Much rosé wine is produced under the Côtes de Provence appellation, using some of the typical grapes of southern France, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault. It is often at its best young. The other Appelations of Provence are Bandol AOC, Les Baux de Provence AOC, Bellet AOC, Cassis AOC, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence AOC, Coteaux Varois AOC and Palette AOC.
Provence has been inhabited since ancient times. It was known in ancient
times as part of Narbonensis, inhabited by Ligurians and later Celts. The
coastal strip was settled by Greeks and Phoenicians from around 600 BC
onwards, with Marseille (known by the Romans as Massilia) becoming one of
the great trading cities of the Mediterranean. It was progressively settled
by the Romans from the 2nd century BC, eventually becoming a province of the
Roman Empire. This gave it its name, from the Latin PROVINCIA (province), as
Provence was one of the first areas conquered by Rome outside of Italy.
Christianity arrived in Provence very early and the region was already
extensively Christianised by the 3rd century AD, with numerous monasteries
and churches being constructed. Provence fared badly in the aftermath of the
fall of the Roman Empire, suffering repeated invasions: Visigoths in the 5th
century, Franks in the 6th century and Arabs in the 8th century, as well as
repeated raids by Berber pirates and slavers. It subsequently passed into
hands of the Counts of Toulouse as a fief of the Counts of Barcelona (later
Kings of Aragon).
In 973, Count William I defeated the Arab pirates based at Fraxinetum at the
Battle of Tourtour and took the title Pater Patriae. From 1032 to 1246 the
county was part of the Holy Roman Empire. It became a fief of the French
Crown from 1246, under the rule of the Angevin dynasty. Upon the death of
Charles du Maine in 1481, Provence was inherited by Louis XI. It was
definitively incorporated into the French royal domain in 1486. Significant
enclaves existed within Provence for many years afterwards: Orange remained
under the control of the House of Orange-Nassau until 1672; the Comtat
Venaissin, centered on Avignon, was under Papal rule until 1791; and Nice
and Menton were not added to Provence until as late as 1860.
The now-extinct title of Count of Provence belonged to local families of
Frankish origin, to the House of Barcelona, to the House of Anjou and to a
cadet branch of the House of Valois.
Provence is bound by the Alps and Italy to the east and the Rhône River to
the west, with the Mediterranean Sea providing its southern border. It has
very varied topographical feautures, ranging from fertile plains in the
Rhône valley to mountains in the east (notably Mont Ventoux, the Luberon
range and the Alpilles), to marshlands in the south (the Camargue).
The Principality of Monaco is nestled between Nice and Italy. Marseilles,
Aix-en-Provence, Avignon and Arles are other cities of importance in
Provence. Marseilles is by far the largest city in Provence and the second
or third largest city in France; the principal city of both the
'Bouches-du-Rhône' department and the region PACA (Provence Alpes Côte
d'azur), Marseille is also called the chef-lieu (capital city) of Provence.
The climate of Provence is typically
Mediterranean, warm and dry. However, the legendary Mistral is a strong,
cold wind from the north that occurs mostly in the winter and spring. The
higher regions of Provence get snow in winter. Temperature can be as high as
It rains only 30 to 50 days in the plain, but more in the Alps; by
comparison, it rains more than 270 days in London. The annual average
temperature on the coast is 15.1°C in Marseilles to 17.3°C in Menton,
compared with 16.5°C in Barcelona, 18°C in Tunis, and 11.3°C in London.
During the coldest month, the temperature in the day is from 11°C to 14.8°C
on the coast (8°C in London).