Best French Rosés: A Rose-Tinted Tour of the South of France
Sarah Hyde takes us on a virtual tour of the South of France – through the power of rosé.
While international travel remains uncertain, the one way we can travel to the South of France is through our imagination. And if you close your eyes and dream a little – while sipping a chilled glass of rosé wine – you may momentarily be transported to your favourite spot on the glittering Côte d’Azur.
Rosé is fast becoming the nation’s favourite summer drink. At one of our favourite supermarkets, sales are 56 per cent up on last year – and Charles Lea of wine merchants Lea & Sandeman wistfully announced: ‘we have asked for more but there isn’t any’.
The figures come as no surprise to rosé expert Elizabeth Gabay, author of Rosé: The Pink Wine Revolution. Gabay has been following this change in the wine market for some time, predicting continued exponential growth – with niche prestige rosés leading the way. As the big names battle it out on the supermarket shelves, this selection of wines from the South of France will take you from the gorgeous island of Porquerolles to the Bandol region of Provence, before moving into the mountains of Miravel and into the sublime shadow of Mont St Victoire, which so captivated the painter Paul Cézanne.
Cotes de Provence Rosé Domaine de L’Ile comes from the isle of Porquerolles. As the entire island is a national park, this wine is bursting with fresh air and bright flashes of midday sunshine, with a hint of the minerality that makes up this forested land. These wines are organic, clear, crisp and low in sugar; the fruit is collected at just the right moment to ensure it doesn’t become too sweet on the vine. Production here is relatively small, with only 20 hectares under production for rosé and just four for their remarkable white wine, made from 100 per cent Rolle grape variety. It’s delightful to imagine the bottles leaving by small boat for the port of Hyères on the mainland. The estate has recently changed hands, joining a small group of vineyards owned by the Fashion house Chanel. This year’s vintage was produced during this transition of ownership – under the watchful eye of Nicolas Audebert – and gives a tantalising clue to the direction in which this wine is going: 2020 should be exciting.
Moving inland into the Bandol wine region, the received rosé wine wisdom (which is fast changing), is that this is home to the finest grapes. The region has its own appellation, and grapes grown here in the flat lands behind Hyères are famous for the minerality of the terroire with its limestone. The warm coastal climate is perfect for the late ripening Mourvèdre grape, which is vital to the structure that distinguishes the Bandol rosé from other Cotes du Provence. Tempier Rosé is very highly considered and is perhaps the most formal wine in this group. Delicious, structured and quite strong for such young wine, it can be seen as a point of reference for what a good Bandol rosé should taste like.
As this area is also the summer playground of the rich and famous, one of its joys is running alongside the glamourous. As they relax at Chateau Miraval – the summer home of Brad Pitt – a delicious Cotes de Provence is produced on a large scale under the auspices of the internationally recognised French winemakers, the Perrin family. One of the big producers taking Cotes de Provence to a global market, Miraval has become a standard bearer for rosé. With 600 hectares of organic wine under production, they are currently working hard on a pink champagne and, intriguingly, a mysterious art project.
Finally, the path less well-travelled takes us to Château Gassier, under the shadow of the Sainte-Victoires mountain, to taste Le Pas du Moine. The organic grapes are gathered by night to ensure that things stay cool during the fermentation process. The low temperatures and perhaps the mysterious spirit of the night, produces a beautiful pale pink wine with a touch of vin gris. It has echoes of lychees and exotic fruit, and is absolutely delicious paired with seafood.
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