The terroir

The terroir

The terroir – Products with an Approved label

The terroir of Alpes de Haute-Provence offer a diversified territory from the plains of the Durance to the mountains of the Ubaye and the hills of the pays de Forcalquier and the plateaus and canyons of the Verdon.

In the Pays de Giono, even if the soil is often arid, and the wind sweeps sometimes over the plateaus, the land is nevertheless generous for those who know how to discover its treasures.

The men who belong to the tradition of the Alpes de Haute-Provence have understood how, thanks to an age-old know-how, to extract quality produce from these contrasting lands, some of which are recognized by official acronyms.

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Signs of quality

There are many initiatives which see the light in our department in order to give the « Flavours » the place they deserve: the pays de Haute-Provence is the instigator of many of these approaches as it is intent on supporting our regional farming by impelling and federating on its geographical area six channels of the most emblematic farming channels and which each bear an official distinctive sign of quality:

  • Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) and/or
  • Indication géographique protégée (IGP).

AOC Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée for the local produce from the Alpes de Haute Provence.terroirThe AOC is the geographical denomination of a country, a region or a locality which serves to designate a product originating there and its quality or the features which result exclusively from its geographical environment, which includes natural and human factors.

It implies a close link between the product, the locality and Man’s talent.

terroirLabel Rouge for local produce from the Alpes de Haute Provence.
A European identification sign created in 1992, the IGP protects an agricultural product or foodstuff whose characteristics are linked to its geographical origin. Production and processing must take place in the defined geographical area.

All the IGP products of the Alpes de Haute-Provence except Small Spelt also have a Label Rouge.

4 AOC

Olive oil from Haute Provence Banon Goat’s cheese Coteaux de Pierrevert Essential oil of fine lavender of Haute Provence

5 IGP

Sisteron lamb Small spelt Haute Durance apples Lavender honey Herbes de Provence The Alpes de Haute-Provence offers a wide range of products with style and made according to local tradition … « Just per la taste » (Just for the taste)

Sisteron lamb (Label Rouge)

Haute-Provence lamb par excellence, Sisteron lamb is better known as César lamb. This lamb became label rouge in September 1995.
Lambs from these farms receive a healthy, natural food based on ewe’s milk, fodder from the farm and food supplements mainly based on cereals, with no fat or animal flours. A natural, balanced feed, along with a breeding mode which respects the environment, give César farm-bred lambs a pink, tender and tasty meat, recognized as superior quality by an independent tasting jury.

Banon cheese (AOC)

Banon is a goat’s cheese from the region of Banon, a discrete medieval village built against the plateau d’Albion between Lure and the Ventoux. Festive, upmarket and of very high quality, this whole raw milk goat’s cheese is made from soft « curds » and moulded with a ladle before being wrapped in brown chestnut leaves and bound with natural raphia.

A ripening period of between 5 and 10 days away from light and air gives it a creamy paste and indescribable smoothness. It develops very specific aromas which are the fruit of the alchemy between the fermentation of the soft « curds » and the migration of the tannins from the chestnut leaf to the cheese.

THE SMALLEST CHEESE PRODUCING AOC IN FRANCE IN TERMS OF PRODUCTION VOLUMES
This cheese packed with character and a unique taste obtained, in July 2003, the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. This AOC is spread over 179 communes, 111 of which are in the Alpes de Haute-Provence. Very strict specifications oblige small structures (55 goats on average) to put their herds out to pasture at least 210 days a year.

FIGURES
• To make a 100-gramme cheese, you need around 1 litre of milk • 5 million chestnut leaves per year (the equivalent of 5 semi-trailers) for the Banon cheese-house • Production: 50 tonnes per year. The most expensive cheese in the world!!

SOME HISTORY
It is said that the Emperor Antonin the Pious (68-161 A.D.) so loved it that he died of an indigestion of the cheese! Jules Vernes and Frédéric Mistral liked, so they say, to enjoy this speciality with its strong character.

Aromatic-plant based aperitifs

During the 12th and 13th centuries, peddlers set up in towns as merchants, ironmongers or apothecaries. Towards the end of 19th century, some of them became distillers and specialized in the production of liqueurs and aperitifs « Distilleries et Domaines de Provence » have inherited this unique local tradition: the peddlars. In Forcalquier, a village embedded between the Luberon and the montagne de Lure and considered as the land of scents, the « Distilleries et Domaines de Provence » cultivate with brio the taste of authenticity by making aromatic plant-based aperitifs and liqueurs, with all the know-how necessary to making Provencal aperitifs and liqueurs and particularly Pastis Henri Bardouin made with 50 spices and herbs.

