France: Provence

Coastal Provence

Wines along the coast to Fréjus
By Elizabeth Gabay MW

This Guide was last updated on 15 January 2010
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Main grape varieties

Red

Mourvèdre
This late ripener thrives well in the hot, sunny climate of La Londe, Porquerolle and Bandol, but further inland and in even marginally cooler areas, it often fails to ripen fully and gives a hint of greenness to the blends: the older the vines, the riper the fruit. It provides extra structure and fruit concentration in blends with Grenache and Cinsault.

Grenache
Widely planted variety used in red wine blends and also rosés. Adds depth, richness and sugar (alcohol).

Syrah
Adds life expectancy to typical Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre blends, and is increasingly partnered with Cabernet Sauvignon. In the AC Côtes de Provence rules have been laid in place for a 60% minimum of Syrah in the blend from 2000, 70% minimum from 2005 and 80% from 2015.

Cinsault
A high yielding variety that is resistant to drought. Results in light soft reds and is particularly suitable in rosé blends since it adds freshness, alcohol and fruity aromas.

Carignan
Ancient Mediterranean variety that is robust and productive resulting in wines with high acidity, tannins and colour that are best blended with Grenache and Cinsault. Considerable amounts of Carignan have been ripped up as a solution to the general wine surplus problem. Old vines however do produce some rich, intense wines which are well worth looking out for. The AC Côtes de Provence now stipulates a 40% maximum in the blend – so look out for good Carignan as Vin de Pays.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Growing in popularity throughout, although there is small movement towards returning to a higher percentage of more traditional varieties. Provides colour, structure and aroma when harvested with lower yields. Côtes de Provence regulations from 2008 stipulate a 30% maximum.

Tibouren
Indigenous, dark-berried early-ripening variety that adds elegance and herby aromas to rosés in particular. Suffers from late spring frosts, so most successful along the warmer coast. Disease problems has led to a decline in the planting of Tibouren.

Braquet
Also known as Brachetto in Piedmont, this is THE variety of the red and rosé wines of Bellet. An early ripener, it gives the wines (in good examples) their characteristic strawberry-floral aroma which, according to old wives' tales is because flowers used to be grown next to the vines…

Folle Noir
The name derives from the Nicois (Nice dialect) ‘fuella’ meaning capricious, reflecting the growers' battles with this grape. Another mainstay of Bellet reds, it can provide fresh floral aromas but also a slightly reductive-style nose when the wine needs to be allowed to breathe


White

Ugni Blanc
An Italian variety (Trebbiano) originally imported and planted by the papal court in Avignon. Used extensively in white wine blends.

Clairette
Traditional variety that thrives on dry soils. Tends to result in flabby wines, and therefore often blended often with the more acidic Ugni Blanc when it contributes perfume and floral fruit.

Bourboulenc
Ancient white variety, cultivated throughout southern France, thought to have originated from Greece. Blends well with Grenache Blanc.

Marsanne
More commonly associated with Roussanne in the Rhône. Its good productivity has increased its popularity. Modern wine making techniques have ironed out its tendency to produce flabby wines. Useful blending ingredient especially with Rolle.

Sémillon
Adds texture, body and richness to blends.

Rolle
This variety, identical to the Vermentino of Corsica, is used particularly for aromatic whites. Adds elegance to the structure of blends. Increasingly used (unofficially) as the sole variety in the best Provencal white wines.

Chardonnay
Frequently blended with Rolle, especially in the white wines of Bellet.

Viognier
Growing in popularity as part of a blend or as a Vin de Pays varietal wine.


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