01 October 2018

let's talk about aix: the côteaux d'aix en provence AOC

When I spoke to Var natural vigneron Jean-Christophe Comor back in July, he aired certain criticisms of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence, or CIVP: chiefly, that tended to market rosé colour over rosé terroir. He found it absurd that the rosés of Provence are divided into the appellations Côtes de Provence, Côteaux Varois en Provence, and Côteaux d'Aix en Provence. "They don't all have the same terroir," he said. "But they all do the same [vinification] techniques."

As an itinerant wine writer and bystander to the scenario, I'm actually perfectly happy there are three distinct Provençal appellations, because it apparently means there are several distinct promotional budgets. So it was that, in the wake of a press junket to the Côteaux Varois this past May, I was invited to return to Provence in late September to attend a tasting of the wines of the adjacent Côteaux d'Aix en Provence appellation. The kicker - in fact, the trip's redeeming feature - was that this time we were to principally taste the region's oft-overlooked red wines.

At 4127ha, the Côteaux d'Aix en Provence appellation has only about a fifth of the planted surface as the adjacent Côtes de Provence, while covering a similar area. This testifies to the more urbanized landscape of the Côteaux d'Aix en Provence appellation, which extends from Arles and Saint-Rémy to the respective outskirts of Marseille and Aix. The terroir is, to put it lightly, diverse, varying from hilly sites bordering the Côteaux Varois to lowlands bordering the Étang de Berre and coastal sites west of Marseille. That's not to say the appellation's reds lack identity. The tasting of the appellation's red wines, held at the Château Vignelaure, revealed a slightly anachronistic Bordeaux fascination, presumably attributable to the fabulous wealth and conservatism of local landowners. But there were highlights, too.