By Maxine Howard
The Provence Tasting Tour rolled into San Francisco in April to showcase rosé wines from the beautiful south of France. Nineteen wineries arrayed their offerings around the bar at the Bluestem Brasserie, demonstrating a range of hues from pale pink to deep salmon. As I made my way around the wines I encountered Jean-Jacques Breban, Vice President of the Provence Wine Council. I tried to get him to confess to a favorite though naturally he was diplomatic, saying, “they are all good, but all different.” While I might not have liked them all, they indeed were diverse.
The rosés of Provence are unlike those made in the United States. Here we tend to find fruitier wines that seem to straddle the line between white and red, an attempt to add fruit to a white wine. In Provence the ideal is “rosé sec” – dry rosé that blends the minerality of the soil with an aroma of the flowers that cover the countryside.
Producers in Provence use a variety of red grapes to make their wines. Most combine between two and four grape varieties, the most common being Grenache and Cinsault.
To make rosé wine the grape skins are removed before fermentation begins. According the Wine Council this results in wine with the character of a red and the crispness of a white.
Three of my favorites demonstrate the range of possibilities for rosé of Provence. Pétale de Rose from Château Barbeyrolles is made from Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre. It had a pale blush appearance and just a hint of fruit aromas. The taste was crisp with lean fruits, yet it also had a spiciness on the tongue.
The rosé from Château La Sauveuse is made from Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. It had a peach tint and floral aromas that did remind me of the Provencal countryside in bloom. On the palate it showed a great balance of fruit flavors without being too fruity.
I also fell in love with the red wine from Château La Sauveuse. Made from Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, it wowed me at first sight. The color was a deep garnet that portended greatness. It had potent aromas of red fruits with smoky undertones. The ripe dark fruit flavors expanded on the palate. Well-structured with nicely balanced tannins, I recommend trying it if you find a bottle.
Cuvee 946 from Château Gassier is a rosé that incorporates Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vieux Carignan and Cinsault. The wine had a beautiful apricot color and smelled of citrus and red fruits. The taste was wonderfully balanced with a subtle complexity I attributed to the variety of grapes used.
Any of these wines would make a lovely accompaniment to hors d’oeuvres on the patio in the late afternoon, or a dinner of seafood or pork.
In France rosé wines outsell white wines. After sampling the wines from Provence I can understand the allure.