To taste a glass of wine from Provence is to taste the sum of experience developed over a staggering 2,600 years. That was when the Greeks planted their first vines in France, finding that the terroirs of Provence were the best for wine growth. When the Romans arrived some centuries later (they founded Aix-en-Provence in 123BC), they continued the tradition. The wines here were later to be feted by the 15th century monarchies of Europe, as they continue to be by today’s wine lovers.
Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence is the second largest wine appellation in Provence, producing around 16 per cent of the region’s wines. It spans 4,000 hectares across 50 villages in the west of Provence, stretching from the Durance River to the Mediterranean and from the Rhône Valley to the Sainte-Victoire mountain range. It centres on the city of Aix-en-Provence, a local hub for business and tourism, and birthplace of Édouard Manet and Paul Cézanne. The appellation has been an AOC since 1985.
Most of the wine produced here is rosé (83 per cent), followed by red (12.5 per cent) and then white (4.5 per cent). The red and rosé wines must be made with at least two different grape varieties, of which either Grenache Noir, Mourvédre, Syrah, Cinsault or Counoise must make up 50 per cent. They are commonly blended with Carignan or, most often, Cabernet Sauvignon. White wines must be 50 per cent Vermentino (also known as Rolle), which can be blended with Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc or Ugni Blanc. Bourboulene and Sémillon are often used as well in smaller quantities.
The vineyards are generally placed in sedimentary basins that run parallel to the coast. Limestone is the most commonly found ingredient in the soil, which can also include high levels of clay as well as sand, sandstone, gravel and molasse. The appellation is divided up into four main terroirs. The Terroir Mediterranéen is the most southerly and the hottest part of the appellation, so grapes ripen early in the strong sun. The Terroir du Mistral in the northwest is strongly influenced by the Mistral wind, which tempers the heat and keeps the vines dry, helping to prevent rot. Terroir des Coteaux is located in the middle of the appellation, in the mountain foothills, at up to 300 metres elevation. The final terroir is the Terroir des Hauts-Plateaux, which is up to 450 metres above sea level and bathed in the cold, alpine winds from the Sainte-Victoire mountain range. Generally speaking, the appellation is very hot and often very dry.