Despite COVID-19’s current impact on social gatherings and its ability to cause seemingly endless uncertainty, there is little this virus can do to stop the undeniable force that is Mother Nature. Spring has sprung, summer is almost here, and despite social distancing and self-isolation, wine enthusiasts worldwide are finding company in their favourite rosé wines.
Southern France is the undisputed home of rosé. While they are made all over the world, it is the Provence region more than any other that has put a focus on this lovely pink-coloured wine that is served cold and seems to be the perfect aperitif to enjoy on a sunny deck.
With almost 90% of their vines dedicated to rosé wine and a staggering 150+ million bottles produced, Provence accounts for more than 40% of the that wine in France and close to 10% of rosé production worldwide. The hot Mediterranean climate is a natural for pairing a refreshing rosé with the Provençal cuisine featuring spicy fish stews and garlicky aioli.
Rosés from Provence are typically dry and refreshing which is a style we tend to prefer because they use grapes that impart a spicy character to the wine including: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo and Zinfandel.
Last year we focused our annual Rosé tasting on those being produced in Washington State, a region that might come as a surprise as a top Rosé producing region until you consider the grapes it grows exceptionally well: Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre.
Wineries such as Lauren Ashton, Brian Carter Cellars and JM Cellars all make terrific rosés, and all cite the “Provence-style” as their inspiration. It seems only fitting that this year we should return to the style that ignited our love for a wine we overlooked for far too long.
Provence has 9 designated areas they call ‘appelation d’origine contrôlée’ or “AOCs”.
Of the nine, there are 3 relatively large ones (Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, and Coteaux Varois en Provence) and 6 smaller ones (Les Baux-de-Provence, Pierrevert, Bandol, Cassis, Bellet and Palette).
Côtes de Provence produces the vast majority of Provence’s rosé wines and it is from that particular AOC we found the most options in terms of what was available at our local wine shop to try (see tasting notes below).
Rosé wines seldom use new oak, nor are they meant to be stored for long periods of time at the winery. As a result, production costs are a lot lower which is reflected in their price on the shelf.
Rosé is not an overly complex wine, nor is it meant to be. It is a wine that is both enjoyable and approachable regardless of one’s level of wine appreciation, which has translated into a massive spike in popularity over the past several years. While many have passed off its current popularity as the latest trend, demand continues to grow as people discover its versatility and it sheds its reputation for being merely a sweet and pretty pink wine. Like all wine, there are different levels in quality and there is a spectrum of types and flavours. As wine drinkers become more open-minded to trying different varieties and styles of Rosé, we expect this so-called ‘trend’ to not only continue, but to last a very long time.
From Côtes de Provence this is a blend made up of 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 5% Cinsault. Aged in stainless steel tanks for 7 months this wine is exactly how we like our rosé: dry, citrus flavours versus sweet, a really lovely acidity with spice on the finish.
2017 GM par Gabriel Meffre
This Grenache-dominant Rosé (with Syrah and Cinsault), is about as easy drinking as it gets. It’s refreshingly crisp and dry with strawberry, raspberry and the perfect kick of spice to round it out.
2016 Calmel & Joseph Villa Blanche (Pays d’Oc – Languedoc-Roussillon)
100% Grenache, this is a bigger bodied wine than the two mentioned above but its acidity and minerality ensures it doesn’t feel heavy. Strawberry and red apple skin are the primary flavours, while that trademark Grenache spice finishes it well. We enjoyed this over a couple of days without it becoming flat or flabby.
2018 VieVité by Domaine Sainte Marie (Cotes de Provence)
Less time on the skins gives this wine a lovely light pink colour. Made up of 30% Cinsault, 30% Grenache, 30% Syrah & 10% Carignan, it’s crisp and refreshing. Ripe red fruits, some tropical notes and a juicy acidity make this a very easy summer sipper with the balance and structure to back it up.
2018 Domaine de la Rosière Vin de Savoie Rosé
Located in the village of Jongieux, which is the largest of the 17 appellations of the Savoie region, this wine is a blend of 80% Gamay, 10% Mondeuse and 10% Pinot Noir. The most minerally of all the Rosés we tasted for this article, it also seemed the most elegant expression as well. More subtle with the pepper notes and less important to drink with food though we definitely wouldn’t characterize this as a lightweight.
2018 Roubine La Vie en Rosé (Cotes de Provence)
An equal blend of 20% Tibouren, Cinsault, and Grenache and 10% Syrah. We admit we were drawn to the eye-catching bottle and thankfully rewarded with a lovely wine. More tropical fruit and although there was definite red fruit, the fruit was less pronounced than its peers above. A light and easy expression that wasn’t disappointing but had some tough competition from above that played more to our palates.