Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire

  • By Reeze Choi
  • 31 Dec 2020
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 101
Made possible by
Green vineyard - Credit : Light Field Studios

Provence is considered the oldest winemaking region in France; the Romans started cultivating grapes in the region in 200 BC. Côte de Provence is the biggest AOP in Provence in terms of size and production. It spans over 20,000 ha of land and produces around 75% of the total Provence production. 

The region has its own unique local food, for example, the mayonnaise-like sauce aioli, pesto soup, bouillabaisse fish stew, ratatouille, and Provençal beef stew. From the multiplicity of flavours, one can see many possibilities of pairing the local food with the local wine.

Although some stunning red and rare white wines are produced in Côte de Provence, rosé still takes up the majority of production, at around 90%. Rosé can be a by-product of red wine production and is often rather unvalued. In a lot of cases, it is something people enjoy in the outdoor area of a restaurant, during picnics, and even with ice cubes, but Provence rosé is exceptional. 

People, of course, may enjoy Provence rosé on a very casual occasion, but it can be treated more seriously than many people think. Winemakers of Provence rosé produce outstanding wine by using various techniques. Almost all AOP producers adopt the direct press method rather than the saignée method in order to create more elegant and lighter-coloured rosé. They use temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and sometimes oak barrels to age the wine for more structure (not for extracting oaky flavours). Some rosé also spend a certain period of time in contact with lees for more complexity.

The Subregions Of Côte de Provence

There are five subregions in Côte de Provence for rosé and red wine production only. The two in the very south, along the Mediterranean Sea, are La Londe and Pierrefeu. Fréjus in the east is rich in volcanic soil, which is unusual for the region. The newly updated map shows Notre-Dame des Anges in the centre, and Sainte-Victoire in the west is the region we are going to discuss further.

Sainte-Victoire : A Unique Winegrowing Area

In the 1990s, l'Association des Vignerons de la Sainte-Victoire realized the uniqueness of the terroirs of Sainte-Victoire, and strived to put it in an independent AOP. Eventually, Côte de Provence Sainte-Victoire was celebrated as an AOP in 2005. Côte de Provence Sainte-Victoire, at 652 ha, is the biggest subregion of Côte de Provence. Rosé production is the predominant wine production at 95%; the other 5% is red wine.

The terroir of this small subregion is unique. It is located in the foothills of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Grapevines are planted mostly in the upper Vallée de l'Arc with soils of limestone and argillaceous sandstone. Sainte-Victoire has a continental microclimate due to its more inland location. It also has Monts Auréliens and Sainte Baume massif on the south blocking the maritime influence of the Mediterranean from the south. It is very hot in the summer and cold in the winter. 

It is very dry throughout the year because of the effects of the Mistral, a strong wind blowing from north to south bringing dry air often travelling at speeds of over 90 km per hour. Occasionally this powerful wind can damage the vines, but the grapevines also benefit from it as it keeps them free of fungal diseases. Because of this, Côte de Provence Sainte-Victoire is also a region where many have converted to organic and sustainable farming. Thanks to the unique continental terroir, rosé and red wine from here usually present a firmer structure and more generous aromatics.

In order to label a wine as Sainte-Victoire, winemakers must follow strict guidelines in terms of grape varieties, yields, and ageing requirements, etc.

Grape Varieties:

Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault are the principal grape varieties. These grapes must make up a minimum of 80% of the blend, and of this at least 50% has to be Syrah and/or Grenache. 
Other permitted red grape varieties are Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Cabernet Sauvignon. White grape varieties are Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Rolle (Vermentino) and Sémillon.

Ageing Requirements:

Red wines must be released on or after the 1st of September of the following year of the harvest.

Minimum Must Weight:

Rosé 187 g/l
Red 207 g/l

Yields:

Maximum 50 hl/ha

Green vineyard - Credit : Light Field Studios