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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The deserted medieval fortified town of Les Baux-de-Provence in the rock outcrops of the Alpilles. © Mick Rock/Cephas.
The area around Aix en Provence is known for its tourism, for its warm climate and amazing light, especially in winter, and for the numerous artists who have settled in this region, including Vasarely and Cézanne, who lived and painted around the town of Aix en Provence, and Van Gogh, who lived for several years in Arles and later in Saint Rémy de Provence. The town of Aix combines the charm of old architecture with a juxtaposition of modern buildings, and a number of excellent museums and art galleries. The best vineyard sites around Aix are on the slopes of Mont Sainte Victoire.
Les Baux de Provence is about an hour’s drive from Aix and the village includes the spectacular ruins of a medieval fortress that juts out of the skyline. The vineyards of the Baux area are around a chain of mini-mountains; the Alpilles. Much of this beautiful, but tourist-infested area has now become a national nature reserve. The vineyards are on the slopes to the north and south of the Alpilles, intermingled with olive groves, and wine quality here has dramatically improved over the past five years. Where vineyards are on flatter land, with more alluvial soil, producers sell their wines as Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône and there are some good, inexpensive varietal wines to be found. Formerly a site of bauxite mining, the Alpilles range is also one of France’s most important olive oil producing regions.
The Provence vineyard region extends from Les Baux in the west to Nice in the east and as far north as the Gorges du Verdon. The Mediterranean climate provides over 3000 hours of sunshine each year and little rain. Temperatures north of the Sainte Victoire can be several degrees cooler than those around Aix, and rainfall can also vary, being higher around Aix than further west around Les Baux. Harvest along the coast is usually a good month earlier than the more northerly vineyards. The Mistral wind and, sometimes violent, thunderstorms are the main threats to the vineyards.
The ridge of the Alpilles runs roughly east-west between Salon de Provence and Arles, with Saint Rémy de Provence to the north, and Maussane les Alpilles to the south. Olive groves and vines flourish on the limestone scree and cretaceous marly hillsides. At Salon de Provence the vineyards spill eastwards to the encroaching urbanism of Aix, and south to the Etang de Berre and the coast, where soils vary from alluvial sands to limestone. There are mainly limestone soils near Aix, at Les Baux, the limestone is enriched with bauxite.
The fastest route to Aix en Provence from Paris is the A6 to Lyon and the Rhône Valley. From here take the A7 towards Marseille and then the A8 direct to Aix. The wine region of Les Baux de Provence is about one hour’s drive from Aix en Provence taking the A8/A7 and A54, and a similar distance north of Marseille, and south of Avignon. By train, the TGV runs from Paris to Nice stopping at Avignon, journey time 2 hours and 40 minutes and Marseille, three hours. The region is also serviced by several international airports, the largest being at Marseille, others nearby are at Nîmes, Avignon or Toulon.
Aix en Provence Tourist Office
2 Place du Général de Gaulle, 13100 Aix en Provence
Les Baux de Provence Tourist Office
Maison du Roy, Rue Porte Mage, 13520 les Baux de Provence
Arles Tourist Office,
43 Boulevard de Craponne, 13200 Arles
Tel: 04 90 18 32 60
Provence Wines Council
Maison des Vins, N7, 83460 Les Arcs sur Argens
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