Haute-Provence Small Spelt (IGP)

In the heart of the hills of Haute Provence, between Vachères and Banon, where its cultivation has been part of the cereals heritage since ancient times, the producers of Small spelt have restored its reputation in the respect for a natural and healthy agriculture.
This unusual cereal, with its many nutritional and taste qualities is amazing in its authenticity, its slight crunchiness and its flavour. Traditionally prepared as a soup, it can also be used in salads or even accompany vegetables, meat or fish.
Grouped together since 1997 in a Syndicat Interdépartemental, the producers work to protect and enhance small spelt and small spelt flour of Haute Provence through an IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée).

Lavender honey from Valensole…
And the others …

With all the advantages of the Alpes de Haute Provence generous sun, a multitude of flowers filled with a scented nectar, the hills and plateaus of the department are a special natural area for bees and beekeepers. From the plain of the Durance to the south of the Alps, and the lavender fields of the Valensole plateau, each honey takes what it needs to make it a high quality product from wild and generous natural surroundings.

THE ROLLS-ROYCE OF HONEYS: LAVENDER HONEYS (with an « s » because there are several varieties of lavender). In July and August, on the Valensole plateau, at the entrance to the Verdon, bees gather nectar all day long to produce this marvellous golden honey which is sweet with a hint of acidity. Harvested at the end of the lavandin blossoming time, it is at first liquid before finely crystallizing.
The Alpes de Haute Provence can boast of being the leading producer of lavender honeys in the world Other Haute Provence honeys: rosemary honey, linden flower honey, sunflower honey, acacia honey,

FIGURES
900 beekeepers; 72 professionals; 30 000 hives

Haute Durance apples (IGP) and other Haute Provence fruit

Fruit-production dates back several centuries in the Alpes du Sud. For the fruit sector, apples and pears produced in the Alpes de Haute Durance area are of a recognized quality which differentiates them from other regions with « Pommes et Poires des Alpes. »
The quality of the apples and pears in this region is closely linked to the characteristics of the cultivation soil and 300 days of sunshine per year. This climate, which has a low hygrometry and a large amount of sunlight gives an exceptional flavour to the Golden delicious apple.

Almonds from Valensole

The Alpes de Haute Provence have always been the cradle of French almonds and particularly the Valensole plateau in the south of the department between Haute Provence and Verdon.
The Valensole plateau is the land of the almond tree which produces high quality almonds. It remains the reference and the major location for this crop. The taste value of the almond of the Valensole plateau is recognized as being well above that of the so-called almond of Provence because of the land it grows on. It is much sought after and appreciated by confectioners, pastry-cooks and biscuit makers for its nougat, pralines, croquants, macarons, biscuits, calissons, marzipan and its use in the catering trade. It can also be used in different ways (savoury or sweet) and can be eaten dry all year round from harvest-time in September or green, known as an amendon in late June-early July.

FIGURES
100 hectares of almond-trees on the Valensole plateau

SA François Doucet Confiseur in Oraison makes confectionery and almonds are one of their main ingredients with fruits and hazel-nuts. Its products are known and sold all over France and even abroad, particularly in Japan.

Les coteaux de Pierrevert (AOC)

Pierrevert, a village located 5 km south-west of Manosque, is the wine-growing capital of the Alpes de Haute Provence. On the right bank of the Durance river and the Verdon, the appellation « Coteaux de Pierrevert » covers 11 communes in the Alpes de Haute Provence which are mostly on the territory of the Luberon natural Park, and 11 grape varieties.

AOC: GOLD FROM PIERREVERT

Classified as an AOC in 1998 (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), the Pierrevert vineyard is one of the highest in France with an average altitude of 450 metres. A remarkable argilo-calcareous land and an exceptional micro-climate, 320 days of sunshine per year and important variations in heat between night and day are ideal for an optimal ripening of the grapes and lastly an average altitude of 450 metres give the Coteaux de Pierrevert an aromatic elegance and fine character, low in degree and in three colours. The red A.O.C grape varieties are: Syrah, Grenache noir, Carignan and Cinsault. The white A.O.C grape varieties are: Vermentino, Grenache blanc and Roussanne. The Vin de Pays grape varieties are: Pinot noir for reds and Viognier for whites.

