Côtes de Provence AOC is the most important appellation in Provence. This sprawling winemaking area covers more than 20,000 hectares and has experienced exceptional commercial success in recent years. Covering the departments of Var, Bouches-du-Rhône and a single village in the Alpes-Maritimes, it was granted official recognition in 1977. In total eighty-five different communes can label their wines under the Côtes de Provence banner.
The key wine is rosé, produced from the region’s three key red grape varieties - Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre. These light, pale coloured wines are frequently blended with small amounts of Syrah, the little known Tibouren, and even the white Rolle.
This relatively large geographical area is diverse, both in terms of microclimates but also its geological makeup. For readers looking for a helpful generalisation however, it’s worth noting that to the north and west of the appellation, soils are often calcareous. The territory is characterised by alternating hills and limestone ridges, all of which have eroded over time. To the south and east are the crystalline Mauves and Tanneron mountain ranges.
Since 2005, certain subzones of the Côtes de Provence appellation have been granted their own appellation, in recognition of the distinctive terroir that influences the wines. The most obvious example is Sainte-Victoire, a self contained growing area of around 3000 hectares. Protected from maritime influences to the south by the Monts Auréliens and the Sainte-Baume Mountain Range, it covers the hillsides of the upper Arc Valley. Tucked away behind rocky ridges, Sainte-Victoire experiences a moderately continental climate. Although the area is more sheltered from the impact of the Mistral, its drying presence is enough to offer vineyards a natural protection against disease.
Located within the Côtes de Provence AOC, Sainte-Victoire has been able to distinguish itself since the 2005 vintage. Home to around thirty estates, the appellation covers three-thousand hectares and produces only rosé and red wines.