At this time of year, how often we think of holidays full of sunshine and leisure with beautiful bronzed people relaxing by or in the swimming pool or on a beach with a glass of wine or an exotic cocktail.
The Côte d’Azur has long appealed to the luxury market. Provence rosé wine, though not usually in itself a luxury item, is used to evoke an image of luxury.
‘The World’s First Food & Wine Festival Dedicated to Rosé Wine’ – La Nuit en Rosé – takes place in New York, Los Angeles and Miami.
“Imagine a summer evening on a luxury yacht adrift in a river of rosé, the retiring sun setting the pink-tinged wine-filled channel aglow in fiery shades of orange and coral, as you dip your glass over the railing for a refill and clink a toast with friends.”
wrote the Village Voice for the New York festival, which included a rosé tasting on a large yacht sailing round New York harbour. This is very much the classic image of rosé wine. Continue reading
For the 3rd year running, Richard Bampfield MW and Jean Christophe Mau of Chateau Brown from Bordeaux, have held a tasting of premium rosés (£15 and over) in London. My tasting results of my top 18 will appear in the September 2015 edition of Decanter’s Expert Choice (out 5 August 2015).
Most tastings have a national or regional focus and it is rare to have the chance to see how a wine style compares to the international competition.These tastings have caught the UK wine trade’s imagination with a growing number of journalists covering the event. The UK trade magazine Drinks Business published their own tasting results for the 2013 and 2014 tastings.
This year, the tasting was held at The Atlas pub in Fulham, there was a line up of 36 premium rosés from around the world ranging £12 to £100 per bottle. The growing importance of this tasting was maybe reflected by those who came (by invitation only). While I was there the other MWs were: Jancis Robinson MW, Mark Bingley MW, Nancy Gilchrist MW, Rosemary George MW and Matthew Stubbs MW. Journalists included Victoria Moore (The Telegraph), Joanna Simon, Joe Wadsack and Will Lyons. There were also a large number of MW students desperately keen to understand something about rosé.
The tasting table for Coteaux Varois 2014 rosés
At the annual Coteaux Varois tasting (13 April 2015), set in the beautiful gardens of a former monastery, at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at the Abbaye de la Celle in Brignoles, and next door to the Maison des Vins de Coteaux Varois, 45 local domaines had their stands set out showing their wines.
The 2014 rosés were presented at a central table, showing the importance of rosé wine to the Coteaux Varois-en-Provence (to give the appellation its official title).
This is one of the most beautiful, and enjoyable tastings that I attend during the year – Coteaux Varois excel in presenting their wines in style, often with a coloured theme. In past years there has been a floral colour theme of pink, purple and green used in the ice bags and for their 20th anniversary it was white, silver grey and golden yellow. This year it was all white and looked very pretty in the bright sunshine with fresh late spring greenery.
Sunhats and parasols in the afternoon sun
This very elegant style gives a garden party atmosphere, further emphasised by the delicious canapés from the Ducasse restaurant. This year a more substantial lunch was also served on the terrace, away from the tasting area which prevented too big a distraction.
Most importantly of all, despite the fact that Coteaux Varois often appears to be in the shadow of the larger Cotes de Provence, it includes a very good range of wines and some interesting surprises.
I tasted 53 rosé wines, from 45 domaines (in some cases several rosés from one estate). As the appellation includes 75 private domains and 10 cooperatives, this tasting included around half of all Coteaux Varois rosés.
Medieval gateway in Trets
Provence is divided by ranges of mountains running parallel to the sea and by the valleys which cut through these mountains, taking rivers to the sea. In historic times these valleys served as corridors of communication. The valley to the east of Aix is no exception as the medieval walled town of Trets, the cathedral town of St Maximin de Ste Baume, the castles of Pourcieux and a scattering of old picturesque villages testify. Wealthy Aixois citizens owned country estates with large bastides in the neighbouring countryside.
Today the region is bisected by train, motorway and the N7, but turning off these routes, going north and south, reveals the vineyard region of Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire. Drive north to the beautiful and dominating Mont Sainte Victoire (also known as Montagne Sainte Victoire), immortalised by the painter Cézanne, and explore the foothills of the mountain through the Parc Roques Hautes.
Or go south and explore the Massif de Ste Baume, high enough to have enough snow in winter to feed the ice houses supplying ice to Toulon and Marseille in the summer. Just to the south east of the region lies the ice museum in Mauzaugues. Continue reading
Coteaux d’Aix tasting
On 30th March I went to the official 2014 vintage tasting of the wines of Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence in the town of Aix-en-Provence at the Hotel Renaissance, a new five star hotel in a modern business district of central Aix.
The appellation covers 4000ha, a quarter of the size of the appellation of Côtes de Provence. There are 67 domaines and 12 cooperatives. 34 producers came together to show their wines.
Map of the sub-regions of Coteaux d’Aix
Rosé Cotes de Provence Tasting, Mandelieu, March 2015
I am often asked which rosé wines from Provence I would recommend, so I have put together some which I liked at recent tastings.
The wines were tasted at various domaines, the large trade fair Prowein in Dusseldorf and the annual Côtes de Provence tasting in Mandelieu, both this month, March 2015.
I tasted 77 rosés released for 2015 (almost all from the 2014 vintage); 46 stood out as being of interest.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I did not taste all of the wines available at either Prowein or at Mandelieu. With over 600 rosés made in Provence (and making up 90% of the region’s wine production), this survey barely scratches the surface.
The range of colour ran from very pale creamy white with a hint of pink to slightly darker shell pink. The rosés I tasted fell into broadly five groups, all dry:
- Fresh, crisp red fruit, and good acidity. This group was the largest.
- Red fruit with rounder more complex structure.
- Black and red fruit, rounder, balanced acidity.
- Softer peachy, apricot fruit, creamy body and good acidity (interestingly all including Cinsault and all but one from the hotter central Valley).
- More mineral, salty, structured, austere and mouth-watering.