Welcome to Provence
Everyone knows that you can get great wine in France, with regions like Burgundy and Champagne getting frequent and unflaggingly positive reviews in and on just about every website, wine publication, and food blog from here to eternity, but even this Burgundy devotee knows that there is magic elsewhere in this grape-riddled nation. In particular, we’re talking about a little area in southeast France called Provence, home to the ever-delicious, ever-refreshing, ever-underrated Provence rosé.
Provence is a fertile place. The land is covered in olive trees and vineyard and the air scented with the abundant fields of sunflower and lavender. According to the experts, Provence rosé wine exports to the U.S. grew by 29 percent in 2014 alone. Part of this is undoubtedly due to increased exposure and wine education; as more people realize that “pink wine” is a lot more interesting than they first assumed, sales continue to climb.
This isn't your grocery store's blush stuff, people.Provencal rosé is a thing of beauty, full of flavor, intoxicating aromas, and often a surprising yet welcome jolt of minerality and/or acidity that invokes a sense of place – and a smile – as you sip.
The Making of Rosé
The main grapes used for Provence rosé are Grenache and Syrah. Those are red wine grapes, you say? True (kind of), but red wine gets its color when the juice, which is white or at least light-colored, sits in contact with the dark skins, seeds, and stems. As the color deepens, so does the wines flavor. When rosé is made by traditional methods and by producers concerned with quality over quantity, this is method used and the result is a pink- or orange-tinged wine with surprising complexity – after all, those Barbie-esque booze comes from the same grapes (and tannin- and complexity-giving skins and seeds and stuff) as those lovely Syrah and Grenache blends you love, too.
**Rosé can also be made by saignée or blending methods.
- Saignée involves draining off some wine out of a fermentation vat very early in the process. The wine that is siphoned off is light pink in color and may be used for rosé while the wine left in the vat will become a more intense and tannic red wine given the decreased liquid-to-must ratio – the intricacies deserve an article of their own.
- Blending is most often used when creating sparkling wines such as rosé Champagne, and the methodology is exactly as it sounds – a bit of red wine is mixed with a bit of white wine, and boom! Rosé. Well, not really. The practice of blending is widely considered inferior and as a result it’s fairly uncommon as well. It’s actually forbidden everywhere in France with the exception of Champagne.
Curious about blush and white zinfandel? For that, I recommend you read this.
Rosé can be sweet, dry, or something in between. The color possibilities include hues from across the sunset spectrum, and a bottle of rosé can be still or sparkling. In Provence, you’ll generally find salmon-colored, dry or off-dry versions that prize character and authenticity above syrupy sweetness. Despite the numerous producers that have proven rosé to be well worth consumption far beyond the confines of a Real Housewives of Wine Country set, there still seems to be a prejudice against this delicious summer-ready drink. It’s a shame, as they’re versatile and imminently food friendly – just try one of the following with roast chicken, grilled or chilled seafood, pork kebabs, or a big fat salad with an herbaceous vinaigrette.
Rosé: Wines to Try
This is the wine I’ve been using to introduce people to what rosé can really be. It’s affordable, it’s accessible (thanks Total Wine!), and with a bright, palate-awakening freshness that is supported by a hint of stony minerality and hide-and-seek whiff of spice, it’s hands down delicious.
A-list celebs Brangelina (or Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for those of you who manage to look beyond the supermarket checkout line rags) partnered with the renowned Perrin family behind Rhône’s Château de Beaucastel to create this surprisingly lovely rosé. It’s hard to expect much from celebrity-made wines, but this one delivers with strawberry and floral notes that are far more subtle than some of Hollywood’s more popular exports. Oh, and this was the only rosé on Wine Spectator’s entire Top 100 list in 2013.
The Château d’Esclans website describes this wine as, “Epitomizing rosé that is greater than ever and more thoroughly enjoyable as a sophisticated, food driven wine.” Boom. Agile and bright with a tantalizing mix of fresh and juicy stone fruit and a creamy vanilla/spice quality that could almost only come thanks to some time in oak. There is more roundness here than is usually present in rosé making this wine somewhat atypical, but that makes it a crowd pleaser when your table includes those who like light-style wine sat alongside Chardonnay devotees.