Despite hailing from Provence, Pierrevert wines fall under the Rhône umbrella – and no one knows why
When customers, especially foreigners, buy wines, they need landmarks to understand the region where wines are produced,” says Thomas Emery, the owner of Château de Rousset, one of seven producers of the tiny appellation Coteaux de Pierrevert, among the smallest and highest-altitude PDOs in France. “Our wines are torn between two identities, Provence and Rhône. Logically, it would be better if they were recognised completely as Provence wines. However, this isn’t the case.”
Located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département, a few kilometres from Manosque, the birthplace of the writer Jean Giono, the small wine-growing region of Pierrevert spreads across 420 hectares on both sides of the Durance river in a typically Provençal landscape.
However, administratively speaking, the Coteaux de Pierrevert PDO – which produces rosés, reds and whites – continues to be attached to the Rhône Valley.
Because of this baffling state of affairs, it doesn’t belong to either of the two main interprofessional organisations of the Rhône and Provence
that ensure the promotion of members’ wines. To add to the ambiguity, some French wine guides, including the famous Guide Hachette, categorise Pierrevert under ‘Rhône Valley’.
“This situation is probably unique in France,” explains Patrice Jérôme, the president of the local producers’ association.
“For us, its impact is mostly psychological. We feel we are Provençal and our winemaking techniques are different from those of the Rhône Valley. For years, we have been trying to reintegrate into the administrative bodies of Provence. But each time, they never say yes or no, and it’s always postponed two or three years. That said, I am hopeful that we will get there.”
THE PLOT THICKENS
The reasons for this dual affiliation are complex. The haphazard administrative division of winegrowing areas in France in the 1960s has only been made worse by today’s administrative inertia – aggravated, seemingly, by strategic and political dissension between various regional bodies. Nevertheless, some progress has been made.
Until now, for Pierrevert, the wine tastings of the Concours Général Agricole (an important annual agricultural show) took place in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, camped in the middle of the Rhône Valley. In 2019, they will be held in Aix-en-Provence. The appellation has also just been admitted into the official wine tourism organisation in Provence, the Wine Route of Provence.
“Since [Pierrevert] isn’t officially in Provence, we had a hard time getting there,” says Gilles Delsuc, the owner of the Domaine de la Blaque.
“We had to fight for three years and involve high-profile people who pleaded our case, asking the powers that be: ‘But are we not in Provence here? In the heart of Giono country?’”
Pierrevert’s ongoing collaboration with Piedmont, its close Italian neighbour, should help to dissociate it further from the Rhône Valley, and finally earn the relatively unknown appellation the recognition it deserves in Provence and beyond.
“These are wines that have progressed extraordinarily in a very short time,” insists Jany Gleize, chef at La Bonne Étape, one of the region’s Michelin-starred restaurants. “Thirty years ago, I would have hesitated to put them on my wine list. Today, they don’t have to blush alongside the best PDOs of Provence.”
From France Today magazine