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Côtes De Provence

Côtes de Provence is the largest appellation of the Provence wine region in south-eastern France. It covers roughly 50,000 acres (20,250ha) of vineyards, which produce the vast majority of Provence's rosé wine. This appellation includes most of the viticulture in the Var department – essentially the eastern half of the Provence wine region – apart from 5,560 acres (2,250ha) due north of Toulon which is set aside for the Côteaux Varois appellation.

Although it also covers red and white wine, about 85% of Côtes de Provence's output is rosé, made predominantly from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and the quintessentially Provençal grape Tibouren. While clearly in the minority, the volume of red wine produced under this title (and elsewhere in Provence) is increasing. Grapes like the three key Rhône varieties mentioned above and Cabernet Sauvignon (introduced here in the 1960s) are being used by a new wave of winemakers keen to demonstrate that rosé is not the region's only wine of interest.

First established as a VDQS in 1951, the Côtes de Provence appellation originally covered 42 communes. It gradually grew over time until 1977, when it was granted full AOC status. Today, the catchment area includes 84 communes, although these are not entirely contiguous. Low coastal mountain ranges such as the Massif des Maures and the Massif de la Sainte-Baume divide up the land somewhat, inserting large tracts of land that are too treacherous even for hardy grape vines. The most remote satellite of the appellation covers just a few hectares to the west of Villars-sur-Var, a hill village in the valley of the Var river that is surrounded by sub-alpine peaks and ridges reaching more than 5,000ft (1,525m).

The terroirs covered by this appellation are varied – from the slightly cooler sub-alpine hills around Seillans in the north, to the coastal vines around the Golfe de Saint-Tropez in the east and the Baie de la Ciotat, between Bandol and Cassis in the west. The quality of the vineyard sites varies widely and this is reflected in the quality of some of the wines produced under the Côtes de Provence name.

Three sub-appellations were granted to the Côtes de Provence in 2005, named after the communes of Frejus, Sainte-Victoire and La Londe. They were established as a test bed for the development of further sub-appellations across the region. These names are reserved for red and rosé wines only – a further confirmation that Provence has recognised and is working on its key strengths.