Provence Rosé History
Provence is the birthplace of the French vineyard, as well as the birthplace of rosé wine. The ancient Greeks (traders from the city of Phocaea) brought wines and vines to southern France around 600 BC, when they founded the city of Marseille. In the 2,600 years since, the art and culture of winemaking have become central to the local way of life.
- In the time of the Greeks, all wines were generally pale in color — the color of today's rosés. By the time that the Romans reached the area in 125 BC, the rosé wine produced there had a reputation across the Mediterranean for its high quality. But even with the Romans' introduction of red wine, rosé held firm in the area the Romans called Provincia Romana — today's Provence.
- After the fall of the Roman Empire, various invaders came and went, each influencing the Provençal winemaking tradition through grapes brought from their home regions. It wasn't until the Middle Ages, however, that winemaking in Provence saw real growth. This was brought about by the monastic orders in the local abbeys, who made rosé wine a revenue source for the monasteries.
- Starting in the 14th century, the nobility and military leaders acquired and managed many vineyards in Provence, laying the foundation for the region's modern-day viticulture. Rosé became prestigious, the wine of kings and aristocrats. At the end of the 19th century, however, the phylloxera epidemic reached Provence and devastated the region's vineyards, forcing vintners to replant.
- The birth of the railroad opened up new markets for Provençal wine, and in the 20th century, as the tourism industry grew up along the Côte d'Azur, rosé production increased. In 1935, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) was founded to define and establish the terroir and production criteria for individual winegrowing regions, called AOPs.
- In recent years, a new generation of winemakers has begun incorporating modern techniques into the traditional methods of rosé production, improving the wine's character and quality. To support winemakers in this effort, the Center for Rosé Research (Centre de Recherche et d'Expérimentation sur le Vin Rosé) was established in Provence in 1999. It remains the world's only research institute dedicated to rosé wine.
After having been largely ignored outside of France for decades, dry rosé — for years Provence's best-kept secret — is being rediscovered worldwide as a modern, versatile wine that complements modern-day cuisine and lifestyles.
Today the best rosé wines still come from Provence, the rosé center of the world.
Provence is the birthplace of rosé wine and the largest rosé specialty region.
In Context: A Brief History of Provence
Provence in the 2nd century BC was the first Roman province outside of Italy. The Romans called it nostra provincia ("our province"), a name that endures to this day. Provence still displays amphitheaters, aqueducts, and other architectural remnants of the Roman times. The Roman culture dominated the area until the 5th century AD.
Long before the Roman conquest, however, Greek sailors began setting up trading posts along the Mediterranean coast of today's Provence. The first permanent settlement was the city of Marseille, established around 600 BC It was the Greeks who introduced grapes, wine, and winemaking to the area. See also the history of rosé, above.
Fast-forward 1,000 years. Now, as Roman power weakened, the area saw a series of invaders come and go. Chaos prevailed. In the Middle Ages, the area was caught in a power struggle between the rulers from Barcelona, Burgundy, the Holy Roman Empire, and France.
In the 14th century the region became the residence of the papacy, as Pope Clement V moved the papal headquarters in Avignon. Provence officially became a part of France in the late 1400s.
By the 17th century the area was primarily rural, growing grapes, olives, and wheat, but had developed significant trading centers along the coast and the Rhone River. Today these cities — Marseille, Toulon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence — remain key centers of commerce and culture. Provence is one of France's main suppliers of fruits, vegetables, herbs, olives, olive oil, and seafood. Tourism is another key industry, both in the resorts of the Riviera and in the peaceful backcountry.