Did you know that vineyards in Provence in the south of France produce mainly dry rosé wines? It’s a surprise for those of us used to thinking of delicious French reds with our boeuf bourguignon. But these Provence rosés are diaphanously light yet complex delicacies, with the body of a red wine and the crispness of a white, making them perfect for pairing with food.
Recently the Wines of Provence wine-tasting and tourism event brought nearly two dozen of Provence’s finest wineries to The Pump Room in Chicago. Happily, The Pump Room chefs welcomed the chance to show off a variety of their excellent succulent and savory dishes to accompany the wines.
The vins de Provence include dry rosés and whites (and a few full-bodied reds) that are divided into three main types – all highly differentiated by the distinct microclimates and winemaking traditions:
- Côtes de Provence (crystal-clear pastel pink colors full of fruity and flowery notes, with touches of sweet herbs and spices);
- Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence (light yet strong colors with a bluish tint and strong fruity notes – 2013 vintages are especially fine); and
- Coteaux Varois en Provence (fresh, delicate rosés in striking pale pink colors with aromas of red berries).
Don’t those winemaker’s notes make you want to run out and buy a chilled bottle or two right now?
Long gone are the days when rosé wines in the United States were overly sweet and considered fodder only for beginning wine-drinkers – though you can still buy that type of sweet rosé if you want to consume seven times as much residual sugar per liter! Now the United States is the largest retail wine market in the world – and still growing – and dry rosés are speedily gaining in popularity. Today 69% of the wines we Americans consume are grown in this country (mainly California) and only 31% are imports, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Where do we get most of our imported wines? The top six countries include:
· Italy – 30%
· France – 24%
· Australia – 14%
· Chile – 7%
· Spain – 6%
· Argentina – 6%
American tastes grow ever more sophisticated, and more and more young people are opting to consume wine on a regular basis. So France and Italy, both of which already have a good foothold in the American market, know it’s a great time for them to educate us about their wines. And herewith is a little more education about Provence wines.
Provence is the world’s largest wine region specializing in AOP (the top step in the French quality scale) rosé wines, producing 35% of all French AOP rosés. The AOP stands for Appellation d’Origine Protégée, or protected area of origin (formerly AOC, Appellation d’Origine Controlée). Lots of wine industry professionals – those who import, distribute and sell wine as well as sommeliers and restaurateurs – consider Provence rosés the gold standard.
Dry rosé wine has been a staple in the south of France for centuries. The French consume their rosés at lunch, by the sea and on all occasions, especially in the coastal region of Provence. Fine rosé wines are so popular in France today they actually outsell white wines.
A true rosé is not a blend of red and white wines. Rather, like red wine, rosé is made from red or black or purple grapes but with the dark skins removed before the juice is drained and readied for fermentation. Thus, the elegant pale pink color and the crisp, food-friendly character.
The 2013 Provence vintage is a good one. A cool, damp spring (after a long, cold, wet winter) delayed vine growth by a couple of weeks, but warm daytime temperatures brought abundant flowers on the vines. Late June the weather become more typically Provence – warm and sunny. Despite some hailstorms, the growers didn’t lose any of their harvest, so you can expect prices to be fair.
It’s a perfect time to go out and try a dry rosé from Provence. Below are a few I really liked (in order of favor). Beware – some of them don’t yet have U.S. importers so you’ll have to keep inquiring at your local wine seller.
- Garrus Chateau D’Esclans 2012 ($100) (Shaw-Ross importers)
- Whispering Angel 2013 (aged in oak $22) (Shaw-Ross importers)
- Brigue Provence 2013 – no importer yet, pricing unavailable
- Brigue Signature 2013 - no importer yet, pricing unavailable
- Les Clans 2012 ($60) (Shaw-Ross importers)
- Arbaude 2013 ($15 - $20) - no importer yet, pricing is approximate
- Saint Qvinis 2013 ($20) (Bacco Fine Wine Importers - Select Beverage distributor)
- Aurelia Prima 2013 ($6) (Bacco Fine Wine Importers - Select Beverage distributor)
- Sables d’Azur 2013 ($12) (Bronco Wines - Wein Bauer distributor)
- L’Amphore de Provence 2013 ($19) (Bronco Wines - Wein Bauer distributor)