As you ride along the EuroVelo 8 in our area, you cannot fail to notice the many many fields of grape vines alongside. But nearly all are small, local producers, little known to the wider world. Here we take a closer look.
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Wine in la Provence verte
Wine, olives and goats‘ cheese are in the heart of everyone here, and – concentrating on the wine – we watched the quality of the local wine improving over many years. We talked to vintners and we enjoyed filming the harvesting and producing. We went to local restaurants and tasted most of the local wine labels over the years. And we like to see that more and more vintners started to produce organic wine. The first organic vintner in our corner was the Jean-Marc Etienne of La Domaine des Alysses in Pontevès, who started to grow organic in the late 70s of the last century. That was courageous at his time as growing organic was more complicated but did not have a better reputation than conventional wine in the general public. Even 20 years ago most restaurants did not point out organic wines on their menu, today they are proud of selling them.
Why wine is important in southern France: cycling through rosé-country
In France 49,1 Mio. Hektorlitres wine (2018) are produced every year and France is the 2nd biggest producer of wine in the world. Many people in the Var have an uncle or aunt or cousin who produces wine or is a member of a cooperative, and some have helped harvesting the grapes at some point. Significant is that most of the wines in La Provence, la Provence verte and le Var are rosé wines: Up to 80% of all wine production – in sum: 900,000 Hektolitres – are of this sort. Le Var (la Provence verte) plays a central part in this, so if you cycle on the EV8 through la Provence verte you are riding through rosé country.
What is special about la Provence
„Provence (Provençal) wine comes from the French wine-producing region of Provence in southeast France. The Romans called the area provincia nostra (“our province”), giving the region its name. Just south of the Alps, it was the first Roman province outside Italy. Wine has been made in this region for at least 2,600 years, ever since the ancient Greeks founded the city of Marseille in 600 BC”.
The Var département is the central region of Provence. And the main AOC label here is the Coteaux Varois en Provence AOC, between the Côtes de Provence AOC and the Coteauxd’Aix-en-Provence AOC. The main grape varieties of the region are Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan.
Independent producers and cooperatives
Most vineyards here are not very big, typically between 10 and 40 hectares, and many of them are family businesses. Some offer chambres d’hôtes (B&B) or gîtes (self catering holiday flats), but we have not found many that are accredited with „Acceuil Vélo“ . We reckon that more restaurants, hotels, appartments and Bed and Breakfast owners will acquire the „Acceuil Vélo“ label once the EV8 is fully built.
In the Var there is also a long-standing history of coops, all founded at the beginning of the 20th century. Most of them have closed since then, but following the Var stretch of the EV8 you will still find a few Cooperatives (from West to East):
Le Cellier de Mont Major in Rians, 105 ha, 6604 hectolitres of wine in 2014
Les Treillesd’Antonin in Saint Antonin, 40 ha, 2703 hectolitres of wine in 2014
Cave Coopérative La Lorguaise in Lorgues, 157 ha, 10461 hectolitres of wine in 2014
Le Cellier des Trois Collines in Flayosc, 185 ha, 12340 hectolitres of wine in 2014
More information here: Association d’Histoire Populaire Tourvaine (ed.) : Les Coopératives Vinicoles Varoises, un siècle d’histoire, Tourves, edition 2015 du Cahier de l’ A.H.P.T, p 373f
Where to find local wines on the EV8
In order from West to East, beginning with Rians right after the border between Bouches du Rhône and Var, we find the following vineyards and coops close to the EuroVélo 8