Provence in the South of France is famous for sprawling purple fields of lavender and for the pink-hued rosé wine. The fragrant herb assists to a relaxing sleep, while the fermented grape wine breeds energy. Often imbibed during the summer the refreshing rosés partner perfectly with the warm days and evenings. But, the stimulating qualities of this peach, pink and sometimes tangerine hued beverage could be enjoyed all year-long as a glass of a crisp white wine does, and you do not need to live in Provence for the right moment to open a bottle.
The global pink infatuation
Made around the world in different styles, often from local grapes, rosé wine remains in vogue and is perhaps the most known easy drinking wine. Yet, from all the wine growing regions, Provence still remains the place where the highest quality and the most iconic pink wines are made. The centuries-long experience of making this style of wine in the South of France led to an emergence of a wide array of elegant and refreshing styles beloved by many wine drinkers. Not only those vacationing on the beaches of the glitzy St. Tropez now seek the crisp, fresh and light bottle of Domaine Ott or Château Minuty. Although, along the Mediterranean shores of the Côte d’Azur, pink wine has made its mark as the fashionable lunch wine, now wherever the sun shines from London to California, rosé has risen into the regular offerings of brasseries, cafés and even the fine-dining restaurants.
In Europe rosé is usually a bone dry wine, but particularly in some New World countries such as in Australia or California it can be quite sweet. This type of rosé is very different from its dry version as it should be better drunk in small quantities due the high level of residual sugar. Increasingly rosé is made by using organic farming methods.
How you get the pink colour of rosé wine
These wines are actually hard to make, but some producers took the challenge and have now proved that it can be an intriguing wine. There are three main ways to make it. The average and low quality wines are often just a blend of a white and red wine. Yet, a majority of the higher quality pink wines are made by a short grapes’ skin contact with the juice. Crushed grapes are left with their skins in the must to leave some red colour in the juice that after fermentation becomes wine. In Provence a “bleeding (saignée) method” is used. In this approach some juice is removed so the ratio of skins is higher and thus the wine becomes darker.
Along with its increasing popularity, the art of making pink wine has crossed the borders of Provence, Bandol and Tavel in the South of France. The Rosé d’Anjou of the Loire Valley, intensely fruity and known as an easy to drink young wine. It can surprise as recently I opened a five years old bottle from the 2011 vintage and it was surprisingly delicious. Held very well! These wines form the last group, the so called “Vin Gris” (Grey Wines). These are pale pink, almost grey resembling wines made from the whole bunches of grapes, so the colour from the skins diffuses quickly into the juice before their removal and fermentation. Gris de Bourgogne is another example of the French Vin Gris. These wines do not have a very good reputation, but today there are some that are much more delicate and scented with fruity aromas.
Unfortunately, stereotypes are hard to beat, and we sometimes can become the slaves of bullheadedness (what a lovely word for rigidness). To overcome rigid behavior and attitudes, an exposure to reasonable opposing views from others can be the cure. I will provide you with some reasons to drink rosé wine:
- In warm or cold weather, rosé can be an ideal aperitif just as a glass of white wine can. Your palate will be invigorated and ready for meals to come.
- Rosé is wonderful with fruit and seafood, both enjoyed throughout the year. Do you eat fruit only in the summer?
- Some white and red wines cost a fortune these days. But, the majority of rosé is quite affordable as it is drunk mostly young and is not intended for long aging as many of the expensive wines are.
- Have you heard of the magic health powers of resveratrol, the substance found in the skins of grapes? Good for your heart, increasing longevity, etc. The trick is though, that there is no resveratrol in white wine because the wine is fermented without its skins where this “miraculous” substance is found. Red wine has quite a lot of it and rosé has to have some as either the grapes are macerated for some time with the skins or white and red wine are blended together. Only beware of some of the suspiciously cheap rosés as they often get their color with the help of chemical techniques, not friendly to retaining of many of the natural substances in wine.
- By drinking rosé we can evoke the memories of the last summer as our brain often connects flavors with experiences from the past. A hint of St. Tropez in a cloudy London or a cool Stockholm? Everyone who has visited the South of France would agree with me, that bringing up the atmosphere of this wonderful place on Earth anywhere feels great.
In Provence 80% of wine produced is pink, but styles differ considerably because of diverse soils and microclimates. Provence is also the largest Appelation Controlée in France, thus it is no wonder that it is mostly known for production of rosé wine. Therefore they do not need to be necessarily considered as low quality wines. Similar to humans, they spark with energy when young. Their main purpose follows naturally from their youthful qualities – they are refreshing and please the palate with their fresh fruity character. Light and energising wines are often preferred during the summer and are highly suitable for drinking in warm climates. Their invigorating and cooling properties cool the heat down as an inner air-conditioning system. Like a lemonade they quench thirst and spark up a good spirit.
Grapes commonly used to make rosé are the red Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cabernets and local specialities such as Tibouren in Provence that are blended with some white Clairette or Ugni Blanc.
In Spain, Tempranillo is also used and blended with Merlot or other varietals.
Australia with its iconic Shiraz uses this grape for pink wine production as well, but there are some more adventurous producers such as in Yalumba using the Italian red varietal Sangiovese and other grapes for their rosé wine.
In California Arnot-Roberts make fragrant pink wine from the delicate Pinot Noir.
Rosé wine is also a wonderful food partner. Seafood, fruit, even the tricky white asparagus, pork, quiche, pizza, exotic cuisine with mild spices and charcuterie all go very well with this wine.
Serve it well-chilled and in general use it as you would most of white wines. As a refreshing aperitif or with suitable food.
My favorite rosés from Provence and Var are:
- Domaine La Tourraque – beautiful property overlooking the Mediterranean just next to Ramatuelle worth visiting
- Bertaud – Belieu – striking winery in the plains behind St Tropez inspired by Greek architecture, favorite of Hollywood celebrities
- Château des Marres – well-positioned producer near to St Tropez with a nice cave and tasting the Cuvee 1907 is the ultimate
- Château de Pampelonne – its name evokes the beautiful sandy beaches of the same name just behind St. Tropez.
- Château D’Esclans – forget the Whispering Angel, their Garrus is shockingly expensive for a rosé, yet it rewards with a wonderful complex array of flavours worth some age. The result is a concentrated wine with dried citrus, pear, exotic fruit and rich finish.
- Another good value is Château Roubine, a very old property with history spanning to the Roman times. With over 35 years old grapes their rosé is well-balanced, delicate and aromatic.
- Domaine Tempier in Bandol makes a deep pink wine that is more ripe. Based on Mourvèdre brings richer almost meaty flavour and some tannins into the wine, which sets it better for aging. Domaine Bunan makes organic wholesome, hand-harvested rose in Bandol too.