Vines seem to have always been present in the history of France. It was in Provence that the first vines were cultivated, making the region the cradle of the fine wines for which the country is famous. But let us discover more precisely the history of Provence wine.
THE ORIGINS OF PROVENCE WINE
The history of wine goes back more than 26 centuries, and begins in Provence. It was in Marseille that the first vines were planted, on the initiative of Phocaeans intrigued by this new plant. We can therefore affirm that the whole France's leading vineyard was in Provence.
Then in 200 BC, the Romans came to settle in Provence to develop the vine cultivation. The Romans took the vine with them and created the Provincia Romana, in other words, Provence. As the Romans conquered, they brought the vine with them, spreading vineyards throughout France. This is how other vineyards came into being, such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, the Rhône Valley, Gascony and Bordeaux.
THE CULTIVATION OF VINES BY MONKS AND NOBILITY
The fall of the Roman Empire brought vine growing to a halt, leaving all the previously prosperous vineyards abandoned. It was not until the Middle Ages that winegrowing was revived by the great monastic orders. If, at the beginning, the wine making was intended for the sole consumption of the monks, and for the production of wine for mass, the wine was soon commercialised. This activity contributed greatly to the income of the monastic establishments.
It was not until 1300 that the Provençal vineyards will be taken over and managed by noble families and great officers of the royal army. Here, the beginnings of the Modern wine-producing Provence as we know it today.
THE PHYLLOXERA VASTATRIX CRISIS
The vineyards of ProvenceLike all the vineyards of France, the vineyards were not spared from the phylloxera vastatrix crisis in 1880. This insect, which came from the United States, managed to destroy almost all of the Provençal vineyard. Fortunately, through a clever technique of grafting phylloxera-resistant plants, the vineyard could be saved and gradually regained its former glory.
ON THE PROVENCE WINE ROUTE
To promote the region and the wine industry, many winegrowers have been working since the 20th century to make discover Provence to the rest of the world. One of the most remarkable tourism initiatives is undoubtedly the Provence wine route.
The principle of the Provence wine route
Not so long ago, in 2006, the Var Chamber of Agriculture decided to promote the wine tourism in Provence by creating a wine route. This is an opportunity to walk around the region and visit different wineries, at the discovery of their wines and the Provençal gastronomy.
Classified by theme, each wine route offers an itinerary highlighting the wine, but also the heritage and art of living in Provence.
Spread over the Bouches-du-Rhône, the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes, the 440 wineries and cooperative cellars in Provence committed to the approach are based on 8 Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC): Baux de Provence, Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d'Aix en Provence, Coteaux Varois en Provence, Palette, Cassis, Bandol and Bellet.
Wine routes in Provence
Spread out over the whole of Provence, no less than 44 Provence wine routes are offered to visitors. The choice can be made according to the theme (romantic getaway, art and culture, family, gastronomy...), the territory (Camargue, Verdon, Provence Verte...), the vineyard, the AOC, or simply the geographical area.
The idea is to combine the pleasures, to offer an entertaining walk full of discoveries. The visitor can discover, for example, the most glamorous and emblematic city of the French Riviera, Saint-Tropez, and then go inland to find the most beautiful part of nature, by visiting the Ultimate Provence domain.
Many estates on the wine route also offer quality catering and accommodation. This makes it possible to organise a wine route over several days, and to immerse oneself entirely in the atmosphere of the vineyard, and to discover its history, its vintages, its grape varieties, or its methods of production and conservation.
You would like to go to discovery of the vineyards of Provence ? Find out more on the Château de Berne. This is the place to be for wine-related activities on the theme of wine.