtes de Provence

A total of 13 different grape varieties are allowed for this AC, which is the largest in Provence and has a great variation in vineyard sites. Some of the vineyards are found scattered southeast of Aix, whilst the main part of the AC stretches inland from the coast and into the Massif des Maures and the Alpes Maritimes. Rosés total more than 80% of production, reds account for around 15% and there is a little white too. Although the appellation produces a sea of rather banal rosé wine, there are also some excellent quality wines to be found, in red, white and rosé.

Coteaux d’Aix en Provence

The second largest appellation in Provence by volume, it covers the zone from the Durance River to the Mont Sainte Victoire, mostly in the Bouches du Rhône department, with Rians and Artigues in the department of the Var. It produces mainly rosés and reds with a limited amount of dry white. Traditional reds blend together Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and the local Counoise. However, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon combinations have become increasingly popular. The whites, the best from the northern parts, combine Grenache Blanc with Clairette, Rolle and Bourboulenc, or Ugni Blanc, Sémillon and Sauvignon. This appellation also includes the whites from the Baux region.

Les Baux de Provence

Located at the most westerly point, around the fortified village of Baux, this distinctive microclimate produces mainly reds (80%) and rosés. This sub-region was awarded its own appellation in 1995 and more clearly defined production techniques are implemented resulting in some exciting wines, especially noteworthy reds. Rather confusingly thid AC does not include whites, which are still sold under the former AC Coteaux d’Aix en Provence. The rules are due to be changed to include the numerous whites produced within the area of this appellation. Grape varieties include Grenache, Syrah, with smaller amounts of Mourvèdre, Carignan and (limited) Cabernet Sauvignon for reds and rosés, and Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc for whites.

Côtes de Provence Sainte Victoire

Covering the region to the east of Aix-en-Provence around Sainte Victoire, this newly formed sub-region was created in 2005 to reward wines of this area made with more individuality, slightly lower yields and slightly differing local geology.

Palette

A hilly limestone outcrop on the outskirts of Aix is home to this tiny appellation. Dense, rich reds sometimes referred to as the ‘claret of Provence’, full-bodied rosés and honeyed whites are produced. Around 25 different grape varieties are cultivated here, but Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault are the principal ones used for the reds and rosés, and Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Picpoul and Muscat for the whites. Some ancient Provencal varieties are also still grown here. Several new estates have been developed over the last ten years and there are some very good wines coming from this area.

IGP (Vin de Pays) des Bouches du Rhône

Main IGP (formerly Vin de Pays) designation used in the area for wines of all colours, with rules more flexible than those for the appellations. Many single varietal wines are made under this designation and an increasing number of interesting grape varieties are now being planted experimentally.

IGP (Vin de Pays) des Alpilles

A relatively new IGP (formerly Vin de Pays) designation for wines in this area used by some producers for their single varietal wines. A criticism of some growers is that this designation is a bit of a “me too” cop-out, and the geographic concept of the ‘Alpilles’ has become somewhat extended including growers whose vines are not even within sight of the Alpilles range. Buy with care, the principal growers within the Alpilles do not use this appellation!

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