FIGURES
3000 hectares of production: 16 000 hectolitres produced by 200 producers

Chestnuts from Haute-Provence

In times gone by chestnuts were often food for the poor and times of famine, and the chestnut forests of Haute Provence along with all the French chestnut forests were somewhat abandoned for many years.
Today, we do not just think of feeding ourselves, but the evolution of taste, a return to natural products, a search for authenticity leads us inevitably towards products such as the chestnut. Even if consumer needs have changed, chestnuts have not, and they will always be an authentic, natural product.
As with all quality regional products, the flavour of the product is strongly attached to its locality. The same goes for the chestnut which has the flavour of its terroir.

Olive oil from Haute-Provence (AOC)

In Haute Provence, the life of the olive tree is adapted to the Mediterranean climate, hot and dry, and it grows between 400 and 600 metres. This is the Northern limit of the olive tree growing area and it gives it an exceptional flavour and fruitiness. Located in the Val de Durance and Bléone, the area overlaps onto the Pays de Forcalquier and the Valensole plateau. To the South-East of the department, the olive-tree grows in the region of Entrevaux.
« Aglandau » is the variety of olive which represents most of the « Alpes de Haute-Provence olive-groves ». It also grows side by side with other local varieties which are lesser in number: Filaïre, Estoublaïsse, Grappié, Colombale or Rosée du Mont d’Or.

A.O.C: OLIVE OIL FROM HAUTE PROVENCE: BETTING ON QUALITY.
Straight from the originality of its terroir and the particular character of its varieties, along with the know-how of its oil-pressers, olive oil from Haute Provence gave the profession an AOC on 23rd June 1999. It is the third AOC after that of the Pays du Nyonsais and Les Baux de Provence.
The production area defined by the AOC Haute Provence area which covers 95 communes and 4 departments with 83 communes in the Alpes de Haute Provence.
For more information: Syndicat de l’AOC 06 81 69 38 05 or 04 92 78 65 04

FIGURES
500 000 olive trees planted on approximately 1800 hectares
Oil from Haute Provence represents 10% of French production
Variable from one year to the next, the production fluctuates between 350 and 1250 tonnes of olives and 72 to 230 tonnes of oil.

LES OLIVADES: OLIVE-HARVESTING

« A pleasure for the fingers and the mind. The pleasure of touching the juicy olives and filling one’s hands with them ». Jean Giono
The harvest takes place after the first frosts and stretches from the middle of Autumn to the beginning of winter. Harvesting can be done by hand, with small rakes (combs) and nets stretched out under the trees, or with mechanized harvesting machines.
Both these methods illustrate the economical aspect of the olive with on the one hand, big exploitations, and on the other a tradition relived every year by small private farmers for whom the end of harvesting is time for a party and getting together around a well-earned aïoli (a Provençal dish with a strong garlic mayonnaise, salt cod and boiled vegetables)

THE MILLS
There are seven of them and most of them have adapted their installations to modern oil making techniques. But whatever the equipment, which goes from crushers or grinders to centrifugation systems, the oil keeps its original properties: those of a pure fruit-juice. These mills are:
Oil-producing cooperatives:

Private mills:

The last two mills have kept the traditional trituration methods, with stone mills, and the Victor COQ chapelle press, widespread in Provence from 18ème siècle.

Truffles from Haute-Provence

THE BLACK DIAMOND
Leading world truffle-producer, France owes its truffle-producing reputation above all to the South East (and not the west as you might think) which provides 80% of national truffle production. In Haute-Provence the truffle is known as a « rabasse », a rough, scraping word which conjures up images of a land filled with character. Even though the botanical variety is the same as that harvested in the Périgord Quercy, the truffle of Haute Provence has some intrinsic qualities which owe everything to this particular climate and the stony, sandy soil.
The truffle-growing area of the Alpes de Haute Provence is to be found in two very different areas: the Valensole plateau in the Verdon and the pays de Forcalquier in Haute Provence. L’association des trufficulteurs de Haute-Provence registered for an AOC application in 1997.

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