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G - 118 : Beautiful Rosé from the Provence

This Bottle of Rosé from Portquerolle made it to St Barthélémy


Describing Rosé from the Provence feels like carrying water into the sea. Every summer, there are dozens of Rosé recommendations in our media. It conjures a life style of “La Vie en Provence” with silvery olive trees, rocky mountains, lavender fields, green vineyards, picturesque markets and villages, turquoise seas, beautiful beaches and sunny days. The Provence brand works for everybody. You need to look no further than the people walking down the Promenade des Anglaises in Nice. Old and young. Some on rollerblades, some on crutches. All of them love Rosé. It is their life style.

One of the magnificent Beaches of Porquerolles we discovered over the Years

The mountainous terrain of the Provence is ideal for wines. The Greek settlers recognized this when they arrived in the 7th century. The terrain of the French Riviera looks and feels like the Peloponnese and Anatolia. The soil is clay or limestone and has the alkali condition all grapes like. The water drainage is perfect. The climate is hot, dry and sunny during the summer when the grapes ripe and wet in winter when the westerlies sweep over the land. The proximity to the Mediterranean stabilized summer temperatures at the lower 30s and prevents freezing in the winter. The vineyards need protection from the cold Mistral though and are mostly located on the southern hill slopes. Vines are not an indigenous plant of the Provence. They came from Georgia. But over 2'600 years they became one.

View from the Chateau Malherbe near Cassis over the Mediterranean

Whilst most people identify Provence with Rosé, red wine amounts to 20% of total production and white wine to a good 10%. There are two regions which deviate from this picture: Bandol produces mostly red wine (70%) and Cassis mostly white (75%). Both are wonderful. The Provence is more diversified than most assume. The whites from Cassis are a particularly nice surprise.

The Wine Producing Regions of the Provence

What I like about the Provence is that it kept and cultivates traditional grapes. All the Provence wines are blends. Whites are made from the following grapes:

  • Rolle, called Vermentino in Liguria. Splendid grape we discovered in 2020 when sailing along the coast of Cinque Terre. Very refreshing and aromatic.

  • Ugni Blanc: Trebbiano, an ancient grape from Rome. We fell in love with it when following Sicily’s south coast. The grape was brought to France by the Popes from Avignon. It is the most widely planted white wine grape in the Provence

  • Bourboulenc, a relatively rare grape in France. The Coteaux du Languedoc is the exception where the white La Clape is mostly made from Bourboulenc.

  • Marsanne: a grape from the northern Rhone valley is mostly used in whites from Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph. It is also grown in Cassis and makes an excellent, dry white.

  • Rousanne, a sister grape to Marsanne and often blended with it like in Hermitage etc. We find it also in white Chateau-Neuf du Pape

  • Grenache Blanc, a mutation of the red Grenache. Mostly used for blending. Provides fruitiness and fatness to Chateau-Neuf du Pape blends.

The Marsanne Grape is perfect for a balanced Climate - no too hot but not cold either

What is true for the white wines is also valid for the reds.

  • Grenache noir is from Spain, ripens late and needs hot and dry conditions. It is rich in sugar which result in a high alcohol content. Fruity and spicy, red Grenache lacks acidity and tannin. It is usually blended. Some Chateau-Neuf du Pape are made to 80% of Grenache rouge.

  • Syrah – legend has it that it came 2’800 years ago with the first Greek settlers - but it is a legend. The grape is a cross of the Dureza grape from the Ardèche and the Mondeuse Grape from the Drôme. Syrah blends well with Grenache and is found in Hermitage, Cornas, Gigondas and Chateau-Neuf du Pape.

  • Mourvedre comes from Spain where it was introduced by the Phoenicians. It loves warm climates and south facing clay soils. Most Mourvedre in the Provence grow around Bandol where the law requires that any red Bandol must contain at least 50% Mourvedre

  • Carignan, probably also of Phoenician origin, came via the Kingdom of Aragon to the Provence. Once called a “workhorse variety” because it is a base blend, it is now slowly replaced by Grenache and Mourvedre

  • Cinsault, came to France from the eastern Mediterranean but the origin is not firmly established. The grapes love a dry climate like in northern Africa and is fairly drought resistant. It is the 4th most planted grape variety in France and widely used for making Rosé

  • Counoise, a dark-skinned grape which adds a peppery note and acidity to many blends. It makes up to 5% in Chateau-Neuf du Pape blends

  • Tannat, also a relatively rare grape. Adds tannin to a blend.

  • Cabernet-Sauvignon, best known of all. Nothing to add here

Grenache Noir from Spain needs hot and dry Conditions to ripen

Rosé and reds make up around 90% of wine production in the Provence. Whilst they look different, they are made in a similar way. All grape juice – be it from red or white grapes - is white. It is the red grapes’ skins that colors the juice. Most Champagne - for example - is made from red grapes. The red skins are removed from the juice thus it stays white. For Rosé, the red skins are left for 1 or 2 days, then removed. The result is a lighter or darker Rosé.

The red Skin probably stays for a good Day in Miraval

Do not have the competence to evaluate the hundreds of Rosé produced in the Provence but will share which ones are my favorites.

1. Domaine de l’Ile from Porquerolles – Found it when holidaying in La Mas de Langustine on the island. It is 1/3 Grenache, 1/3 Syrah, 20% Cinsault, 12% Mourvedre and 5% Tibouren. Love it. A dry rosé with a taste of ripe cherries and strawberries, it comes with a refreshing punch of acidity. Some people call it the perfect antidote to a hot summer day. Gets a 4.1 ranking on Vivino, my favorite wine app. It is difficult to find. Locals in St Barth drink it since it is affordable at below EUR 20 a bottle . It does not make it into prestigious restaurants – wonder why?

The Vineyards of Domaine de l'Ile are just to the West of Fort St Agathe

2. Miraval Rosé from north of Le Val, where the American paratroopers landed in August 1944. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got married there and bought the estate. It is now a Rosé de Prestige and made it to the top 25 Rosé in France. Still, it is good. Discovered it in 2016 in Avignon and have ever been a loyal fan. Nice & dry with compelling flavors of raspberry and pink grapefruit – so refreshing. Ranks 4.0 on Vivino and is affordable at EUR 24.- a bottle

The Neatness of the Vines in Miraval indicates that there is a rich Owner ...

3. Chateau Léoube to the west of Fort de Brégançon, the old castle and summer residence of the French Presidents, well-guarded by Special Forces in rubber dingys. But discovered it in Selfridges in London. A slightly dry Rosé. Very drinkable with a light nose of gooseberries, red melon and strawberries. Many people think that it is one of the more complex Rosé. I would not call it complex. Ranked 3.9 by the Vivinio community and as affordable as the Miraval.

All French Presidents can look over Chateau Léoube every Morning - and order the wine!

We are going to stock up on the three Rosé for our trip but have to leave some space for the surprises we are going to find on the way from Savona to Marseille. Am sure there will be plenty.

Helicopter View of Chateau Léoube from the Sea Side - Olives and Grapes alternate

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