PROVENCE'S FIRST VINEYARDS

Beginning in the 2nd century B.C., the Romans began settling the lands of the Ligurians, colonized four centuries earlier by the Phocaeans. They developed the first vineyards in the region and founded Provincia Romana (Provence). It was in these days that the military port of Fréjus was founded, along with the Forum Julii and the city of Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence). As the Roman Empire expanded, so did the growing number of vineyards in the conquered lands, including other regions of Gaul: the Rhone Valley, Beaujolais, Burgundy, Gascony and Bordeaux.

THE INFLUENCE OF MONKS AND THE NOBILITY

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, it was not until the High Middle Ages that vineyards would once again begin to flourish in Provence, this time under the influence of the major monastic orders. From the 5th to 12th centuries, the abbeys of Saint-Victor in Marseille, Saint-Honorat on the Lérins Islands off the coast of Cannes, Saint-Pons in Nice and the Thoronet produced wine for more than just consumption by monks or during masses. These wines were carefully sold to fill the coffers of the monastic establishments. Beginning in the 14th century, the most important noble families, honored royal subjects and top officers from the royal army would acquire and oversee many vineyards in Provence, establishing the foundations for modern wine production in the region.

THE PHYLLOXERA EPIDEMIC

Although it was struck later than other French winegrowing regions, Provence was hit in 1880 by phylloxera vastatrix, a parasitic insect accidentally introduced from the United States that attacked vine roots and nearly wiped out all the plants in the region. The susceptible French plants were grafted onto resistant North American root stock, bringing an end to the crisis. Over time, thanks to substantial technical and financial efforts, winegrowers were able to slowly rebuild their vineyards in Provence.

THE FOUNDATION OF MODERN WINEGROWING

New difficulties surfaced in the early 20th century due to overproduction. It was during this period that many winegrowers decided to group together their efforts to better meet these new challenges. The first cooperative wineries were founded. In 1935, the "Institut National des Appellations d'Origine" (INAO) was created. It was tasked with issuing official decrees to permanently set the boundaries for individual "terroirs", and to establish the conditions for producing wines in each French "appellation d'origine". To preserve and strengthen the identity of their wines, the winegrowers of Provence, based on 26 centuries of wine production, began the long road towards their very own "Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée" (AOC).

26
CENTURIES
OF WINEMAKING

"Provence remains the oldest
           winegrowing region in France."

When you enjoy wine from Provence, keep in mind that there's a little bit of history in every bottle. A story that first began 2,600 years ago when the Phocaeans founded Marseille and, for the first time in France, introduced a wonderful plant: the grape vine. Since then, the artistry and traditions that go into winemaking have widely spread throughout the country, but historically, Provence remains the oldest winegrowing region in France.

Histoire des vins de provence
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