~ Provence, France ~

GEOGRAPHY

Located between the Mediterranean and the Alps, Provence's vineyards extend West to East over approximately 200 kms (120 miles), primarily in the French departments of the Var, Bouches-du-Rhône and, to a lesser extent, in the Alpes-Maritimes.

There are three main appellations in the region (representing 96% of the volume of wines with Provence appellations)

    THE CÔTES DE PROVENCE APPELLATION and the specific denominations of the Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, Côtes de Provence Fréjus and Côtes de Provence La Londe "terroirs",
    THE COTEAUX D'AIX-EN-PROVENCE APPELLATION
    THE COTEAUX VAROIS EN PROVENCE APPELLATION

Each year, 600 winemakers (540 private and 60 cooperative wineries) and 40 buyers/sellers (négociants) produce approximately 170 million bottles (88% Rosé, 9% Red and 3% White) over a total land area of 27,000 hectares. Provence represents 6% of French AOC production for all types of wines. Provence is France's largest producer of AOC rosé wines, representing 40% of domestic production and 5,6% of the world's total Rosé Wine production.

Provence is recognized historically as a producer of Rosé Wines that are pale, fruity and full bodied. But the region's wineries also produce reds that are no less remarkable – powerful and structured wines that can be aged several years – and delicate whites known for their lightness and subtlety.

PROVENCE'S FIRST VINEYARDS

Beginning in the 2nd century B.C., the Romans began settling the lands of the Ligurians, colonized four centuries earlier by the Phocaeans. They developed the first vineyards in the region and founded Provincia Romana (Provence). It was in these days that the military port of Fréjus was founded, along with the Forum Julii and the city of Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence). As the Roman Empire expanded, so did the growing number of vineyards in the conquered lands, including other regions of Gaul: the Rhone Valley, Beaujolais, Burgundy, Gascony and Bordeaux.

THE INFLUENCE OF MONKS AND THE NOBILITY

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, it was not until the High Middle Ages that vineyards would once again begin to flourish in Provence, this time under the influence of the major monastic orders. From the 5th to 12th centuries, the abbeys of Saint-Victor in Marseille, Saint-Honorat on the Lérins Islands off the coast of Cannes, Saint-Pons in Nice and the Thoronet produced wine for more than just consumption by monks or during masses. These wines were carefully sold to fill the coffers of the monastic establishments. Beginning in the 14th century, the most important noble families, honored royal subjects and top officers from the royal army would acquire and oversee many vineyards in Provence, establishing the foundations for modern wine production in the region.

AN EXTREMELY VARIED LANDSCAPE

Two major geological formations coexist in Provence – crystalline and limestone rock masses. The entire northwest portion of Provence's vineyards are comprised of alternating hills and rocky hogbacks that have been sculpted by erosion. This area includes remarkable sites such as the Sainte-Victoire and the Sainte-Baume Mountain chains, and the Gorges of Verdon. Further East, near the sea, the Maures and Tanneron crystalline rock masses emerge. The landscape is much different from those further north. Foothills and small mountains with gentler slopes, covered with shrubbery and woodlands, abound in this region. Moving further East, between Saint-Tropez and Cannes, the crystalline rock mass is broken up by former eruptions of many astonishing rock formations, such as the colored porphyries of the Estérel Massif.