A History of Food and Wine in Provence
The Provence region predates the country of France and has maintained a cultural identity that has lasted to the present day. Ligures have lived in Provence since Neolithic times, Celtics since around 900 BC, and Greek immigrants since about 600 BC. Eventually, Rome captured Provence, making it the first Roman province outside of Italy. The region was a semi-independent state from 879 to 1486. Then in 1481, the title went to Louis XI of France, and Provence became formally integrated into France in 1486.
Greeks and Romans
Ancient Greeks from Phocaea founded the affluent Mediterranean seaport of Massilia (now called Marseille) around 600 B.C. Later in the 3rd century B.C. the Massilians and the Romans were allies in several battles. They continued to have a peaceful relationship until the 2nd century B.C. when the Massilians asked Rome for help defending themselves from the Gauls. The Romans aided them, but at the same time made Massilia a part of the Roman Empire.
The region of Provence was part of the Roman province, Gallia Narbonensis which included modern-day Provence and Languedoc. Because of its significance and proximity to Rome, this region was referred to as ‘Provincia’ or ‘the province.’
After the Roman Empire fell, what happened to Provence?
Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Provence was populated by a variety of people that fought for dominance over the region. During this time, Visigoths and Ostrogoths, as well as Catalans and Moors, occupied the coastal districts. In 1486, the majority of Provence was absorbed by France. In a historical sense, Provence predated France and was a cultural center before Northern France gained the territorial significance and prominence it has today.
The Provence Way of Life
Provence offers a good life with its beautiful climate, stunning scenery, rich culture, and history. It is also the perfect spot for food and wine lovers, with countless opportunities to sample some of France’s finest cuisine and drink. There are many Mediterranean-influenced dishes in the region. When the weather is bright and sunny, dine al fresco with a view of the sea or the countryside.
Traditional Provençal Cuisine
Chefs in Provence use classic French cooking techniques to cook the abundance of seafood and spices found around the Mediterranean coast. The mountains are also close by, contributing to the abundance of garlic, goat cheese, and olive oil found in many dishes. A variety of Herbes de Provence, a regional herb blend, adds flavor and excitement to every dish.
Provence’s Traditional and Specialty Foods
Fig and other must-try ingredients are frequently served with goat cheese. Banon and Tomme à l’Ancienne are two popular goat’s milk cheeses in Provence. Pissaladière is a specialty in the area; it’s slightly similar to pizza, but without the tomato sauce, and the toppings are always anchovies, onions, and olives.
Of course, given its proximity to the coast, fresher-than-fresh seafood is frequently served. Along with the famous wines of the area, pastis, an anise-flavored aperitif mixed with water and ice is commonly drunk. Berries are another popular summertime delicacy, often used in a variety of desserts, including tarts, homemade ice cream, and preserves.
The Food Markets of Provence
Every village in Provence has its markets. They’re abundant and colorful, especially in the spring when you’ll find seasonal vegetables like asparagus and purple artichokes. The Carpentras market is a favorite among true French foodies, while the Marseille fish market is ideal for the freshest catch of the day.
Regional Wines of Provence
Provence has been producing wines for almost 2,000 years, dating back to the time of the Ancient Greeks in 600 BC. The region’s most famous wine is rosé, but the area is also known for its reds. Visit the Domaine Bertaud Belieu for a sample of some of Provence’s best rosés. See more resources here
ON THIS DAY
879 to 1486: Provence, a semi-independent state, was ruled by the Counts of Provence during this period.
1486: Provence became formally integrated into France, and France absorbed most of Provence.
600BC: Provence has been producing wines for almost 2,000 years, dating back to the 600 BC founding of Marseille by the Ancient Greeks. The region’s most famous wine is rosé.
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Guest writer. 2014. “The History of Provence Wine.” The Good Life France. September 8, 2014. https://thegoodlifefrance.com/the-history-of-provence-wine/.