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Exploring Wines in Provence

Exploring Wines in Provence

Exploring Wines in Provence

Exploring Wines in Provence

I have been lucky enough to spend a good part of this winter in Provence where I made it my mission to find out as much as I could about the region, it's food and it's wines. 

As I first wrote in my article Discovering Ventoux Provence, there was much work to be done and much wine to be tasted. Mission accomplished however, and now it's time to move my (slightly larger) self to a new part of France and begin another journey.

Exploring Wines in Provence

Spring comes early in Provence although the ever present Mistral wind can make things a little Baltic in some places.

Barren sticklike vineyards and orchards are transformed by fragrant blossom and vibrant green foliage. The daily temperature is a comfortable 18-20ºc, restaurant terraces are opening up and lunch outside is a nice change from being inside.

Leaving winter behind marks a change in dining habits from heavier dishes to lighter and in Provence there is no shortage of seasonal produce to choose from.

At the moment it is Asparagus and strawberry season and in a couple of weeks the first cherries of the season will be ready to chow down on.

Along with the change in diet there is also a transition from heavy red wines to lighter reds, whites and, of course, rosé.

Exploring Wines in Provence

Vibrant green olive trees and the almost-always-blue skies of Provence.

Exploring Wines in Provence

The picturesque village of Gordes in southern Provence - well worth a visit.

 

Cotes du Rhone

The red wines of Provence are pretty hearty affairs made using Grenache based blends and are incredibly varied.

The region also borders the famous Rhône Valley and although this article is primarily Provence and it's wines it's really hard not to mention a couple of places that really are just next door and on the other side of the tracks as it were.

Seguret, Sablet and Gigondas are 3 of the 18 villages that make up Côtes du Rhône Villages . These villages are a stones throw away from Carpentras where i'm staying and all produce very different wines. Be sure to click on the links to these places as they each have characteristics that will appeal for different reasons.

You may or may not have heard of these villages before but if you see them around give them a try - you won't be disappointed.

My preference is Gigondas, and I have long been a fan. After a visit to the famous Chateau de Saint Cosmé and a few other vineyards I am an even bigger fan - although my credit card should have been left it home!

Exploring Wines in Provence

While the change of season brings about a change in diet and the need to drink lighter wines there is one style of wine that has, in my opinion, a place at the table all year round.

I am talking about fizz of course!

In Provence there is no shortage of fizz, you just doesn't make enough to export so you rarely see it on supermarket shelves.

A local fizz that I have become rather partial to is a Blanc de Blancs made from chardonnay and by method traditionelle is called La Romaine from the Cave la Romaine which is located in a town called Vaison la Romaine.

Unfortunately I can't find a link to it online but it has super fresh fruit and isn't too toasty making it perfect for all occasions!

Exploring Wines in Provence

Change is a-foot in Provence!

Sure there are great wines being made using traditional grapes and techniques that we are used to BUT times are changing and the face of Provencal wines is getting a lift.

Winemakers have introduced new grape varieties into the region and are starting to use different techniques and blends to produce some incredibly interesting wines.

How can they do that legally?

Well most producers are staying away from the AOC level and produce wines at the VDQS level where they have more flexibility and less restrictions.

(There are a lot of new letters showing up on European wine labels that are confusing to a lot of people  so to understand a bit more about what you're seeing check out this simple explanation from the International Wine Guild)

Not all wines have hit the mark, I can attest to that having tasted a large amount of them during my research (hic!) but some did and in time many more will so watch this space!

Case and point comes from this white that I found at Domaine Champ-Long which is located within arms reach of Carpentras where I am staying.

The wine "Les Gressannes" is made with 50% White Grenache and 50% Rousanne - both usual for whites and indigenous to the area . However, what one saw and what one tasted were totally different.

To the eye the wine was light-bodied, green and crisp almost reminiscent of a sauvignon blanc in appearance. To the nose and palate - the over use of new oak masked any fruit and took away any crispness making it more of a full bodied chard that should have had a deep golden hue but didn't.

The wine was confused!  It was interesting but I don't think it was probably the best representation.

Exploring Wines in Provence

Finally I come to Rosé

Although, sadly, I don't have any photos as the wine's don't seem to last long in our house!

Provence is known for it's rosé's and there is no shortage to choose from.

But which one to choose?

Make no mistake, there are 100's and prices from a couple of Euros to €20 and up - a huge range.

My advice - don't spend too much on rosé but don't opt for the two-buck-chuck option either.

I've tried both - the more expensive are just that, expensive, and for no real quality or taste reason over others of lesser value.

The cheap and cheerful are...hmmm...ok but often leave a bad after taste and are guaranteed to give you a headache.

Look for mid-range price wise - in € around the 5 - 20€ mark.

Location is key to me!

Provence is a big place geographically so as a rule of thumb (and this is my thumb, not others) use these pointers:

The darker the rosé - the more tannic and full bodied the wine. 

Rosé from the northern parts of Provence (Vaucluse, Drôme, Hautes Alps, de Provence) tend to be heavier, tannic and more suited to food than drank on their own.

Lighter wines come from the southern parts of Provence - I love rosé from the Var region, it's almost always light, fruity and refreshing and rarely give me a headache.

Rosé's from the Buches du Rhône region are brilliant with seafood and tend to have a slight saltiness.

Exploring Wines in Provence

The End Bit...

So, i've been in Provence for 3 months and feel like I have just started to scratch the surface wine wise.

The region itself is incredible and I have to admit to being quite smitten with it - there is a reason it is SO popular.

Wine wise - the region is a treasure trove and the lid is just being lifted in terms of quality wine BUT food and wine are religion around these parts and it's hard not to succomb to that.

In the future you will be able to find wines (in your country) from Provence that have labels easier to understand and wines easier to drink. Producers here "get" that to sell their wines people need to know what they are drinking and that good wine has to be in the bottle not any-old-slop .

I can't argue with any of it, the change is a good one and I hope to see more innovative wines in the future.

Put Provence on your list as a place to visit one day - it's worth it.

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