On a cold grey blustery day in early April, I made my way to the Salon du Millesime 2015 Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence held at the Hotel Renaissance in Aix-en-Provence. This is the only one of the repertoire of Provence tastings which takes place in the evening, from 4 to 9pm.
In my post last year of the rosé 2014 vintage, I summed up the different regions of Coteaux d’Aix and noted how the four different terroirs had an impact on the styles of Coteaux d’Aix rosés. This year, the tasting table clearly indicated from which region each wine came from, which help tasters recognise regional styles. Sommelier Nadine Rosier was on hand to discuss the wines.
The rosé tasting table with colour-coded labels to indicate regions
Mid April saw the round of tastings introducing the new 2015 Provence wine vintage came to a close with that for Coteaux Varois en Provence. Held in a beautiful location, it is the prettiest and most enjoyable of all the tastings.
Student sommeliers ready before the start of the tasting
In 2013, the 4th sub-appellation of Côtes de Provence, Côtes de Provence Pierrefeu, was announced for red and rosé wines, adding to La Londe, Ste Victoire and Fréjus.
Cotes de Provence Pierrefeu in darker purple
Launching a new appellation is no easy process. This took some ten years, which is not atypical. In 2003 some 30 producers (including 4 co-operatives) in the triangular region of Pierrefeu-Cuers-Puget-Ville came together to promote their belief that the largest area of production within the larger Côtes de Provence appellation had a distinctive character worthy of a sub-appellation.
I was intrigued when I first saw the publicity for a rosé wine bearing an image of the iconic chaise bleu of the Promenade des Anglais on Nice’s Côte d’Azur waterfront.
The launch of this new label Prose was at the lovely Plage Beau Rivage, by the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. This describes itself as “the best place to be for a meal with sea-view, a drink between friends, a live clubbing evening or if one wants to make the most of the sun on a sunbed”.
Made by the Comte Guillaume de Chevron-Villette, owner of Château Reillanne, one of the largest winemakers in Provence, Prose is the latest in its range, and is targeted at the on-trade and wine-merchants. A pleasant, delicately fruity summer quaffing wine, made largely from Grenache and Cinsault with small percentages of Rolle and Tibouren. Despite the Niçois image, the wine is not from Bellet, the wine appellation of Nice, but is Côtes de Provence from central Provence. Continue reading
Tibouren is regarded by many in Provence as the traditional variety for making rosé, unique to the area. Tibouren is a pale-skinned grape, suited to making rosé, as it allows for fuller fruity character to be developed without extracting lots of colour. An early ripening variety, it seems to do best in sunnier sites, usually the hotter coastal regions which also benefit from damper maritime winds. Plantings have never been extensive (currently around 450ha), as it is regarded as slightly temperamental, with susceptibility to coulure (poor fruit-set after flowering), and irregular yields. Most Tibouren is from old vines. DNA analysis suggests a close connection with the equally rare Rossese which makes red wine in Dolceacqua, just over the border from Nice in western Liguria, Italy. Continue reading
Last week I was at Vinisud 2016 – the three day exhibition in Montpellier focusing on wines of the Mediterranean.
This is a vast fair, making it impossible to taste all the wines I wanted. Many gems I wanted to taste and never reached – but here are 10 whites which stood out. In some cases, a producer had different white wines or appellations which were also excellent – but I have restricted the choice to one from each domaine and from each appellation.
From 15-17 February 2016, the city of Montpellier hosted the 12th bi-annual trade fair Vinisud, dedicated to wines of the Mediterranean. The hashtag #Vinisud2016 was successfully used on Twitter to generate comment and business.
I will be writing more about the exhibition and wines in a future post, but for now, here is my review of the event published in Harpers.
A second article on the Vinisud fair is now available in Harpers, but for subscribers only.
At the recent Wine Mosaic conference, one of the facts that shocked participants most of all was the fact that the majority of wine is made with only a small percentage of the grape varieties available to us. 70% of French wine production comes from only 30% of the varieties grown, and this pattern is repeated globally.
6th century AD grape vine mosaic with Armenian inscription in chapel of St. Polyeuctos, Jerusalem
Less-used and lost varieties are important for several reasons. They enlarge the biodiversity of plants available, have been established for centuries and have adapted to different climates and regions and therefore have a unique taste of the terroir, and this combination of plant variation and different terroir enriches the range of wine tastes and styles available and reflects the different cultural tastes as well as maybe giving us a glimpse of tastes from the past. Continue reading
As most of the rosés I taste are from Provence, it is always interesting to look further afield to compare those from other countries and in other styles.
So, in August I organised a group of wine professionals to meet at Domaine le Grand Cros in Carnoules, to taste a range of rosé wines, to see which styles we liked and to create an atmosphere in which to challenge accepted ideas. Especially as rosé styles are fast evolving.
We had an eclectic mix of 19 rosés from Hungary, Italy, Spain, USA and Lebanon. Some were received as samples from producers. Others we chose as being easily available in France, and were bought from Metro, the nationwide food and wine wholesalers.
Wine writers and wine buyers so often only see a region briefly when visiting a specific vineyard, two or three vineyards in a region, sometimes a local restaurant. Invariably we see small snapshots of an area, out of context of its history, people and dynamics.
For thirty years I have toured the vineyards of the Var. In the beginning there was a greater sense of adventure as vineyards were often reached down windy country lanes, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. In other places the little villages we drove through tempted us with cafés and village bistros. The roads have slowly been straightened and widened, avoiding many of the villages with by-passes. Provence has speeded up.
Sometimes serendipity plays an important role. Last week, at short notice, I planned a weekend in the central Var. Everywhere was full, but I managed to find a cancellation for the weekend in the small village of St Antonin du Var. Continue reading