Provence, which stretches from Nîmes to Nice, is best known as a bottomless source of pink wine. But across the region, numerous Provence appellations produce highly distinctive red wines that express multiple variations on a ripe, Southern theme; the most famous appellation is Bandol, which is noted for powerful game- and earth-scented red wines based on the sturdy, late-ripening Mourvedre grape. Coteaux d'Aix en Provence also produces predominantly red Provence wines, as do Les Baux de Provence and Coteaux Varois. Farther inland, Cotes du Luberon has emerged as an area with potential for finer white and red wines, thanks to its higher elevation and extended growing season. Provence, incidentally, is a center of organic viticulture, as the warm, dry growing season and Mistral wind normally prevent rot, mildew, and other vine maladies that normally call for chemical treatments.
Varietals Grown in the Provence
Most red wines of Provence feature Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut, and Carignane. Provençal red wines are usually boldly flavored, solidly built, medium-bodied wines, with moderate to pronounced tannic structure. They pair well with the assertively flavored meat and game dishes of the region, especially lamb and venison.
Other Varietals Grown in the Provence
White wines from Provence are made from Ugni Blanc, Rolle, Semillon, and the Rhone varieties Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, and Clairette. Viognier has begun to make inroads, as has Roussanne. These Provencal wines are usually simple, straightforward, regional curiosities that should be drunk as soon as possible following release, because they have a tendency to oxidize rapidly. The best versions are excellent when matched with the seafood-based cuisine of the Mediterranean coast, as well as with the spices and herbs used so liberally in Provençal cuisine. Some of the most compelling white wines of Provence are made in Cassis, but, due to strong local demand for these vibrant wines, only a tiny amount makes its way into export channels.