Most of my friends associate Provence with Rosé and picnic foods. Yet, the region has so much more to offer. On my last visit, I was on a mission to find inspirational pairings and captivating wines that went beyond traditionalism. Provence makes fantastic roses, but they also make spectacular reds and whites. Although they account for only a small percentage of production (8.5% reds and 3.5% whites), I highly recommend them because they are delicious and the pairings are endless.
As for reds, you’ll find eight varieties—most of which are blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan. My perception is that most Provencal reds are luscious and offer flavors of violets, blackberries, blackcurrant, cherries, and licorice with some spiciness to the finish. I found them quite flirtatious when young, and powerful when they had a few years on them. And I knew they would pair beautifully with grilled meats accompanied with local herbs de Provence the minute the wines hit my lips. Any aged cheese would be fantastic as well.
For the whites, Provence reserves roughly 3.5% of production each year for blancs, representing nearly 6 million bottles. Considering production is small, grab any bottle you find on local shelves, because chances are you won’t find them again. Provence whites are aromatic and citrusy with peach and pear notes, and when left on lees, offer soft hints of sweet spices and toasted hazelnuts. Many whites consist of a grape called Rolle, which is also known as Vermentino, which is hardy and flavorful with lots of citrus and pear aromas and flavors. Another popular white grape, Ugni Blanc, originates from Tuscany, providing juicy, vivacious whites that are round and elegant. Delicious!
I also noticed many white blends using Clairette, which is a very ancient variety from Provence. The grape produces aromatic whites with an excellent flowery bouquet. Many producers also use Sémillon for its aromatic properties which tend to showcase white flowers and honey. I’ve listed a few favorites I found on the trip with some fantastic food pairings you should try.
2016 Chateau Margui Les Pierres Sauvages White, Provence, France
This is a blend of 90% Rolle (Vermentino) and 10% Ugni Blanc. Its vivid, lively and beautiful with notes of citrus, white flowers and mineral. It’s quite spectacular with alluring citrus and fruits that lead to a bright, beautiful finish.
Both wines pair sensationaly with squash risotto and foie gras, served at Le Mas du Lingousto
Provence whites and reds pair amazingly with Provence Truffles
2012 Chateau Margui Margui Titien De Margui Red, Provence, France
Made from a blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Grenache, this wine is complex and smooth. I loved its sensual red fruits and velvety finish. It’s a structured and powerful red that begs for your attention. It finishes long and strong with spice and cocoa. Lovely!
2015 Hecht Bannier Côtes de Provence Blanc, Provence, France
The Hecht Bannier Côtes de Provence blanc is 100% Vermentino (a.k.a. locally named Rolle). It’s a native from Corsica and has evolved beautifully in Provence. It works well in this region which is of high altitude with hot, dry soils. This Côtes de Provence blanc is lively and fun, expressing notes of fennel, and star anise. This is a perfect wine with grilled or raw fish dishes, as well as mature goat cheese. Drink up!
Fish dishes are sensational with Provence whites
Salmon sushi pairs great with Provence whites and roses
CHÂTEAU DE L’ESCARELLE
2015 L’Escarelle White cuvée 1718, Provence, France
Bright citrus notes with mineral and honey flavors. The wine has good acidity and a beautiful, long finish; pair with aged cheese, fish dishes or charcuterie with meats, cheeses and olives.
Charcuterie pairs wonderfully with both white and red cuvées
2014 L’Escarelle Rouge cuvée 1718, Provence, France
This is a fresh and lively blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon that is a powerful yet elegant red that will cellar beautifully for five years. Grapes were harvested from low yielding plots, vinified and aged in wooden vats. I found this wine particularly captivating.
CHÂTEAU HENRI BONNAUD
2011 Château Henri Bonnaud Rouge, Provence, France
This is a really lovely blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and old Carignan. The grapes are grown on south facing slopes that are planted in Langesse (chalky) soils. The wine is elegant and refined, with wonderful flavors and aromas of cherries and spice. This is a delicious wine!!
DOMAINE LONGUE TUBI
Domaine Longue Tubi Rouge AOP, Provence, France
Domaine Longue Tubi is a family adventure driven by the passion of the vine and the wine. The estate sits in the gentle landscape of the Var. This is the first red wine of the estate, which is a 60% Syrah and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon blend. It’s soft and pretty, with notes of cherries, blackberries and spice. It’s simply a beautifully crafted wine.
Guinea fowl with pears, herbs and crushed potatoes in olive oil served at Le Mas du Lingousto, pairs well with the Longue Tubi, as well as the La Tulipe Noir and Croix-Rousse (below).
2013 Chateau La Tulipe Noir, Provence France
A 60% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon blend with a good dose of red and black fruits. It’s a harmonies wine with good tannins and acidity. Finishes long and strong with a spicy, pepper finish.
2011 Domaine Croix-Rousse Cotes de Provence Suve du Vent Rouge, Provence, France
A mouthwatering red wine with mint, cloves, black fruits and juniper aromas and flavors. It’s a spectacular, opulent wine that is complex and pretty, expressing everything that Provence has to offer. The finish is velvety and powerful. Beautiful!
2015 Malherbe blanc, Provence, France
Wow, what a pretty blend of Sémillon and Rolle! She is flirtatious, aromatic and fine, with long, harmonious flavors–a perfect food wine that I’ll be adding to my wine list. This blanc will pair with just about everything from crustaceans, to grilled and sautéed fish, to puff pastry, or pork and chicken with rich sauces. Add it to your cellar. You won’t be disappointed.
As you can see, the region has so much diversity in terms of styles and choices. I hope I’ve inspired you to go beyond your comfort zone and try the lovely whites and reds coming from Provence!