It seems that everywhere you look, whether online or in your local wine shop, Rosé has taken over. And while all that choice may be somewhat confusing there are some interesting players in amongst all the ‘rabble’.
I recently had a chance to revisit some of the wines of Château Saint-Maur after being introduced at the 2015 “Provence in the City” event in Los Angeles.
The vineyards and estate lie in the shadow of the Massif des Maures, a chain of coastal mountains that curve inland between the seaside resorts of Hyeres and Frejus. The ancient peaks, formed before the Alps, create a perfect wine growing environment, sheltering the vineyards from the mighty Mistral wind, capturing the warmth of the Mediterranean days and providing a flow of cooler air during the nights.
The soil near the crest of the rolling hills is mostly crystalline quartz and schist, providing a wonderful power and tactile mouth feel to the wines . The slopes offer a bit more calcareous clay while a 14 hectare block, near the small river Giscle is predominantly well draining sandy loam. Everywhere you find the native Maquis –rosemary, thyme, fennel and other wild plants (similar to garrigue) which adds it’s own personal touch to each vintage.
Château Saint-Maur’s 38 hectares of vines are a mere 10km west of ritzy Saint-Tropez, but the serenity of the countryside and historic local architecture of nearby towns like Grimaud and Cogolin embody a more laid-back atmosphere. The site was once home to vigneron of the Gallo-Roman period and the original structures date back to the late 19th century. A new building is now home to a modern gravity fed production area and visitors center, sympathetically designed to fit with the local terrain.
Although they craft white and red wines (sadly, not exported to the US) 90% of their production is glorious rosé, several of which bear the seal ‘Cru Classé’ – a designation given to just 28 Provençal estates in 1955. Only vintages from the original, declared vineyards are allowed to use the moniker.
2015 Cuvée Saint ‘M’ Rosé, Côtes de Provence AOP/Cru Classé
Blend: Grenache 54%, Cinsault 25%, Carignan 13%, Mourvèdre 2%, Cabernet Sauvignon 2%, Syrah 1%, Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano) 1%, Rolle (aka Vermentino) 1%
13% ABV SRP $25.00
This vivacious wine is part of the ‘Saint M’ range that forms the core of the winery’s production. The 2015 vintage has a cheery peach/melon pink color with aromas of soft, fleshy stone fruits and a touch of raspberry, all of which continue on to the palate where they join up with white peach and nectarine. There’s a touch of exotic orange melon, too and candied rose petals. All in all, my favorite of the three selections for sheer drinkability.
2015 L’Excellence Rosé, Côtes de Provence AOP/Cru Classé
Blend: Grenache 54%, Cinsault 30%, Syrah 25%
13% ABV SRP $45.00
A super example of a ‘Gastronomic Rosé’, L’Excellence shows an elegance and minerality that could meet a wide range of culinary challenges. Part of their ‘Prestige’ line, the wine has a delicate, rose petal hue – a perfect match to the ripe red summer berry and cherry aromas. Hints of crisp watermelon and sweet peach appear on the palate with dried rosehips and wet stone on the finish. The classic Provence appetizer of tapenade would be a perfect pairing, especially if enjoyed in nearby Saint-Tropez or Sainte-Maxime.
2014 Clos de Capelune Rosé, Côtes de Provence AOP/Cru Classé
Blend: Cinsault 45%, Syrah 40%, Granache 15%
13% ABV SRP $65.00
In 2012, the owners of Château Saint-Maur purchased a 12 hectare plot to the west of the original vineyard site. Nestled in the fragrant pine forests between Collobrières and Cogolin, Clos Capelune is, at 449m, the highest vineyard in all of the Côtes de Provence. This extra elevation ensures a long period of maturation which, combined with sustainable vineyard practices, also ensures amazing and vibrant fruit.
The winery is very proud of this single vineyard bottling, and justifiably so. With Cinsault as the principal variety in the blend, the wine has some serious backbone . Peachy salmon in color, the nose reveals peach pit and dried strawberry with candied red fruits, exotic orange-fleshed melon and marzipan on the palate, all laced together with Maquis and a fresh saline minerality. Another ‘Gastro’ rosé.
I tasted the 2014 vintage but the 2015 is now available.
Château Saint-Maur is open for tasting and private tours. Samples were supplied by the winery but the descriptions and opinions are those of the author.