Heading to Provence for a holiday? It is likely that you’ve already thought or even said aloud that you will book at least one wine tour. The thing to remember is that, though there are many tours running throughout the year, it is a good idea to understand the specific regions to make the most of any tour.
Before we look at those regions, let’s also consider another major issue – red, white and rosé. Of course, that actually means the grapes being used, and what many visitors don’t know is that the French government has set very rigid standards around wine and grape selection.
What does this mean to you? As someone about to embark on a wine tour in Provence, it means that each of the winemakers is going to have created a customized, even personalized wine.
What you will also want to know is that most produce red wines or rosés. Roughly five percent of the vintages you will encounter in Provence are white, and these tend to be very light and most often sipped as a pre-meal drink rather than accompanying food with the exception of fish, cheese, select white meats and dessert. Instead, you will find that most Provence wines paired with foods are limited to the roses and the reds. And even among the rosés, the customization will create truly unique results.
For instance, if you purchase a rosé produced in the town of Tavel, it is going to be much darker and stronger than any other rosé from the region!
So, what regions of Provence can you tour in order to sample the wines? The key locations are:
Côtes de Provence
This is an area from Aix-en-Provence almost all of the way south to St. Tropez. These are typically going to be fruitier wines that are not meant to age. Their rosés are famous and strong enough to stand alongside heartier dishes, including meat dishes. There is a popular destination for those who want to taste these lesser known wines, it is called La Maison de Vins Cotes de Provence, and it has hundreds of choices.
Côtes du Rhône
These vineyards are found in the area that borders the Rhone and travels south to Lyon and close to Avignon. The fullest bodied reds are from here and the rosés will be very dry. They do make whites here too, and these are typically very fragrant. As the king of the wine producing areas, there are many award-winning names here like Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas in the southern region of the area.
Starting at Aix-en-Provence and heading to Les-Baux-de-Provence, this area is noted for its use of the identical grapes and blends as makers in Côtes de Provence, but with a stronger use of some red grapes like cabernet sauvignon. You will easily detect the differences between them. This is also an area for those who wish to enjoy access to organic wines as it is the only region making strides in this direction.
Provençal Mediterranean – Comprised of two coastal towns (Bandol and Cassis), it is the smallest wine region and makes extremely strong white wines. Bandol, though is also noted as producing rich red wines aged in oak using only the Mourvedre grapes.
Now that you know a bit more about the grapes and the areas, you should be able to choose a wine tour that is a good match to your personal preferences. However, it is easy to take several tours over the course of a week or two and really build a wonderful collection of vintages to savor in your villa, or to take home.