It’s Never Too Late For Classic French Rosé

Food & Drink

These wines demonstrate you can drink pink late in the summer and into fall.

Many wine drinkers associate rosé with spring and early summer-time drinking—those days when perhaps you’re floating around on the yacht or lounging on the patio or under the pergola. You’re probably not thinking of rosé much in August’s late, wistful days as the goldenrod, Queen Anne’s Lace and cool summer nights signal summer’s end.

But, you should. And the experts agree.

The perception of limited “seasonality” is but one of the myths the Provence wine board aims to debunk on its website, along with a number of other misconceptions about it being a simple or insipid quaff. The category has its proponent in the sommelier community, too. Educator Vanessa Price, author of Big Macs & Burgundy, is just one such expert who advocates for drinking pink wine beyond the dog days. “Rosés are powerful as a category and able to transition into the fall,” she says.

Provence is considered the spiritual home of the category, and its astronomical success inspired wine regions around the world to come up with their own versions, resulting in a wide field of pink styles in varying hues and flavor profiles. Many rosés, in fact, are more pleasurable in the fall when their savory notes are a better match for transitional menus. Price says their range of styles and structure give them “the ability to pair with a full range of foods—spicy, sour and sweet.”

But because we are still in the heat of summer, and heading into a heat wave after a good drenching this week (merci, tropical storm Henri!) it’s a good time to celebrate summer’s last gasp with refreshing rosés from France. Unless otherwise noted, all vintages are 2020 and still available.

Classic Côtes de Provence

There’s a good reason Provence is the historic standard bearer of rosé wines says Jean-François Ott, proprietor of Domaines Ott in that region.

“Provence has almost everything—climate, terroir, soil, the grapes that work well for rosé and the lifestyle experience,” he says.

Ott’s portfolio of wines range from everyday drinking at $20 to higher end, age-worthy savory wines produced from estate grapes ($45 to $50). By Ott smacks of fresh market red fruits, and anise, menthol and lavender notes. Made from hand-picked estate grapes, the Grenache-driven Chateau de Selle delivers a more savory Rhone-style profile (you can save this one for the Thanksgiving table). Mourvèdre is the major player in Chateau Romassau, a bright wine elevated by high citric tones with grapes sourced from a parcel Ott says was never commercially farmed. He says Romassau can age up to 10 years, thanks to the structure Mourvèdre gives it. Though each has its own personality, a saline and savory thread runs through all three giving the wines a distinct sense of place.

Another classic, transporting rosé is the IGP “Cap Bleue” made by Jean-Luc Colombo, a pioneer in nearby Cornas. His raspberry-scented rosé made near the coast leads with a fresh saline streak, followed by a quintessential garrigue herbal profile. Light conch-shell pink in color, this wine has a definite Mediterranean vibe. The blend of Syrah (67%) and Mourvèdre (33%) completes the journey.

Hecht & Bannier “H&B” rosé, Cotes de Provence. Light, lively lifestyle wine consisting of 60% Grenache and 35% Cinsault with a splash of Vermentino to keep things zippy. The tall elegant bottle is a pretty companion you can take along for ride on your yacht or in your vintage car.

Founded in 2010 by the Cronk family, Maison Mirabeau is a relatively young entrant in the category. The Cronks, who hail from the UK, share their Provencal lifestyle and recipes on their blog. Sadly, the estate suffered in the wild fires that affected southern France recently. I’m hoping for a recovery so I can have more of their interpretation of classic Provence rosé with fresh summer berries, zingy grapefruit and a light overlay of herbs. 

Barton & Guestier “Tourmaline” is a bright and crisp wine redolent of fresh-picked market berries, and white flowers and followed on the palate by ripe red berries and crisp acidity. Classic blend (50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah); the elongated voluptuous bottle makes it a pretty date for any party.

Other southern climes

Bernard + Olivier Coste “Montrosé” (2019), Pays d’Oc IGP, Sud de France. Tropical hints  of tart tangerine and rich guava and a creamy, medium body without being cloying, At 14.4% abv, one glass can make you woozy, so have this with light foods. Good Tuesday-night dinner wine.

Côté Mas “Aurore.” Fresh red fruits and citric twist from a renowned producer in the Languedoc. Smacks of strawberry, pink grapefruit in a bottle with a label reminiscent of a vintage travel poster. One-liter bottle makes it a party!

Kind of Wild rosé, Pays d’Herault (Languedoc). Made from a blend of organic Syrah and Grenache grapes, this is a dry, raspberry- and strawberry-driven wine. Medium bodied and a little heftier than its Provencal neighbors to the east, this is. Hip packaging, one of a branded portfolio of global wines, available only online.

Hecht & Bannier Côtes du Roussillon Villages. A true “home town” kind of wine made from 40% Syrah 35% Cinsault, 25% Grenache, but a good Provence imposter with its light pink hue, tropical flavors of guava and pink grapefruit pith. Dry and crisp with characteristic scrub and herbal savoriness.

A northern star

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre rosé, Loire. Loire Valley is a serious producer of rosés, those most of those hail from the central appellations. But this entrant from Sancerre shows off the region’s diversity. Slightly darker hued, this is a cherry and strawberry driven wine made of 100% Pinot Noir with a bit of a deeper herbal bite. At 13.5%, you’ll want some food with this: grilled sausage and zucchini was my choice.

Take it to go

La Grande Verre created a portfolio of single-serve bottles from women-led estates. Two rosés contribute to the prêt à boire fun: Domaine Caylus (Pays d’Herault), a serviceable blend of organic Syrah (60%) Grenache grapes; and Chateau Val d’Arenc in Bandol, a deeper style driven by Mourvèdre (80%) with 10% of each Cinsault and Grenache that goes well with late-summer BBQ or transitional dishes. The Provence IGP offering from Licence IV, named for the license that allows French eateries to serve wine, comes in a 250ml can with cool retro packaging. A bit of earthy funkiness on the nose is unexpected for a light wine.

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