May 22 is the International Day for Biological Diversity. This is a great occasion to take a moment to relax, pour ourselves a glass of chilled rosé, and celebrate the incredible biodiversity of the Provence wine region.
Provence is one of the most diverse winemaking regions in France, and I would say in the world. There are 14 different grape varieties permitted for rosés in Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence alone. If you count up all the grape varieties permitted for reds, whites and rosés in all nine AOP Provence appellations, there are 43 varieties permitted!
The most diverse Provence wine appellation in terms of how many different grape varieties are permitted in its wines is a tiny little appellation you may not have heard of: Palette. It’s near Aix-en-Provence, and the whole appellation spans only 1.5 hectares. To put that in perspective, the average vineyard in Provence is between 11 and 16 hectares, and by world standards that is considered to be fairly small. But the entire Palette appellation is only 1.5 hectares! There are only three producers with plots inside this appellation. Given its size, it doesn’t make very much wine, so if you want to taste it, you’ll have to come to Provence to get some. Altogether between the reds, rosés and whites, Palette allows a whopping 30 different grape varieties to be used!
One of the reasons Provence has such a diverse planting of grape vines is that it is one of the world’s oldest winemaking regions. The Phoenicians planted the first grape vines here in 600 BC and Provence was the first winemaking region in France. Throughout history, Provence has been populated by different people groups who planted different grape vines. Some of the grape varieties used in Provence today are ancient varieties that are all but obsolete elsewhere.
Another reason Provence is so diverse is because of the varied terroir – simply put, a lot of different grape varieties grow well here. We have the Mediterranean coast, the Southern Alps, and everything in between. As a result, we have a wide variety of different types of soil, like clay, limestone, gravel, sedimentary rock, sand and schist.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate biodiversity than to enjoy a chilled glass of Provence rosé. Cheers!