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The AOC Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence vineyards are the furthest from the French wine region of Provence and the boundaries of the appellation extend from the Durance River to the Mediterranean Sea and from the Rhône Valley in the west to the Sainte-Victoire Mountain in the east.
The AOC surrounds Etang de Berre and crosses the famous landscapes immortalised by Cézanne. The region's wine production is concentrated between the mountains and chains parallel to the coast (Nerthe, Fare, Eguilles and Trévaresse).
By extension, the AOC Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence is the second of the region's designations.
The name Côteaux d'Aix-en-Provence was originally introduced in 1956 as VDQS (Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure), a medium level classification that was in force between 1949 and 2012.
Before becoming a VDQS Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence it was informally known as Côteaux du Roy René, a name that referred to King René d'Anjou, a 15th-century monarch famous for his love of wines and vineyards. **AOC status was only granted in 1985.
Other interesting data: The appellation covers 4000 hectares 212,125 hectolitres are produced annually of which 82% are rosé wines, 5,5% white and 12% red. The wine sector is made up of 65 private wineries and 12 cooperatives. * While the maximum allowed yield for the AOC is 60 hl/ha, the average yield is 51 hl/ha. * The small denomination of origin of Palette is within the limits of this AOC.
Climate and soil**
The climate of the AOC is typically Mediterranean, which is not surprising considering that even the less coastal vineyards of the appellation are no more than 30 km from the sea. The portion of the vineyards that are spread over the department of Var, in the communes of Rians and Artigues, has a somewhat cooler climate. There the vineyards lack the warm influences of the Mediterranean by the presence of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a limestone ridge that stretches from east to west for 18 km just southeast of Rians.
On average, Provençal vineyards enjoy approximately 3000 hours of sunshine per year and an annual average of 14.5º. Summers are long and dry, ideal for harvesting in most years, relieving Provencal producers of concerns about rotting and vine diseases.
The cold, dry Mistral wind that blows over the Rhône is another important factor in the AOC's climate, as by keeping away clouds that might appear in the sky, reduces the possibility of fungal diseases. However, it is necessary to plant the vineyards by sweeping them, as the Mistral * can cause physical damage to the vines*.
The long, dry summers of Provence are often propitiated by the violent storms that fall in spring and autumn, meaning about 760 mm per year of rain in the region.
Due to the geological characteristics of the region, the limestone soils are present in almost all the areas where the wines of the AOC Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence are made, either in the form of clay -around the Durance and Arc rivers- or as drier and stonier soils. In many cases, the limestone is visible when it reflects the intense sun of Provence.
The rosé wines, those with the highest production volume in the AOC, and reds are made from a complex mixture of grapes of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, cinsaut, and counoise. Carignan and cabernet sauvignon** may also be added to this blend, provided that alone or in combination, they do not exceed 30% of the total wine.
The appellation's white wines are made from another equally complex blend involving a hierarchy of local and imported grapes. This blend is dominated by the vermentino variety, locally called rolle, which represents at least half of any recipe. The added variety clairette, grenache blanc, sauvignon blanc and ugni blanc must not represent less than 30%, while the semillón and bourboulenc grapes can be added in the small remaining percentage.
Surprisingly, the traditional varieties of the region, barbaroux and calitor are not allowed in winemaking. In fact, the current trend throughout Provence is to abandon these native varieties and replace them with others that are easier to market such as garnacha, syrah and cabernet sauvignon. The tibouren grape, also typical of the area, is absent in the wines of the AOC, although it still has many followers in the eastern half of the region.