If red wine is, in the words of Leclerc Cannes Rocheville caviste Michel Roulcois, a wine of the earth, then rosé is a wine of the sun.
In our region, the amount of sunshine in a growing season determines the taste and strength of the rosé. This type of wine is made from red wine grapes, typically Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, which after crushing are left in contact with the skins for as little as an hour to give the rosé blush.
A point to bear in mind when shopping for the “local” rosés (the lion’s share grown in the Var) is that the posher wines, Bandol, for instance, are governed as to the proportion of the various grape varieties that can be used to made the wine of that “controlled area” – Appelation d’Origine Controllée. Therefore, these “greater” wines will generally have less variation of style and taste between years – something that does not apply to the Coteaux Varois, for instance, which can vary proportions, and therefore greatly alter the wine (for good or bad) from vintage to vintage.
We’ve come up with a selection from Leclerc that caters for most tastes and budgets.
For a house wine, the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Terres Ocrées Mediterranéen (€3.23) takes some beating. Light and refreshing, it’s a perfect drink for everyday. A plus is the screw top, so common now in British supermarkets but still an anathema to most French wine drinkers, who seem to have an addiction to corks. We struggle to understand this, as with modern screw tops the wine is less at risk from cork faults and keeps better when opened. This was the only screw top bottle of “proper” French wine we could find in Leclerc.
Along with the Coteaux d’Aix, the Coteaux Varois, although considered lesser wines than their Côtes de Provence neighbours, can produce delightful lighter-style wines, such as the Domaine St Jean Le Vieux (€5.05).
On the St Tropez penninsular, the wines have, we find, a little taste of the sea about them – Ramatuelle Rosé (€5.70) is cheap for a drinkable Côtes de Provence wine.
Moving across the Var, Château de Brigue Côtes de Provence also represents good value at €5.75.
Rising toward the €7 mark, an important threshold for the budget-conscious wine lover, comes Domaine du Bercail l’Opale at €6.50. This vineyard at Puget-sur-Argens works with handicapped adults, teaching them skills to improve their chances of leading independent lives. It’s a great place to visit for a wine tasting followed by a simple but delicious (and cheap) lunch – best to book on 04 94 19 54 09.
New to us and a discovery worth sharing is the wine of Sainte Victoire – covered by the Côtes de Provence appellation but inhabiting a micro-region at the foot of the great mountain of Cezanne. Le Cengle is €6.80 a bottle.
Château de Berne is a well-known and well-made Côtes de Provence, the reputation reflected in the price of €8.30. There is no need to make the wine stand out by sticking it in a square (and therefore heavy) bottle, but they did it anyway.
For our last recommendation we change gears and appellations and present the first-rate Bandol Ray-Jane (€11.48), a rosé of some style to accompany a high-class fish supper.
Prices, quoted at the time of going to press (2013), may vary.