Whether it’s strolling down the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence or hiking through Marseille’s calanques, southern France offers much to do. The region of Provence is a treasure chest for stunning hikes, village strolls and important monuments. But much of Provence’s charm stems from enjoying its local specialities. From its fragrant lavender fields to tranquil olive groves, the region of Provence offers delights for all five senses. From lavender to wine, we’re rounding up several of the best local specialities from Provence and how you can make sure they’re authentic.
4 Local Specialities from Provence
What does AOP mean?
AOP: Three letters make all the difference when it comes to determining the authenticity of a product. When a product is marked AOP, it means that the producers belong to a certain geographic region and have followed the designated steps of the trade, per the Ministry of Economy.
So many French products are tied to the land, climate and tradition of where they’re grown or produced. And the heart of the AOP label is to respect tradition and authenticity. The AOP label is recognized across the European Union. In essence, this label tells consumers that this is a legitimate product.
For example, not just anyone can make a beverage and call it champagne. Legally, the product can only be called champagne when it has been harvested and produced in the Champagne region of France. When a product is labeled as AOP, it is registered and subject to being audited to make sure its quality and authenticity are top-notch.
What is the Difference Between AOP and AOC?
You might also see the letters AOC, which are also a mark of authenticity at the French national level and not yet across the European Union. The next step in the process is to seek the AOP label in order to be recognized across the E.U., according to the Ministry of Economy. AOP stands for “Appellation d’Origine Protégée,” and AOC stands for “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.” In short, the letters AOP and AOC are special labels that denote authenticity. As you stroll French markets or grocery stores, keep your eyes peeled for these labels.
Here are several local specialities from Provence with the AOP label and how you can incorporate them into your trip to France:
The region of Provence is particularly known for its lavender fields. Our team is ready to help you plan your trip to explore these enchanting lavender fields. If you’d like to see the purple fields in bloom, it’s best to visit during the summer as harvest time is in August. France produces 131 tons of lavender essential oil annually, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Lavender essential oil and lavender essence from the Haute-Provence department has received the AOP label.
Hugging the Mediterranean Sea, Provence is also sprinkled with olive groves, which yield a variety of products. One of the most used is olive oil. Olive oil from the Haute-Provence department and from Aix-en-Provence have achieved AOP status. Black olives from les Baux-de-Provence have also received the AOP label. Whether with cooking or in a tapenade, be sure to indulge in this local speciality during your trip to Provence.
Truffles are “edible spores that grow on an underground fungus in the family Tuberaceae,” per All Recipes. They were originally hunted by pigs but are now usually located with the help of dogs’ sense of smell. Truffles boast the AOC label, according to Ma Région Sud. Around 60% of French truffle production takes place in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
It’s no secret that France is known for its wine. And the region of Provence is no different. AOP labels abound for wines produced in Provence: Bandol, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Cassis, Coteaux Varois en Provence, Luberon, and many more. This region is rich in wine varieties, especially rosé wines. If you’re looking to enjoy the best local specialities in Provence, its wine will not disappoint.
Looking to experience the best of local specialities in Provence? We’re sharing some of our favorite experiences to enjoy lavender, olive oil, truffle and wine.
Winery Visit and Tasting at the Château de Berne
If you’re a wine connoisseur looking to taste the best of Provençal wine, look no further. The Château de Berne carries the AOP Côtes de Provence wine, and best of all: it’s nestled in the heart of dreamy southern France. During your private visit, you’ll stroll the rolling vineyards with your guide and learn about the terroir and the domain’s history dating back to 1750. After you’ve brushed up on French oenology, you’ll sip on a sampling of six different wines as well as taste local olive oil. You’ll learn about the complex winemaking process and then be able to enjoy the fruit of the vine, too. Santé !
Tasting in a Provençal Country House
At Mas de la Dame, making wine and olive oil is a family affair. This domain has been producing these local products for four generations. Mas de la Dame is just a stone’s throw away from the idyllic les Baux-de-Provence, which was named as one of France’s most beautiful villages. Indulge yourself in the craftsmanship of this domain with a private tasting of three wines along with tapenade and olive oil.
Private Tour on Olive Oil and its Products in Marseille
Olive oil isn’t just used for cooking or pairing with bread. It also plays an important role in soap making, particularly for le savon de Marseille. Learn about the traditional soap-making process in a factory in Marseille. After your tour, you’ll stamp three bars of soaps to take home. Later you’ll enjoy a gourmet dinner Restaurant Gerarh in the bustling Cours Julien neighborhood. The chef will serve up the best of local cuisine paired with an impressive wine selection.
Truffle Hunting and Tasting Tour
This luxury product isn’t easy to grow, and the market reflects it. Black truffles can be sold anywhere between $300 and $800 per pound, according to Martha Stewart. Spend the afternoon at a truffle plantation as you learn about the complicated growth process, including dogs who sniff them out. Surrounded by olive groves and bee hives, you’ll be immersed in the heart of the Provençal countryside as you discover the riches of this region. Not all truffles are the same; you’ll learn to distinguish between an authentic Provençal tuber melanosporum and its Chinese counterparts. From truffle ice cream to truffle oil, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy this Provençal treat. During your private tour, you’ll nosh on these truffle products and sip on champagne.
Plants Distillery Visit in the Luberon Valley
Nestled in Provence, the Luberon Valley is a must-see destination for its beautiful views and exceptional wines. On your private visit of the Bastide, you’ll wander among its lavender, olive trees and truffle oaks. Your exclusive visit to this aromatic plantation will include time with the farmer who will share all about the extraction and distillery process. Inhale the fragrances of thyme, rosemary and lavender, which will be transformed into essential oils. Your private tour will also include essential oils and floral water to live the experience to the full.
Where to Stay in Provence
Venture into the idyllic Provençal countryside with a stay at Baumanière. This five-star hotel is nestled in Les Baux-de-Provence, a village named one of the most beautiful in France. Its 53 rooms have been tastefully and uniquely decorated and feature pieces from nearby villages such as Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. A stay at the Baumanière would be incomplete without a reservation at L’Oustau de Baumanière. With a decorated history since 1945, this restaurant boasts three Michelin stars and is led by Chef Glenn Viel. You’ll also have your choice at their wine selection, with some wines aged 150 years. If you’re interested in the science and culture of wine, you can even take an oenology class complete with a cellar visit and wine tastings, bien sûr. Wind down at the property’s spa with their Escape to Provence massage with its notes of lavender and olive or perhaps their Haiwaiian-inspired Lomi-Lomi massage.
La Bastide de Marie in Ménerbes
Located in the charming village of Ménerbes, this boutique hotel will have you falling for the Luberon Valley. This cozy property only has a handful of rooms to ensure intimacy during your stay. Its white stone walls and vineyard views make the perfect setting to discover Provence. Take a dip in its pool or treat yourself to its lavender treatments at the spa.
Do these local specialities from Provence have you drooling for a trip to southern France? We totally get it. You might enjoy: A Weekend in Wonderful Provence or Art, Culture and History trip to Provence. Need some help planning your trip?