Ultimate Guide to the Provence Wine Region

Provence Wine Region Agriculture

If you've been to the south of France, then you already know about the s­unshine. If you haven't, it's hard to describe. The entire region is bathed in sunlight. It seems as if sunshine is emanating not just from that huge ball of gas in the sky, but from the ground beneath your feet as well. It comes at you from every angle. There's no escape.

The reason Provence is so sunny has a lot to do with the mistral, a dry wind that clears the sky and dries the air. There are both positives and negatives with regard to the mistral. On one hand, the wind, coming from the north, can cool grapes down from the heat and dry them after a rain. This provides protection against rot and grape diseases. On the other hand, the mistral can also damage vines that aren't securely trained or protected by hillsides [source: Absolute Astronomy].

The climate is pretty similar throughout the Provence region. However, coastal winters are mild and summers are warm, while inland areas experience much more extreme seasons.

The Provence region also has an incredible variety of soil types. There are deposits of limestone and shale near the Mediterranean coastline, while farther inland, you're more likely to find clay and sandstone. Luckily, this variety of soil combined with the climate of the region and the mistral, help to provide the area with a huge variety of grapes for winemaking.

The Les Baux-de-Provence AOC was the first French wine region to insist that all of its vineyards be farmed biodynamically. Biodynamic agriculture was first introduced by Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner. This nonchemical agricultural movement emphasizes the health-giving forces of nature. Practitioners follow methodologies that include utilizing herbal and mineral additives in compost and following an astronomical calendar for planting and harvesting. The switch to biodynamic farming at Les Baux-de-Provence happened after most of the vineyard owners had already converted to organic farming practices, a move made necessary by the strong wind, which was spreading chemicals from the vines [source: Absolute Astronomy]. It's likely that biodynamic farming will continue to catch on throughout the rest of the region.