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Rolling fields of lavender and sunflowers, sun splashed vistas of the Mediterranean sea, serene groves of Picholine and Nicoise olive trees, languorous lunches with many and various bottles of Rosé. Summer in Provence yields us idyllic images like these from books and movies, from tales we’ve heard and from our own memories. Rosé can’t be separated from Provence because about 90% of the wine Provence makes is Rosé. And yet, because Rosé is the region’s specialty, the quality of wine Provence makes isn’t taken as seriously as it deserves to be. It isn’t just the region’s many delicious styles of Rosé we should enjoy, but also its glorious summer whites and beautiful summer reds.
Provence may be Europe’s most underrated wine region. Wine has been made in the Provence for over 2,600 years, making it the oldest wine region in France. Its rich history has given the region an unsurpassed variety of vitis vinifera grapes and peerless traditions of making wine. As the Counts of Barcelona, the Kingdom of Burgundy and the Holy Roman Empire disputed rule over Provence, each of them contributed to the wild array of grapes cultivated in the region. (As well as Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, the region’s white wine grapes include Rolle, Ugni Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Pascal, Terret Blanc, Spagnol and Pignerol. Along with Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault, its red wine grapes include Counoise, Tibouren, Braquet, Calitour, Folle Noir and Barbaroux.) And while the Catholic Church dominated Provencal society, Catholic monks organized the region’s vineyards and developed its techniques of making wine.
The terroirs of Provence impart its wines with sensory qualities distinctive from any other region in the world. From the Rhone River in the west to the Côte d’Azur in the east, the geography of Provence features ranges of hills and mountains, along with a geological range of limestone, clay and schist soils. Wild, resinous shrubs like rosemary, juniper and thyme, as well as lavender grow ubiquitously in the region. Locals say these plants — collectively called garrigue when grown on limestone or clay or maquis when grown on schist — reliably distinguish the character of Provencal wine.
What Provence was for Louis XIV was what it was for Paul Cezanne and what it is for us today. From its coasts to its mountain ranges, from its groves to its garrigue, our images of Provence present us with the ideal of a summer place. Come along and explore Provence with us, from the gorgeous styles of its Rosés to the pure joy of its summer whites and reds.
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