Wines along the coast to Fréjus
By Elizabeth Gabay MW
This Guide was last updated on 15 January 2010
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More than 13 different grape varieties are allowed for this AC, which is the largest in Provence and has a great variation in vineyard sites. There is a patch of vineyards between Cassis and Bandol and then the vineyards extend along the Mediterranean coast from Toulon to Saint Tropez, where it can be particularly windy, and continue to just east of Saint Raphael. Some of the vineyards are also found scattered southeast of Aix en Provence, whilst the main part of the AC stretches inland from the coast, into the valleys of the Massif des Maures and further north along the river plains. There is one vineyard in the Alpes Maritimes. Rosés, total around 80% of production, reds account for around 15% and there is a little white too.
A few vineyards are officially known as cru classé and this is a term seen on some labels. It reflects the historic importance of the châteaux built near the ports and the relative wealth of the great landowners in this region, but does not necessarily indicate a better wine.
Small sub-appellation created in 2005 at the eastern end of the main AC Côtes de Provence in the valley between L'Esterel and Les Maures. There is a strong maritime influence here which gives cooler maritime breezes and slightly higher rainfall than further inland. This, combined with the large proportion of volcanic soils results in distinctive wines – the reds are often very closed and austere when young. It is exclusively for red (20% of the total) and rosé wines made primarily from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Cinsault, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon are not allowed to be used.
A small sub-appellation, which like Fréjus, benefits from the maritime climate – Hyères is the most southerly point of mainland France and the Ile de Porquerolles a short boat journey away is level with Corsica. Abundant tropical vegetation is proof of the warmer climate and is reflected in the opulent, rich almost New World style of big wines. The reds in particular are very approachable and fruity when young.
One of the smallest appellations in France, created in 1941, with only 15 domaines scattered between suburban villas on the hills of Crémat, Saint Saveur and Saquier to the north of Nice. Rising to 350m altitude, these hills and the wide valley of the river Var below were at one time covered in farms and market gardens as well as green-houses providing flowers and exotic fruit for the coast. The vineyards all face south south-east towards the peninsula of Antibes for maximum sunshine. Coastal winds keep the vineyards cool and dry and the gravely shingle soil (called ‘poudingue’) poor and well drained. Red Bellet wines, made from local grape varieties (Folle Noire and Braquet), tend to be lighter in weight with firm mineral tannins and rarely aged in new oak.
There are a number of IGP (formerly Vins de Pays) designations that can be used by producers within this micro-region. The most commonly used are the departmental ones of IGP du Var and IGP des Alpes Maritimes. Rules are more flexible than for AC wines, so many wines are from a single grape variety that would not be permitted under the AC rules. Quality and style varies tremendously.
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