Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon: Food and wine of the region

Provence is the south eastern region of France on the Mediterranean Sea. Bordered by Italy on the east, Provence’s diverse topography is characterized by mountains, valleys, beautiful beaches and salt marshes. Originally a Greek colony, Provence was part of the Roman Empire and eventually became incorporated into France in the 15th century and subsequently the cuisine of the region is a reflection of its varied Mediterranean heritage.
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Mother Nature is abundantly generous in this part of the world, and Provençal cooking is naturally tasty and flavoursome due to the sun-kissed produce that is readily available in this region. Vegetables, sardines, anchovies, meat casseroles, ratatouille and pesto, not forgetting to mention the aromatic herbs which grow plentifully and are of course sold exported under the name “Herbes des Provence”. The region is famed for its wonderful garlic and olive oil.

As with every section of France, the culinary profile of Provence is influenced by its climate, geography, and proximity to neighbouring cultural influences. The warm weather, coastal location, and impact of other Mediterranean culinary forces produce a cuisine at odds with stereotypical French food.

For example, the lipid of choice is not butter or cream, but olive oil. Moreover, there is greater reliance on fresh vegetables, herbs, and seafood, (particularly cod and anchovies), than most other parts of France. Although the Greek influences are evident, Provence’s gastronomy is more akin to neighbouring Italy than the rest of France. Tomatoes, garlic, herbs, aubergines, artichokes, and almonds are just some of the regulars.
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There are a number of dishes that Provence is famous for. Bouillabaisse is their classic seafood stew made with an assortment of fish and shellfish, tomatoes, garlic, saffron, herbs, wine and olive oil.
Bourride is similar to bouillabaisse except that it does not have tomato and is thickened with aioli, a garlic mayonnaise and another traditional Provencal concoction. Pistou is the Provencal equivalent of pesto and used as a sauce, condiment and as a flavouring agent in soupe au pistou, Provence’s version of Minestrone. Another famous dressing is tapenade, a ground mixture of olives, anchovies, capers, olive oil and lemon juice. In the autumn and winter, a variety of daubes, or stews are produced from various meats and wild game.

With the possible exception of certain southern Rhone wines within its borders, Provence is not as famous for wine as other areas of France. Cotes de Provence is the largest wine appellation and produces reds, rosés and whites.
The rosés de Provence are perhaps the best export that people are most familiar with and reminisce about, especially if they have had the chance to sit on a sun-kissed terrace sipping a large chilled glass of the stuff.

The reds are rich, big and dark especially those from Bandol whose wines are known as “the black wines” due to their dark colour. Usually the reds are made from a blend of varietals which are common to the region; Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourverdre and Carignan, which are also used for the production of the rosés. These are not the kind of wine to be drunk in the hot sun, more of a wine to sit and savour on a chilly winter night with a Provencal stew of some sort.

The whites tend to be straight forward, usually they are made from the grape known as Rolle in France, which is the same as Vermentino in Italy. There are, of course, some exceptions dependent upon the grower. Look out for Chateau Grillet – the smallest Appellation in France – it’s expensive but well-worth tryiny. Also the whites from Bellet are lovely and aromatic and we cannot forget the delicious Picpoul de Pinet, now seen on many UK wine lists due to its superb value for money.
To read about the places of interest in Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon click here.  
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Main image by myhsu 


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