France: Provence

Inland Provence

Côtes de Provence and Coteaux Varois Wines from the Hillsides
By Elizabeth Gabay MW

This Guide was last updated on 12 February 2010
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Main wine styles

Reds

Blended wines are still popular, especially for the main wines of each estate and are on the whole, robust with southern flavours. There also lighter, fresher styles for drinking young, and often labelled as Vin de Pays and made with a greater proportion of Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache – the old Provencal stalwarts. But there is an increasing number of good wines with the structure to age for a few years often made with high percentages of a single variety – Syrah and Mourvèdre in particular and often from old vines. Most of the latter will have been oak aged.  A growing number of winemakers are also experimenting with fermenting different varieties together (an old tradition and now a new trend) as well as pigeage (punch down) and extended maceration.

Rosés

Ranging from a pale pink/onion skin hue to dark pink, rosés may look beautiful, but to my mind are often better seen in the glass than in the mouth – apart from the odd exception or on seriously hot, leisurely days. Since 2003, the hotter vintages have resulted in an increase in alcohol levels, threatening to unbalance the traditional Provencal rosé. Since the vintage of 2008, the rules have been changed to allow for 4g/l residual sugar in the wine – the end result is that instead of very dry high alcohol wines, the alcohol is lower and the wines will be rounder and richer.

Dry whites

The traditional Provencal white wine is made from a blend - Ugni Blanc for acidity, Clairette for softness and perfume, Grenache Blanc for weight and any other oddments - resulting in dry wines, herby fruit but either a little robust and needing to be drunk very cool, or soft and mellow for early drinking. These wines are still available in quantity. But there is a growing amount of better quality white wine being produced often using Rolle either as a Vin de Pays single varietal wine or with an obligatory 5%-10% Ugni Blanc for acidity. With careful use of barrique ageing - these are showing potential to age well.

Sweet whites

Whilst not officially recognised by the appellation regulations, there are an increasing number of producers making a range of sweet wines (Thuerry, Roubine, St Jeannet, St Joseph among others) which are well worth looking out for.

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