Rosé has been the focus of Provence winemaking for centuries. Ever since the Greeks brought wine to the area in 600 BC, the people of Provence have been perfecting the art of dry rosé production.
But why do French rosés define the category? What makes Provence rosé the gold standard even to this day? Wine professionals generally point to three key factors: heritage, place, and production standards.
Provence, the site of France's oldest vineyards, is the only place in the world that specializes in rosé. The region has a rich rosé tradition, and winemakers today are the beneficiaries of the region's collective knowledge and time-honored techniques. Since rosé is a delicate wine and one of the most difficult to produce with success, these long-established traditions remain entirely relevant.
The area's deep-rooted rosé culture goes a long way toward explaining why the world's best rosés still come from Provence. Learn more about the history of rosé.
The rosés of Provence are distinctly different because of the unique character of the place where they originate – the soil, climate, and terrain of the vineyards. The physical environment of Provence – with its plentiful sunshine; its mistral winds; its Mediterranean Basin soils; and its hillsides covered with wild lavender, rosemary, and thyme – is reflected in the refreshing flavors and zesty aromas of the rosé wines made there.
This notion of place and the influence it has on wine is a uniquely French concept, referred to as terroir. Read more about terroir.
While Provençal vintners have been making rosé for centuries, they have greatly improved the quality of their wine in recent decades. These improvements have been reinforced by the quality-control system called Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC). This state-run system, which categorizes wines geographically (by their place of origin), aims to guarantee typical quality standards for wines of each appellation, or region.
AOC wines represent the highest level of quality in French winemaking. Any wine bearing the name of one of these official wine-producing areas must be produced within clearly defined parameters. For example, each Provence AOC has specific rules covering allowable grape varieties, maximum yield per hectare (acre), and more. These rules apply to every vat of rosé that will be bottled and sold with an AOC label.
To a wine consumer, this designation connotes consistent quality. When you buy a rosé from a Provence appellation, such as Côtes de Provence AOC, you can have confidence in the quality of what's in the bottle. These production standards set Provençal rosé apart. To learn more about Provence's rosé-making appellations, see Where the Grapes Grow.