Nearly 3 millenniums ago, the Phocaeans founded the city of Marseille while also planting the first vines in the bay of Cassis. They introduced Ugni Blanc, which is still present today. Later, the Romans took on winemaking on Cassis and sent wine by sea. To this day, wine amphores are still found in the bay of Cassis. The first written records of Cassis’s vineyards go back to the middle age. In 1381, an official record mentioned a vine growing land in the place known as “L’Arène”, on the coastline. From the onset, the vineyards dropped the anchor on the mediteranean shores, before expanding further on toward the surrounding hills. The final step leading to modern Cassis wines happened in the XVIth century, as the vineyards specialised into white wine, in an era were red was dominant.
During the XIXth century, phylloxera hit Cassis hard. This insect-borne disease annihilated every and all vines. A few determined winemakers resurrected the vineyards, by planting new vines from american rootstock. As the vineyards crawled back to life, they pursued the specialisation of local wines toward dry whites.
On May 15, 1936, Cassis vineyard made history by becoming an AOC, on the day the AOC system was established. Cassis therefore become the first wine area in France to ever be distinguished this way. This is the crowning achievement of this little provencal village’s winemaking history
As the XXth century went on, the area continued to thrive. Plantations kept progressing, as a result to the dedication of winemaking families attached to the terroir. The trend is continuing today: over the last 20 years, the vineyards’ surface went from 180 to 215 hectares. As the area increased in size, it also grew in quality thanks to investment by Cassis winemakers in modern, high quality tools and machineries. Since 2012, the Cassis wine area is part of the Calanques national park, as the only wine making area in France to be fully enclosed in a national park.
A great area for white wines, with two main influencing factors: limestone, and the sea.
The winemaking area of Cassis is shaped as a circus facing the mediteranean sea. It is closed on the western side by the Calanques hills, on the eastern side by the Canaille peak (from the provencal language “Cap Naio”, the diving peak). Despite very much mediteranean characteristics, the environment is well suited for excelling in growing and making white wines.
400 meters tall, the Canaille peak is the country’s tallest seaside cliff. Vine growing is done on its flank, sculpted by what we call “Restanques”. These are stone walls built by winemakers, which keep vines on the rocky, steep slopes. From high on, these reach all the way to the sea. Vineyards are atop limestone grounds, rich in iron oxide from the cliff’s boulderfalls. These go back to approximately 115 millions years, many fossilised shells from below the Urgonians seas can be found inside.