What could be more appropriate than celebrating the longest day of the year and the start of the British summer with a spotlight on the spiritual home of rosé, Provence.
We are drinking more rosé than ever, with sales growing at the speed of light, apparently tripling over the last 25 years. Rosé used to be associated with a super sweet, uncomplicated drink, but increasingly it's now regarded as a serious and versatile wine that comes in many different styles, and not just for the sunny days. However, Provence rosé, which represents 89% of the total production in the region has always been and remains the benchmark of all rosé.
A benchmark on many levels but foremost, its colour. Provence rosé used to be easy to spot in a line-up thanks to its very pale colour, but today many rosés have ditched the blush colour for one of the other 138 possible shades of Provence rosé. That’s the number according to the Rosé Research Centre at least created in 1999 in Provence, the only centre of its kind in the world.
A benchmark for its heritage, Provence rosé may be very fashionable today but when the Greeks planted the first vines in Provence 2,600 years ago, they were already making rosé. Today Provence rosé can be made by skin maceration - which consists of macerating the skin with the pulp for a few hours - or by direct press – pressing the grape bunches directly. The latter tends to be much paler in colour.
A benchmark for its quality, Provence rosé has also built a reputation for producing a more serious food friendly style of rosé often blended with Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre and issued from different terroir including limestone, schist and volcanic. Each grape and terroir brings something to the wine. As a rule of thumb, the Cinsault gives the aromatic strawberry characters, as well as freshness and elegance. Grenache brings the cherry red fruit characters, Syrah adds the tannins, and Mourvèdre provides the backbone and the essence of the garrigue, herbal characters. The blend, the terroir and the winemaker’s signature will dictate the style. From fruity and easy-going to the more subtle, sophisticated and age-worthy such as Château Simone from the Palette area in Provence which can easily age for five to 10 years.
Obviously, this popularity often comes with a but… Fancy packaging, clever marketing and celebrity names – think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - have definitely contributed to its popularity along with a higher price tag than other rosés. Its popularity also means the market is awash with Provence rosé, and not all deserve the price tag attached to their name. So make sure you follow our expert recommendations.
Our experts tasted an assortment of Provence rosé last month, and we hand-picked a selection that they enjoyed, ranging from the predictable, the bargainous, the underdogs, and the relatively unknown producers that are looking to find a new home on the shelves or restaurant wine lists. The wines were tasted blind by panels of four experts, led by our Panel Chairs who included: Rebecca Palmer, Corney & Barrow’s wine buyer; Michel Orford-Williams, French buyer for the Wine Society, and Matt Wilkins MS, Managing Director at H2Vin. The panels were overseen by members of our Wine Judging Committee Xavier Rousset MS and Philip Goodband MW.
Each wine was tasted individually then discussed by the panellists, with wines scoring 90 and above re-tasted by the Wine Judging Committee for final endorsement and to ensure consistency across the panels.
Great complexity and contrast between the red berry fruit, citrus and stone fruits on the nose and the palate. Easy drinking and refreshing, with a bit of rhubarb on the finish. 90 points. 13.5%
Bandol is well-known resort in Provence, but it has also its own appellation and it is better known for its red wine made predominantly from Mourvèdre grape. Ripe red-berry fruit and even some aromas of honey and wild flowers. It is balanced and complex throughout, with a nice, juicy palate and a refreshing, longer finish. 90 points. 13.5%
Not available in the UK http://www.domainedefregate.com/
Mirabeau, Pure, Côtes de Provence 2018
Pale soft light pink/orange colour. Strawberry mousse aromas, really inviting. The flavours are equally delicious, soft cherry and strawberry with a creamy freshness. It is really a grown-up Rose though, lovely vinosity, mineral texture and bright acidity. Lip-smacking finish. Very moreish. 90 points. 12.5%
Available in the UK from Waitrose Cellar, £14.95 and Four Walls Wine
Bernard Magrez, Douce Vie, Côtes de Provence 2018
An easier, simpler example, but with great elegance and balance. It starts with a bit of crushed raspberries and strawberries on the nose, and it has a zesty palate and a refreshing finish. 89 points. 13%
Not available in the UK
Fleur De Prairie, Côtes de Provence 2018
Lean citrus and fresh strawberries on the nose and palate. It is refreshing and elegant, with a simple, easy approach. 89 points. 13%
Available in the UK from Aldi, £7.69.
A creamy, citrus-driven palate balances a touch of residual sugar greatly. Lively and refreshing, with all the great characteristics of this style of wine. 89 points. 12.5%
Available in the UK from Tesco, £8.50
Badet Clement & Cie, La Promenade, Côtes de Provence 2018
A perfumed floral start, with a bit of allspice and some red fruits. Plenty of fresh apricots and a bit of tangerine peel on the finish. 89 points. 13%
Please see: Rose La Promenade