Provence still sets the standard

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When it comes to rosé, the French region remains at the pinnacle of excellence, making versatile wines that shine all year round and in every type of drinking occasion

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There’s a reason why Provence is regarded as the global benchmark for rosé. Somehow its wines just hit the mark with their crispness, sophistication and elegance – and always a breezy joie de vivre. These wines are, fundamentally, all about pleasure.

They come from a region that basks in 250 days of sunshine each year, with the Mistral and the Mediterranean lending a welcome cooling influence. It’s a landscape most of us can picture, with its fragrant lavender fields, lush greenery and crystal blue seas.

Vignerons, of course, understand their terroir rather more deeply than this. For them, Provence is a patchwork of hills, mountains, valleys and coastlines in which soil and weather systems can vary much more than tourists might imagine.

In fact Provence is divided into three appellations, each producing a style of rosé that is unmistakably Provençal and yet expresses some distinctively local characteristics.

AOC Côtes de Provence

The largest of the three appellations, accounting for 71% of production, stretching from the Med to the mountains. It’s a diverse landscape, but a typical rosé will have a tangy freshness and manage to be both generous and light at the same time. On the nose, expect to find flowers, yellow and red fruits and perhaps even marshmallow. The finish is often persistent and very fruity.

AOC Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence

The limestone soils in this appellation between the Rhône and Durance rivers give rise to shimmering, salmon-pink rosés. On the nose, floral and red-berry characters are common, sometimes with some sweet spice. These are rosés with structure and backbone, adored for their thirst-quenching qualities. They make up about 18% of production.

AOC Coteaux Varois en Provence

The minerality and freshness that characterise this appellation, which supplies around 11% of Provence rosés, are partly due to the cold winters. The wines are pale and the nose is complex, suggesting citrus and tropical fruits. Elegant yet generous on the palate, these wines are loved for their aromatic qualities and persistent flavours.

It’s true that plenty of winemakers around the world model their rosés on the Provençal template. Copying the salmon-pink or onion-skin colour is not too difficult; what they find impossible is to match the aromatic complexity. There’s really only one place in the world where rosés of this depth and quality can be produced, and it happens to be Provence.

The UK is the number two export market for Provence rosé, after the USA. The wines have a loyal following here for all kinds of reasons, but perhaps versatility is right at the top of the list. The wines are equally at home in formal or relaxed settings; in the height of summer or the depths of winter (large formats are big sellers at Christmas time); and with or without food.

Provence rosés – particularly wines that have spent some time in barrel – are an excellent choice with many dishes, and not just the seafood or light summer lunches that might spring to mind most readily. Many are perfectly at home with meatier meals – and there can’t be too many wine-loving Brits who haven’t enjoyed a Provence rosé with a curry.

Consumers – and merchants – are rightly asking more questions about the sustainability of their wines, and the issue has reached the top of the agenda in Provence too.

Around half of the region’s vineyards are now organic, and the aim is for 100% of the vineyard area to have some sort of environmental accreditation by 2030. Growers are being encouraged to plant more cover crops.

Through the Centre du Rosé, the only research centre in the world dedicated to rosé wine, Provence is working on the best ways to preserve freshness, balance and aromatic expression in the face of climate change.

And although Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah are likely to be the principal red grapes of the region for the foreseeable future, Vins de Provence has sanctioned the use of Rousseli, Agiorgitiko, Calabrese, Moschofilero and Xinomavro grapes, and experiments on heat-resistant grape varieties and cultivation methods are continuing.


A Provence selection


Château les Mesclances
Saint Honorat Rosé 2022
Côtes de Provence
RRP £17.12, Vinatis

A blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre, aged on its lees for three months, adding a little roundness to a classic, salmon-pink Provence rosé which is all about zippy freshness and lovely fruit purity. There’s a note of salinity, too, and a faint spicy character that makes the wine a perfect ambassador for the Côtes de Provence appellation and a very versatile partner for all sorts of cuisines.


Château La Mascaronne
Rosé 2022
Côtes de Provence
RRP £24.95, Fine Wine Direct

The organic-certified vineyard is 300m above sea level, making it cooler than its coastal cousins which encourages grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. The wine emerges pure and intense, with some tropical notes alongside the citrus and white-fruit flavours. It’s this ripe, juicy character that makes the biggest impression, but as the wine finishes there are more mineral elements that come to the fore.


Maison Fabre
Maire-Christine Cru Classé 2022
Côtes de Provence
RRP £15.28, Armit Wines

Of all the wines we sampled for this project, this was the one with the silkiest mouth feel, and the deepest colour. So it was no surprise to discover a richness to the Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah blend, which is brimming with red-fruit characters and complex aromas. But there’s a savoury note lurking in the background, making this a a beautifully balanced wine with appeal for connoisseurs and dabblers alike.


Domaine de la Vielle Tour 2022
Côtes de Provence
RRP £15, Noble Green Wines

Grenache makes up just over half of the blend, with Cinsault and Syrah playing supporting roles in a rosé that has plenty of big, bold flavours and not just the subtlety you would expect. It’s a joyous, summery wine, made organically, combining minerality with generous peach and red-fruit characters. Another multi-faceted wine that could combine well with all kinds of dishes.


Château La Coste
Rosé 2022
Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence
RRP £22.50, Wanderlust Wine Club

It’s always hard to resist listing the familiar fruit flavours that you typically find in Provençal rosés, and here we encounter some familar peachy elements as well as some more exotic species, all of which are generous and luscious. But maybe the wine’s most interesting feature its pleasant savoury edge, which is particularly evident on the finish.


Baron M
Jardin d’Amour 2022
Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence
RRP £11, Drinkworthy

The first thing that strikes you with this Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon blend is its gorgeous creamy texure and fruit salad notes. But then you start to notice the spices unravelling on your palate – cinnamon, maybe, and even what seems like distant chilli. A treat on its own, no doubt, but definitely a wine that would hold its own and even be enhanced by Asian dishes and many types of curry.


Domaine de Cala
Rosé Classique 2022
Coteaux Varois en Provence
RRP £19, Emile Wines

Grenache, Cinsault and Rolle make up the blend here, which is produced by a producer converting to organic viticulture and committed to high environmental standards. There’s a delicious sting to the wine, making it stand out from many of its peers, and a suggestion of something more green and leafy in addition to the strawberry, nectarine and citrus flavours. There’s plenty of time to contemplate these things as the length is so good.


Château de Margillière
Bastide 2022
Coteaux Varois en Provence
RRP £14.90, Seeking distribution

There’s a playful sweetness lurking in this organic Grenache/Cinsault/Mourvèdre/Cabernet Sauvignon blend –not in terms of residual sugar, but in the aromas that emerge from the glass, suggesting sweet shops, maybe, or a patisserie. On the palate we’re more in peach and lemon territory, and there’s a mineral seam that keeps you coming back for more. All in all, an excellent advertisement for the appellation.


Domaines des Annibals
Suivez-moi-jeune-homme 2022
Coteaux Varois en Provence
RRP £13.20, Seeking distribution

An organic blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah which has clearly been handled with great sensitivity from picking to bottling. It epitomises the freshness and elegance of the appellation, and yet there’s a certain liveliness to the wine that goes beyond this. There’s an intensity to the stone-fruit and citrus flavours and a herbal note too, making it a wine that can easily be enjoyed on its own, without food.


Published in association with Vins de Provence

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