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 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 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.
Another 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.