Provence Wines: France’s Most Underrated Region

A sun-soaked vacation in Provence ranks high on the bucket lists of many travelers. Rightfully so, considering the numerous pristine beaches along the crystalline blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Not to mention the charming villages sprinkled along the coast, each boasting historic sites and impeccable restaurants. Though travelers flock here year after year, the wines of Provence have flown somewhat under the wine world’s radar. Well, unless we’re talking about the region’s world-famous refreshing rosés. Yet Provence has so much more to offer than wine lovers favorite pink drink. In recent years, lesser-known appellations for Provence wines have started making a name for themselves.

Provence is situated along the coast in the southeast corner of France. It’s bound by the Rhône River to the west and the breathtaking Côte d’Azur to the east. The rugged mountainous terrain of the region delivers a range of elevations, soils, and microclimates for growers to work with. These hillsides also protect vineyards from the mistral winds gusting through the region.
The Provençal terrain is mainly dominated by limestone and crystalline soils. Each contribute to the brisk acidity of Provence wines. Plus, these poor, well-drained soils are ideal for growing quality grapes from an array of varieties.
A ton of wild lavender, juniper, and other Mediterranean shrubs grow throughout the region. They’re thought to influence the aromas and flavors of the wines of Provence with their distinctive fragrance. This quality is known as garrigue when the wild shrubs grow on limestone and clay soils. Alternatively, it’s called maquis when the plants grow on the crystalline schist soils of the region.

Grapes Grown in Provence
Did you know Provence is where the vine was first introduced to France? Around 2,600 years ago, when the Phocaeans first founded Marseille, they brought their grapevines with them.
Over the last 26 centuries, winemaking has come a long way in Provence. Today, there are more than a dozen grape varieties planted in the region. Consequently, the winemakers of Provence are masters at crafting balanced and harmonious blends.
Common White Grape Varieties in Provence

Also known as Vermentino, Rolle is a grape variety which has always grown in Provence. It’s known for citrus, pear, almond, and fennel flavors. The variety balances blends and contributes weight on the palate.
Ugni Blanc
In Tuscany where the variety originated, Ugni Blanc is known as Trebbiano. It’s a vigorous and productive vine known for making fruity, elegant wines.

A traditional variety in Provence, Clairette contributes aromas of white flowers, hazelnut, and apricot to blends along with a rich mouthfeel.

This vigorous variety is used sparingly in blends, as its aromas and richness can overshadow other grapes. In small proportions, Sémillon rounds out blends and adds aromas of honey, apricot, and white flowers.

Grenache Blanc
Initially from Spain, Grenache Blanc makes full-bodied, opulent wines with low acidity. Expect peach, melon, and delicate floral aromas.

A rustic variety indigenous to Provence, Bourboulenc is mainly used to add elegance and roundness to blends with its citrus and floral aromas.
Prominent Red Grape Varieties in Provence

This variety of Spanish origin has great resistance to the heavy winds common in the region, as well as potential drought conditions. Grenache brings body and intensity to blends, along with spicy red fruit aromas and flavors.

Native to Provence, Cinsault has long been used in the production of the region’s famed rosés. It brings freshness and vivaciousness to wines with a fruity character to support the other grapes in the blend.

Syrah is known for distinctive, deeply colored wines with rich tannins and a plush mouthfeel. It adds to the age-ability of blends while contributing black fruit notes and meaty aromas.

Long established in Provence, Mourvèdre is known for its power and a robust tannic structure. Its wines have aromas of violet, blackberries, and elegant spices with a velvety, supple texture.

Indigenous to Provence, Tibouren only grows in Var and nowhere else in France. It’s ideal for rosés, producing elegant, delicate wines and lifting the other aromas in the blend.

A traditional variety of the south of France, Carignan expresses best when produced in low yields. It’s often found on hillside sites with poor soils in Provence. Carignan adds generous structure and color to blends while producing wines with raspberry, cherry, and prune aromas.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Though used sparingly in Provence wines, Cabernet Sauvignon offers tannic structure with great aging potential. This Bordeaux variety showcases black currant, green pepper, and tobacco aromas.
Côtes de Provence Wine Styles
Red wines typically have an intense ruby red color and fruity notes of strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and black currant with supple tannins. Some can be age worthy and express aromas of spices and garrigue.
Rosés from this AOC produce wines with a pale pink color and a range of aromatics including a variety of citrus, red fruit, exotic fruit, and herbal aromas. These Provence wines are clean and refreshing on the palate with tangy acidity.
White wines are generally a pale-yellow color in the glass with delicate aromas of pear, exotic fruits, citrus, herbs, and florals. They’re often generous but not overly opulent on the palate with vibrant acidity.

The Soul of the Wines of Provence
The best way to explore the wines of Provence is to open the doors of the region’s many cellars to immerse in the culture. Tasting well-known or unsung wines, talking, and listening to the secrets which Provençal winemakers are keen to share. Wine tourism is more than a new kind of tourism. It is also a lifestyle, where you can get closer to the land, the terroir and the winemaker.
Now that summer days are around the corner, visit Pheló to recommend the perfect Provence wine for you and we can tell you more about this underrated region. You will be surprised!