As the weather starts warming up, thoughts turn toward lazy days full of sunshine and fun. As our thoughts lighten, often the colour and style of the wine in our glass become lighter too. And the South of France rosé wines are most welcome. Not that there isn’t a place for big, bold reds in the heat of summer. It is perhaps better that they are left for cooler evenings. Or around tables where temperatures are rather more chilled than the temperature outside.
Sitting in the hazy sunshine drinking a high alcohol wine that quickly warms up with the ambient temperature, causes the alcohol to become the overall lasting impression of the wine. Let’s not dwell on the fact that a natural effect of alcohol is that over all warm sensation. This feeling is thanks to the dilation of blood in your veins. When you add the alcohol effect to that of the warmth of the sun, it is enough to lose your cool completely.
Enter the lighter, more chilled, side of wine. Bring in the pinks … the rosés from the South of France !
Now, not all rosé wines are equal . However, there is a rosé wine that will appeal to any wine drinker except those who are obstinate in their choice. There are sweeter rosés that can be very appealing as an aperitif or with food that demands a sweeter, fruitier style of wine. There are many that are fruity and ripe and fall into that off-dry category. Often, you don’t notice the sugar sweetness because the wines are well balanced and finish crisp and dry.
Then, there are the wines that are fully dry with fruit and spice complexity. When they are well made, these wines have the texture that will simply glide across your tongue. These are the rosés made for savouring. They are versatile in both occasion, be it formal or casual, and how they work with food.
Many wine regions around the world make this style of rosé. Australia, closely followed by the USA, has seen a refinement in the rosé offering in those respective countries since Australian producer De Bortoli initiated the Rosé Revolution in 2011. This project highlighted the need to recognise that drinkers deserved to have wines that were well crafted. The De Bortoli family advocated that dry, finely honed, textural rosé wines lightened up in colour but not in flavour.
However, this is not a new style of rosé at all.
It was the recognition that rosé wines, such as those coming from Provence under the Côtes de Provence AOC, were coming of age. And the world should sit up and take note. After all, who could think about the French Riviera without thinking about sun, sand, big sunglasses, high fashion, salade nicoise and a fine, yes, fine, local rosé. These days, one more likely to be poured from a unique and very stylish bottle.
The world seems to have suddenly now caught on to the quality of the South of France rosé wines. According to drinks business, May 2018, in 2017 exports of Provence wine surged to more than 54 million bottles worth €240 million, a growth of 36% in a year. This means that now 30% of the wine made in Provence goes out to the world. This is compared to just 11% a decade ago.
Here are some South of France rosé wines that you should be drinking:
Gerard Bertrand Côtes des Roses 2018 rosé (€7, £13, US$12, AU$19) Gerard Bertrand’s ‘Côtes des Roses’ rosé has become a reliable ‘go-to’ wine. Accordingly, coming from the Languedoc it is a good value alternative to the popular Provence wines. Lush strawberry, raspberry and red currant fruit aromas take on a floral appeal on the palate. As a fresh, crisp dry rosé, it has a texture like cool silk over plush ripe fruit. It is a fuller and riper mouthful that is an easy choice for lunch or a long afternoon with friends. Read the full review here!
Rivarose Mediterranee IGP Brut (€7, £13, USA$13, AU$23) A sparkling alternative to the still, pale dry rosés. Rivarose is Provence’s largest sparkling wine producer, and its oldest. It is a soft and pretty pink in the glass. There is some yeastiness coming from the second ferment in this wine, and its sibling, the Prestige. A blend of Syrah and Grenache, it has all the hallmarks of a Provence rosé. Crisp, dry and spicy, with ripe strawberries that hit the front of the palate while those bubbles deliver crispness and a fresh liveliness to the mid palate and beyond. It’s an easy drinker and an easy choice.
Those Côtes de Provence specials…
Chateau Roubine ‘R de Roubine’ Côtes de Provence (€7 ,USA$15) The ‘R’ has a new look with a more stylish label and is the entry level for a wide range of rosés offered by Chateau Roubine. It is fresh, dry and fruity with the fragrance of ripe strawberries and a hint of spice. Grenache takes the lead here with Syrah and Cinsault. It gives generously for the price. If you cannot find the ‘R de Roubine’ then maybe the Chateau Roubine La Vie En Rosé is available and it is worth the extra price.
Miraval Rosé Côtes de Provence 2018 (€16, £19, USA$18, AU$32) Made by the Perrin family from grapes coming from Chateau Miraval, this wine has been responsible for much of the recent talk about Côtes de Provence rosé. Having only recently tasted it, I can safely say the discussion rightfully has not been just because of the Chateau’s famous owners.
It is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle (Vermentino) and Syrah that wins hearts on its own terms. Dry, with the palest salmon hue to the pink. With a fragrance of wild herbs sitting amongst spicy strawberries, it also has a light floral nuance. The key to this wine is the texture, there is a rich silkiness to the palate. A portion of 5% of the grapes are barrel fermented with lees stirring (batonnage) which has added a creaminess, both in added body and that smooth silkiness, plus some spicy cream flavours on the finish. There is no mistaking that curvaceous bottle! (Note: current vintage is 2019)
And something extra special ….
Chateau d’Esclans Garrus Rosé Côtes de Provence 2016 (€98, £100, USA$100+) This has been lauded as the best Provence rosé and it is a blend of Grenache and Rolle (Vermentino). It is a salmon hued rosé made from grapes carefully harvested from 80 year old Grenache vines. It is produced from mostly free run juice and after fermentation has spent 10 months in large format oak. The finesse of this wine opens up new food for thought about how rosé is perceived by drinkers.
That time in large oak gives the spicy berry, red apple, currant and lavender fruit a spicy bass note. It is a wine that moves with life in the mouth and speaks with a satin flourish of pleasure. It then graciously keeps evolving to change the note of the conversation. If you cannot stretch to buying this wine, then look for Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé Côtes de Provence which is an excellent rosé as well.
To discover more about the South of France rosé wines, particularly of Côtes de Provence please visit vinsdeprovence.com.
Note: This post was updated on 3rd July, 2019, with current vintages.