By Vins de Provence
Terroir is present in every glass of rosé. To be more specific, terroir is present in the pale pink hued wines of the Vins de Provence AOP. All of the history, research, and know-how of generations combined with the natural elemental gifts of the region make for some of world’s finest and most unique examples of rosé. Let it be said that there is a sense of place in the rosés of Provence; it just might take a little bit of willingness on the taster’s part to understand it.
At the forefront of research and development for promoting diversity and sense of place in its wines, Vins de Provence rosés have risen in popularity, often thought of as a “brand” when one thinks of rosé wine. This was not a blind stroke of luck. It came through the research and promotion of techniques to make the region’s rosé wines better each and every harvest by their own research institute solely devoted to rosé wines, the Centre du Rosé. A major reason for the success of the Vins de Provence, the Centre du Rosé has helped provide a focus on quality−and pursuit of higher levels of that quality−which has come to be what separates the rosés of Provence from those in the rest of the world. It is also what allows them to highlight the diversity of terroir that exists throughout the region. Exceptional quality and diversity combined with the cultural winemaking traditions that have evolved over the millennia that wine has been produced in Provence make it is easy to see why Vins de Provence rosé has become so iconic.
The region, composed of three appellations and five sub-appellations, presents a dynamic and curiosity-rewarding pursuit should one decide to undertake it.
Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence AOP
The Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence AOP is located to the northwest in the region of Provence and heavily influenced by the Mistral wind. The region stretches from the Durance River in the north to the southern coast of France, just north of Marseille. The location of an individual winery plays an important role in the style of wine that is produced. If a vineyard is more inland, it will be heavily influenced by continental climatic conditions as well as the effects of the Mistral. This can make for wines with more body, texture and red berried fruit character. Vineyards closer to the coast will produce wines that have a light airiness to them characterized by bright fruit and floral notes. The soils in the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence AOP are predominantly calcareous, with lots of stony clay and limestone, which helps promote the refreshing acidity that is often prevalent in these wines.
Coteaux Varois en Provence AOP
The Coteaux Varois en Provence AOP is another great example of the variations in terroir that exist in the region as a whole. It is the smallest of the three major appellations but has the largest continental climatic influence due to the mountainous terrain and change in elevation. Though possibly most important in the Coteaux Varois en Provence AOP is the highly calcareous soil. There are sections with gravel and flint, even calcareous clay, however, it is the predominance of calcareous soils that is a major defining factor in the finished wines. They tend to have more structure and depth than other coastal and Mediterranean influenced areas, providing for more body and texture in the wines which can improve with even a small amount of aging.
Côtes de Provence AOP
Located in the middle of the region is the Côtes de Provence AOP and its five subregions (or Terroir Designations), making it the most diverse appellation of the three.
The appellation varies from heavy maritime influenced wines from the sub-regions of La Londe and Fréjus, to the more inland region of Sainte Victoire. La Londe and Fréjus are coastal and have a mixture of soils that dominate their regions. Specially, Schiste for La Londe and red volcanic soils for Frejus.
The newest subregions to gain classification are the sub-regions Pierrefeu and Notre Dame des Anges. Being more centrally located, the Pierrefeu and Notre Dame des Anges sub-regions have influences and soils from both coastal and inland regions. The wines from these two Terroir Designations tend to reflect the mixture in climatic influences and soil types that are present in the regions. They are the meeting point of the continental and coastal styles of rosé.
The next time you reach for a bottle of Vin de Provence rosé, take a moment to consider its origins and what influences might make it taste the way it does, because not all rosé is created equal.