Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Two Wine Cellars in Provence
A do-it yourself wine tour is the perfect way to discover the vineyards and wines of Provence.
I am lucky - I am surrounded by picturesque vineyards with an array of wine caves, so I willingly take my guests, happy to translate, to taste, to indulge and to buy.
One of my favorite stops is the Château Sainte Roseline, a Côte de Provence winery; wine, art and history all in one place. They’ve been cultivating vines in this prestigious domaine situated in the Var region of Provence since the 14th century: today it is big, well organized with at least 90 hectares of vineyard producing around 400,000 bottles of excellent red, white and rosé wine every year: This is Rosé country but Sainte Roseline still produces 35% red wine every year; rosé 55% and 10% white.
Here’s one thing they do differently at Saint Roseline -- night harvesting which they say controls oxidation of the 11 different varieties of grapes cultivated on the clay- limestone soils. Sainte Roseline is also one of the richest historic sites of Provence, one of the first vineyards of Provence. But many come here for another reason - to visit the 12th century chapel where the body of Sainte Roseline lays, a saint known for her generosity and spiritual works.
Down the road is a less sophisticated wine outlet, a cooperative vinery. It is important to grasp the spirit of my local wine cooperative which is less posh, less expensive but where you can get some really good wine. This is where I regularly buy my five-liter ‘bag in the box Côtes de Provence’ obtained with grapes from smaller growers who work together in a well managed quality controlled cooperative.
My Côtes de Provence comes with the Appellation d'Origine label (AOC) – the French certification showing that my wine is authentic, of good quality, and comes from Provence, the largest zone in the region. The geographic characteristics of a place will shape and influence the quality of wine made from the grape – the French call this "terroir" – so my rosé wine from the Côte de Provence will have the unique quality specific only to the Côte de Provence.
We are lucky here to have grenache, cinsault, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon, the main varieties of grapes , all thriving beautifully in abundant sunshine, growing amid the exceptional climate and soils of Provence.
Colour, fragrance and aromas may be different at these two caves but if you first like the wine, then it’s the pleasure and company that counts.
And as Earnest Hemmingway said: “Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.”