The Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix, having graced us with their ever-exhausting whirl, reminded us that it was time to watch the temperature rise and relax with a restorative glass of our region’s most famous, important and delicious world beater – a glass of Provence rosé.
It was with these moments in mind that I braved this year’s Salon des Vins de Provence in search of the perfect glass for your summer. But, of course, nothing is ever that simple.
In a region that stretches from Marseille to Nice and the coast to the foothills of the Alps, clearly there will be climatic and geological difference to leave their effect on the wines. The palette of grape varieties is equally diverse. Our classic five – Carignan, Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Tibouren – have been joined by Syrah, Cabernet and even Merlot. With some 600 winegrowers for whom 87.4% of their production is rosé, opinions on style and production methods are strong and varied. So no, there really is no such thing as a Provence rosé!
But all is not lost; I’ve highlighted a few of our favourites and their particular strengths.
Our quintessential “fluffy pink” is, oddly, the baby of two Grandees of Burgundy. Jacques Seysses and Aubert de Villaine took up the challenge of a southern vineyard in the late Eighties, and the result is Triennes in Nans-les-Pins, at the heart of Provence. To borrow their words, they make their wines the way we like to drink them. With rosé, their search is for freshness and aromas. Triennes rosé is a wonderfully fresh expression of Cinsault (with a few friends) and perfect by the pool on hot summer’s day.
By contrast Domaine Tempier in Bandol has always been the understated flag bearer of all things good and right in this most special terroir. Renowned for their very serious reds, their rosé is a wine of stature but shows a delicacy of touch and understanding that only reinforces their reputation. Mourvèdre and the Bandol soils are the secret here.
Working along the Coast, the trio of Château Sainte Marguerite, Château du Galoupet and Domaines Ott’s Clos Mireille bear witness to the powerful influence of a cooling sea breeze. Spikes in temperature are moderated and this gentle respite allows a more delicate maturation encouraging cooler flavours and complexity.
A new find at the tradeshow was the organic estate of Domaine Le Loup Bleu in the shadow of Mont Sainte-Victoire. Marc and Sylvie Dubois ply their craft in the brilliant red soils under the striking swirling grey limestone monolith.
Their Croix du Sud is a blend of Grenache and Carignan that is all fresh argrumes and very pleasant. The star is their Grenache Syrah blend Vol de Nuit that is softer and that bit more complex. They raise their wines on fine lees, which adds a creamy softness. In a region of stars, this is a fine representative.
To finish, the wines of three innovators.
Firstly, Mirabeau is the product of a young Englishman, Stephen Cronk. Some six years ago Stephen packed up his baby blue deux chevaux van and moved his very understanding family south to Cotignac to make rosé. What else could he be expected to do with a homesick baby blue 2CV? Pure is his latest release and pure is what it is. Fresh strawberries leap from the glass and it evolves through a gamut of berries.
Sacha Lichine comes from the noblest of winemaking families. At the Château d’Esclans, he has rewritten the book on Provence rosé with his wood-aged Garrus, more reminiscent of a fine white Burgundy than a poolside quaffer. Using all the latest winemaking toys he not only bunch selects but with an optical sorter views every grape he picks. Whispering Angel is his more orthodox take on a Provence rosé and of all the big boys I tasted at the wine show it stood out. Grenache brings weight and depth, Cinsault freshness and Rolle, the local white grape, just that little extra focus. A fine offering from a deservedly acclaimed property.
Finally, we couldn’t talk about Provence without mentioning the Ott family. Now very tall poppies, with all that entails, they singlehandedly put Provence on the global map. And tasting their current offering at the opera in Aix, with François Ott the current mantle bearer, this is not without reason. But most importantly they sum up the diversity that is Provence. They are Domaines Ott precisely because they have three properties, the Château Romassan in Bandol, Clos Mireille on the coast at La Londe-les-Maures and Château de Selle in Taradeau. Three terroirs, three different styles, but one pair of hands.
Cheers to the summer!
At L’Emporium du Vin we have compiled two offers to introduce the highlighted wines or explore the three sides of Domaines Ott. Visit www.emporiumduvin.com or call 04 93 49 27 01 for details.