At one time rosé from Provence was universally written off as over-priced and poorly made; fine for gullible tourists but never to be exported. But no longer. Provence rosé is having a bit of a moment and not just during the summer months either.
Over the last few years, it has become the most fashionable tipple of the wealthy yachty classes. Consumers in France, the US and elsewhere are happy to pay increasingly large sums for Provençal Rosé.
The man who can take most credit is former Bordelais Château owner Sacha Lichine, whose Ch d’Eslcans is cleverly marketed under the name Whispering Angel. It gained the nickname Hampton’s Water, so popular is it in New York and other parts of the US.
Lichine now sells various cuvées of his rosé, rising to Garrus, an oak-aged version, for a whopping €98, while the “entry-level” Whispering Angel is €30-€35 (Independents). His competition is Clos Mireille from Domaine Ott (about €35), owned by Champagne house Louis Roederer, still a favourite among many connoisseurs.
Then Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt bought Ch Miraval in Provence, a property that included a 30-hectare vineyard. I am not sure who will retain ownership in the break-up. The wine is made by the Perrin family (better known as owners of many wines from the Rhône). It has featured here before as it is very good. You will find it in Terroirs in Donnybrook and Marks & Spencer for about €30. Terroirs have magnums available too.
Bottle shape is all important in the rosé market; more ambitious producers have replaced the traditional skittle bottle (see the Houchard rosé ) with their own – sometimes spectacular – designs. Size is important too – large-format bottles, magnum or double magnum, are essential in fashionable Mediterranean resorts.
Provence rosé is generally fresh, light, crisp and dry. It can sometimes be a little too austere, but the best have very attractive elegant strawberry fruits and some real complexity.
Fish and meat
Dry rosé of any kind is a great summer food wine, with grilled fish and white meats, and richer salads too. In addition to the wines featured, Marks & Spencer and Aldi both stock very decent inexpensive Provence rosé.
Just about every wine region has tried to hop on the rosé bandwagon, with varying degrees of success. Neighbouring Languedoc has similar grape varieties and climate, if not quite the same cachet, and the wines can offer great value. The Loire valley produces a variety, including some delicious delicate dry wines, and New Zealand and other regions have turned Pinot Noir into wonderfully fragrant light rosés. We will return to these shortly. O’Briens stocks no fewer than 16 rosés, including Mateus Rosé, many of them on a summer-long buy one, get one half-price promotion.
FOUR ROSÉS TO TRY
Bendel Cuvée Caroline 2016, Côtes de Provence 13%. €10
Pleasant textured, crushed black cherries and green apples. On offer at €10 until August 2nd. Stockists: SuperValu
Domaine d’Eole 2016, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence (organic) 13%. €19.95
A delicious fresh summery wine with rounded ripe strawberry fruits. Stockists: Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown.
Mirabeau 2016 Côtes de Provence .5%, €16.95
Lovely lively elegant raspberry and strawberry fruits. Summer in a glass. Buy one and second bottle is half price. Stockists: O’Briens
Domaine Houchard Rosé 2016, Côtes de Provence 13%, €16.95
Rich, textured and moreish with ripe summer fruits. Stockists: Gibney’s; The Wine House, Trim; Grapevine, Dalkey; Karwig Wines; 1601, Kinsale; Morton’s, Ranelagh; Donnybrook Fair; and Cinnamon Cottage.