Tag Archives: Carignan

Provence Rosé Continues to Impress

By Maxine Howard

Two years after a grand tasting of Provençal rosés prompted me to write “Rethink Rosé,” apparently many Americans have done just that. In 2013, U.S. imports of rosé wines from Provence increased by 40% over the previous year. Not only are we drinking more rosés from France, but we are also discovering new rosés by a number of California winemakers in the Provençal style using grapes traditionally blended by the French vintners.

And why wouldn’t we relish drinking these wines? They grab your attention with their gorgeous color, ranging from pale pink to salmon blush; they tantalize with aromas of flowers and tropical fruits; and they quench a summer thirst with their dry yet flavorful taste and a hint of minerality.

In their return to San Francisco for another tour in March, the Vins de Provence reinforced their stature as serious purveyors of rosé wines in the fragrant yet lean style. Twenty-one producers sampled their wines, showing a range of styles and flavors. Some of the differences reflected varying combinations of the traditional grapes use in Provence rosé: Grenach, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tibouren, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other differences resulted from the varying soil and climate conditions. And the final differences came from the sensibilities of the individual winemakers.

Here are some favorites from the tasting:

Chateau de PampelonneChateau de Pampelonne Rosé 2012
This wine from Les Maîtres Vignerons de Saint Tropez in Gassin is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Tibouren and Mourvedre. The grapes grow in sandy soil on the St. Tropez peninsula next to the beaches. They are harvested early in the morning while they are still cool. They are macerated for just two hours before being pressed, and remain on sediment for two months.

The wine is pale pink and has floral aromas. The taste is well balanced with hints of tropical and citrus fruit and has a pleasant minerality on the finish. It would go well with fish and simple chicken dishes. But would taste just fine sipped by itself on the deck watching the sun go down. $19.99

Première de FiguièrePremière de Figuière Rosé 2013
Saint André de Figuière is a family-run producer located in La Londe-les-Maures. It is between the Mediterranean Sea and the hills of Provence. Beneath the top soil the ground consists of mica and schist, which the winemaker describes as fragile yet capable of producing wines with finesse. This rosé is composed of 50% Mourvedre, 30% Cinsault and 20% Grenache. That is a stark contrast with most of the area rosés in which Grenache predominates. Each variety is harvested and vinified separately before being blended.

This wine has a bit more blush than the Chateau de Pamplonne that I would describe as a pale salmon. The bouquet has more citrus than floral notes. On the palate one tastes peach and citrus as well as a little earthiness from the Mourvedre. The overall impression is of an extremely well-balanced, delicious wine. Because it is a little heartier, it should stand up well to seafood and fowl dishes.
$19.99

Chateau La MascaronneAnother wine I enjoyed at the tasting was Quat’ Saisons 2013 from Chateau La Mascaronne in Le Luc. Unfortunately, the winery did not have an importer at the time of the tasting. But the fascinating thing about the owner, an American from Indiana, is that he formerly owned and produced wine at the property now owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Readers will remember the Amateur Gastronomer’s review of Brad and Angelina’s Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé last summer. Apparently, the couple were flying over the Miraval estate in a helicopter and were stunned by its beauty. They made a generous offer to buy, and the proprietor had to agree. Already owning a second property, he moved all of his wine-making operations to Chateau La Mascaronne and has continued producing wines under its label.

The rosé is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. It has a wonderful floral aroma and controlled fruits with both a touch of citrus and a pleasant minerality on the finish. Robert Parker gave the 2012 a 91-point rating. The suggested retail price is $22. Let’s hope it finds an importer soon.

More Rosé Wines | White Wines | Red Wines

Rethink Rosé: A Taste of Rosé Wines from Provence

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.

AG Pick: 2007 Black Slate Porrera

Terroir is such an important part of wine.  The taste of a grape can vary dramatically because of where it is planted.  Much of the success of a particular vintage is determined in the vineyard; the climate, geography and geology of a vineyard can have an equal, if not greater effect on a wine’s final taste than the work of a winemaker alone.

Terroir is important in the Black Slate Porrera 2007 — in particular the soil, as you can tell from the name.  This Spanish red comes from Porrera, the easternmost village in Priorat, in Catalonia.  Black slate refers to the mineral-rich Llicorella (slate) soils where the vines grow.

The grapes used in the Black Slate are ideal for this unique soil.  The wine is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Carignan (Garnatxa and Cariñena in Catalan), from 60 to 100 year old vines.  Carignan is said to transfer the characteristics of the soil better than other red wine grapes.  The wine is aged for 12 months in two year old French oak barrels.

The Black Slate is magenta red in color, light enough that you can see through the glass.  Berry aromas introduce a palate that is rich in dark fruit flavors and spice.  Notes of baked cherries, plum, boysenberry and blueberry mingle with licorice and a hint of vanilla, with a pleasing touch of minerality from the slate soil.  The wine is upbeat, fresh and bright, with very soft tannins and a smooth finish.

The Black Slate is extremely well balanced and easy to drink alone or with food.  Pair it with lamb, moderately seasoned pork and chicken dishes or bean and lentil dishes.

A bottle of the 2007 Porrera Black Slate costs around $22.

14.5% alcohol by volume