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Ahhh, Provence. With its quintessential Mediterranean climate, proximity to the French Riviera, and culinary fame, it is a surprise that good wine even has a chance here. But, in ever increasing amounts, this is the case. The vineyards of Provence are a historical crossroads of the major ruling empires, starting with the Romans. Throw in the Sardegnians, Carolingians and the House of Savoy, and you have a viticultural puzzle that just recently has begun to match the quality of the famous aioli, bouillabaisse and ratatouille. Rosé, the perfect complement to the garlic-rich, but fresh cuisine, is the most famous product from this region but reds and whites are also made. Thirteen varieties of grapes are permitted in AOC wines, including a few leftover from the Sardegnians, such as Rolle. Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Carignan are the ones you will find the most often, however.
Provence’s beauty is also what makes it ideal for grapes. Mountains composed of limestone, schist and quartz rise above the ocean, creating not only shelter from the mistral wind, but also allowing vineyards to be planted with varying exposures and at altitude. The native plants and terrain, known as “garrigue” consist of lavender, thyme, and other small, but tough bushes that can withstand the wind and also absorb the salt in the air. Garrigue surrounds the vineyards and it flavors the wine. You know you are drinking a wine from Provence when a faint hint of sea salt lingers on the finish.