At a recent meeting of the clan, several good bottles were presented from my son’s recent foray into Provence. An area which since Roman times has been a ‘go to’ destination for those in search of the ‘good life’ due to a certain amalgamation of geography, climate and history. Provence’s most famous wine style is Provençal rosé. These wines are made from black skinned grapes such as Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre. Over time the French vignerons came to realise that a more concentrated red wine would result from removal of some of the must (white pressed grape juice) early in the fermentation to increase skin to must ratio, resulting in a richer style of red wine. What was left became rosé and the actual process involved the red streaked must being decanted off, which garnered the term ‘saignée, which is French for ‘bleeding’ method. This reminds me that the English could not have come up with as natural a way of description as the French – it being translated, with reference to my Cockney Dictionary, as 'bleedin’ method - hardly gastronomic!
The modern way to make rosé is reducing skin contact in the fermenting black grape juice to a short duration, just enough to give the wine extra flavour while keeping the colour as light as possible; some say an ‘onion skin’ colour is the ideal for the Provençal style. The great thing about rosé wine is that is goes with a lot of summery food, like seafood, raw and lightly cooked shell-fish, grilled fish, cold cooked poultry, light salads and rice dishes. When over in France, I loved the way rosé is served as an aperitif with ice cubes, a habit I often prefer when the sun decides to shine – very refreshing! Provençal rosés generally have a savoury finish. In contrast, rosés made from Pinot Noir, from Tempranillo (Spanish rosado), Sangiovese (Italian rosato), and the New World have a more fruity finish.
Then my choice of the month; not the well-known brands championed by Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and the Holywood set, but more affordable quality quaffs available in local supermarkets. For a Provençal style, try classy Château De Rouet; it comes in a lovely sinuous bottle, available from the Co-op at £8.50 for a 50 cL pour – lovely raspberry and nectarine fruit with spice from the Grenache grape, or my favourite, Moncigale Côtes de Provence (actually near Aix-en-Provence!) made in the wind-swept limestone hills of the Bouche de Rhône East of Arles – glowing with red fruit, minerality and spice (and a touch of tarragon they say) available from Morrisons at a bargain £9.00. Here the blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and the white Rolle grape give a complex, aromatic and wonderfully balanced quaff, just made to be enjoyed at significant meetings – a reminder of holidays when the sun always shines.
Clear Wine Co. Founder, shares his latest wine-based musings and expertise to get your taste buds tingling.