Wines, just like food or fashion, go in and out of style. There was the ‘ABC’ acronym in the early 2000’s, standing for ‘Anything But Chardonnay’, making people turn their noses at any wine that even had a whiff of the Burgundy grape. Merlot was dragged through the mud a few years later – with Paul Giamatti in Sideways wincing at even the mention of the name. These days, French Burgundies are the choix du jour, sommeliers are focusing on natural wines, Austria and Sicily are getting a lot of attention and everyone wants to drink the deliciously pink, crisp, refreshing rosé wines of Provence.
Rosé has had it’s fare share of bad press, with many people associating this wine with an influx of candy colored, sweet pink Zinfandels that started appearing on the wine scene in California in the 1980s. With absolutely nothing in common with its French counterparts except alcohol, this sugary booze was not only frowned upon as déclassé, it was also considered something to drink only in summer then forgotten until the next year. The good news is that rosé is back, and not as a saccharine summer drink, but a beautiful, delicate and dry wine that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. In fact, rosé can be made from any red grape in any wine region of the world so we’ve surely only had a small taste of this recent rosé revival.
In the famous rosé wine region of Provence, most classic examples are made from a mixture of Grenache and Cinsault grapes or varietals but a lot of experimentation is going on, especially with the new generation of winemakers, making for interesting blends. One such example is winemaker Henri Milan with his Ma Terre rosé. Domaine Milan is located in Saint Remy de Provence and these wines are an exceptional example of extremely well made rosé. All natural to boot, the first batch of Ma Terre was made in 2011, followed by 2012. Both very different looking wines, 2011 was made with the Mourvèdre grape varietal and came out a dark, deep pink with notes of flowers, strawberries and a bit of pepper. The 2012 wine was made with Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah, producing a light, pale pink wine with similar tasting notes and a crisp finish. If there were a wine to convert even the most staunch, anti-rosé drinkers, Henri Milan’s Ma Terre would be a very good contender.
Then there’s Bandol. This wine region is on the southern fringes of Provence and lies right on the Mediterranean. Located between Marseille and Toulon, its sunny, hilly landscape is the perfect climate for the star of Bandol: The Mourvèdre grape. Bandol is actually the only appellation in the world that requires all of its red and rose wines to be made of at least 50% Mourvèdre. Although known for phenomenal red wines, this region’s rosé wines are considered some of the best in the world. Made up of mostly Cinsault with a bit of young Mourvèdre, they are everything a good French rosé should be: dry, crisp, spicy, herbaceous and mineral with a long, clean finish. Some star domains to look out for are Domaine Tempier with intense fruit and floral notes, Domaine du Gros Noré, which is a personal favorite; smooth, fruity, delicate and delicious, and Chateau du Pibarnon, which does not use the Grenache grape so, according to the winemaker, the rosé comes out tasting less of fruit and alcohol and lends more to something bone dry with a refreshing bitterness.
Regardless of whether you had preconceived notions about this blush colored wine, or bad experiences with ones that tasted far too cloying, Provence’s rosés are a cut above, and definitely an incredible wine variety to explore. Vive le rosé!
Where to stay in Provence