Thu 06 Aug 2015

P is for Pink is for Provence

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We shouldn’t need fine summer weather to enjoy good rosé wine; and of the myriad rosé being produced today, nothing quite matches the glamour and elegance of pink wine from Provence.

 Château Romanin, Provence

The vines of Château Romanin

Our latest offering of rosé from the region aims to prove this.

Provence has always been about pink wine, and today it represents 88% of the region’s entire production.

It used to be sold mainly in skittle-shaped clear-glass bottles and to be honest was rarely that good. Often mass produced from high yielding grapes and with little technology to improve quality, rosé de Provence was often a serious disappointment. That is changing and more and more, I’ve been enjoying my forays into the pink-tinted world of Provence.

Provence has always about mass and about a few beacons of brilliance. The beacons have become brighter of late and every year they grow in number.

Why the change?
1. Better technology used to make cleaner wines.
2. Real investment, often from outside the region. Louis Roederer and Perrin are two names to have invested here.
3. Climate change.
4. Competition from elsewhere.
5. Genuine desire to improve quality with lower yields, better husbandry, and better choice of grape varieties.

As growers try to make better wines by reducing yields and using better grape varieties such as mourvèdre, the wines have suddenly become more flavourful, characterful and even better to be drunk with food.

Provence roséNot so long ago, I had the great pleasure and honour of taking a small group of Wine Society members to the Rhône. One lunchtime we were in Cairanne where there is an excellent bar à vin with, not surprisingly, an excellent wine list. Of course we had an impressive Cairanne from the equally impressive 2010 vintage. This was a brilliant red but actually not quite what was needed with lunch during June.

However, the other wine we had was just the ticket and something wonderful to show off, particularly as it is only its second vintage. This was Miraval, a Côtes de Provence made by the Perrin family but owned by Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

It was perfect: a wine with charm and ease and coping well with all the food that was put before us. And in came in a magnum. Magnums have become the in thing for top Provence wines and they do indeed make a real impact at the table.

On rosé and food
I drink rosé throughout the year. It is just a very easy wine to serve. It refreshes and it goes unerringly well with everything, and Provence rosé from good estates not only keeps well but improves in bottle and is often better after the summer is over.

Eggs and tomatoes are a real ‘no’ for most wines, and yet rosé wines work really well, unperturbed by the strong flavours even of salad dressing. With fish, especially grilled or fried, there is little better and likewise simply prepared meats including all manner of charcuterie.

So how to serve rosé?
Simplicity itself. There is no need to decant or to open hours before. Light chilling suffices but not so cold as to erase all the flavours.

What goes best with what?
Further to Emma Briffett’s recent piece on rosé and food matching, here are my suggestions for the wines in our current Provence offer.

1. Lighter styles
Côtes de Provence, Domaine Houchart Rosé, 2014 (£7.50): very round tasting, easy, no hard edges. Versatile. Best drunk very young.

Côtes de Provence Rosé, Château Barbanau 2014 (£9.25) & Coteaux Varois Saint-Qvinis Rosé, Domaine de Fontlade 2014 (£7.50): two crisp and bone-dry thirst quenchers that can be enjoyed with or without food and ideally now and over the next three or four months.

2. Mid-weight pinks
These all have more concentration and much more flavour. While remaining versatile, they come into their own with food. Lovely now but all will continue improving over the next few months.

Examples of this style:
Sainte-Victoire-Côtes de Provence Rosé, Domaine Houchart 2014 (£8.25)
Mas de Romanin, IGP Alpilles 2014 (£8.75)
Côtes de Provence Rosé, Château Riotor 2014 (£8.95)
Côtes de Provence Rosé, Château de Galoupet Cru Classé, 2014 (£9.95)
Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé, Château Vignelaure 2014 (£12.50)
Domaine Richeaume, IGP Méditerranée Rosé 2014 (£14.95)
Côtes de Provence, Miraval Rosé 2014 (£14.95)

3. More weight still
Bandol and Palette, with two wines represented in this offer:

Palette Rosé, Château Henri Bonnaud 2014 (£14.95)
Bandol Château Salettes 2014 (£13.95)

Both will again work even better with food and better still with quite big dishes such as lobster or crab.

I was very fortunate enough to have enjoyed a bouillabaisse prepared by Lulu Peyraud of Bandol’s Domaine Tempier and reputed to have been one of the best interpreters of Provençal cooking. Both white and rosé were served alongside, with the rosé edging it and perhaps coping best with all the flavours of crab, garlic and saffron.

Replicating the dish is not easy. The fish markets in Marseille are hardly next door though these days there is Eurostar service from Saint Pancras. So maybe it can be done…!

Bon appétit

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

Categories : France, South of France

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