Land and History
Origins that date back thousands of years
The Phoceans started planting vines on this sunny land 26 centuries ago. Landing in Marseilles, the Greeks were effectively the first French wine producers. Still ignoring the process of macerating juices, they would have probably been producing rosé wine. The Romans took over in IInd century BC. The culture of the wine spread across the region in their wake along the Via Romana.
The monastic Orders maintained viticulture throughout the Middle-Ages. The wines of the Abbey of Saint Victor in Marseilles disappeared but those from Saint-Honorat on the Lerins Islands, off the coast of Cannes, remain very well-known today. Little by little, during the Renaissance, some prestigious estates appeared, managed by eminent noble families. After the phylloxera crisis, at the end of the XIXth century, the Provence wine-growing world rebuilt itself, albeit with difficulty. The establishment, in 1935, of the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO), Cassis was granted one of the first appelations in France, at the same time as Châteauneuf, Sauterne and Arbois.
Rosé is in fashion nowadays. The summery colour resonates with the name « Provence » and it is such a pleasure to sip it on holiday with your feet dangling in the water. Accounting for 38% of national production, the region is the highest producing for French AOC Rosé wines and represents 8% of global production.
A range of AOC wines
The vast majority of the 20 500 hectares within the AOC Côte de Provence appellation, established in 1977, is dedicated to rosé wine. The region also produces excellent red and white wines. Three denominations showcase certain areas in the region: La Londe, Fréjus and Sainte-Victoire. The AOC Côte de Provence, Côteaux varois in Provence and Côteaux d’Aix en Provence represent 96% of the AOC wines in the region. Of the remaining 4% sit the prestigious AOC Bandol, with its excellent rosés, the AOC Palette, with its highly reputable reds, and the AOC Cassis, with its famous whites.
Sun and wind
The Provence region is in fact a very diverse mix of land: the climate differs widely between the estates on the coast, influenced by the sea, and the estates inland, that suffer harsh winters. The importance of the limestone in the geological makeup of the soil in Alpilles, Sainte-Baume and Sainte-Victoire, is characteristic of the region. With poor soils, perfect for vines, maximum sunlight and a dry climate, regularly swept by gusts of Mistral wind, the land in the Provence region have great qualities for the culture of the vine.
WHO IS WHO
With light like nowhere else, the Provence has always fascinated and welcomed artists. Van Gogh in Arles, Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence.. and further afield, towards the Côte d’Azur: Paul Signac in Saint-Tropez, Renoir in Cagnes, Pierre Bonnard in Le Cannet, Picasso in Antibes, Fernand-Leger in Biot, Chagall in Vence, Matisse in Nice, etc, etc. A myriad of other names could also be on the list. Painters, sculptors, as well as writers, directors, actors, composers… the whole cultural set met along the Riviera, Georges Sand, Nietzsche, Maupassant, Francis Scott Fitzgerald (whose wild parties with his wife Zelda remain engraved in people’s memories) and enjoyed the southern sun in the early XXth century. In Saint-Tropez, the Caroubiers house, where Colette lived, never emptied. Then, Françoise Sagan, who became famous from her novel Bonjour Tristesse, brought in her trail a band of night owls, among whom Roger Vadim. Shortly after that he would film “And God created Woman” on the Bay of Pampelune with Brigitte Bardot. With her, this fishing village, under the light of the projectors, became the unmissable meeting place for all the stars. Ever since, each summer, the jet-set comes together around the small colourful port. Some of them have even moved in all year round. Billionaires and celebrities like Bernard Arnault, Vincent Bolloré, Michel Platini, etc now rub shoulders on the peninsula of Saint-Tropez.
A little further inland in the Var, the palm for glamour goes to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who recently moved to the Château de Miraval.
On the Provence side, the Alpilles are brilliant rivals: less sequins, more elegances, they shelter stars with simplicity and discretion.. Inès de la Fressange, Charlotte de Turckheim, Jean Reno, Michel Drucker or Pierre Bergé amongst others.