Rosé Is the Typical Provencal Aperitif, as You Have Been Told: 5 Estates and 4 Co-ops

“…the tourists occupying, by prearrangement, all the tables at a sidewalk cafe and drinking rosé, which they have been told is a typical Provencal aperitif.” Adapted excerpt from “La Bella Lingua” By John Cheever
In the Cheever quotation, rosé replaced Campari and Provencal substituted for Italian; otherwise, the depiction is spot on. Under the sun-dappled skies of Provence, rosé is the carefree wine that you are preconditioned to order and enjoy. At first sip, everyone approves of whatever rosé is poured into his or her glass. This is a nearly universal phenomena: a happy drink suspending any critical judgment. No inspection. No swilling. At posh vernissages in the Luberon during the summer season, guests cheerfully sip rosé poured from glass carafes filled from a bag-in-box (behind a curtain, mind you) of a local cooperative.

Rosé is also a form of wine cellar insurance. Rather than crack open expensive wines in your cellar, serving rosé at drinks parties or at casual dinners preserves your better bottles. You hear often the phrase uttered, “J’ai trouvé un bon rosé,” meaning one has found a good buy and decent drink that will be the only rosé served to guests during the entire season (not so with red and white wines). Rosé has a commodity-like appreciation. Many wine shops in the states feature “rosé walls”: the message is pick anyone; a rosé is a rosé is a rosé (some know better).

The grenache grape grown predominately in the Southern Rhone is ideal for producing rosé as it is relatively low in both pigment and malic acid. Rosé wine in France is produced with red grapes only, and cannot legally be made by blending red and white wines.

The surging popularity of rosé has boosted its yearly share of production in the AOC Ventoux to nearly 30% up from 23% a few years ago. An incentive of rosé production is cash flow: : most rosés are sold within a year of harvest.  Wines cooperatives are heaving with rosé, and estate-bottled rosé in the Vaucluse is expanding.

Five Estates

Domaine le Van, Bedoin,  If the mark of a good rosé is low residual sugar, then the sublime and dry — less than 1% sugar — rosé the Domaine Le Van is worth the trip to Bedoin. Jean Pierre harvests grapes with headlamps during the night to preserve the freshness of the fruit. The result is one of the driest and most sublime rosés produced in the region. A great price / quality ratio at 8.5€ a bottle. His entire vintage of rosé sell out by the end of summer.

Route de Carpentras, Bedoin, email: domaine.le.van@gmail.com, Tel: 04 90 12 82 56. Wine cellar open Monday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

La Bastide du Claux, La Motte d’Aigues: Rosé Poudriere: 50% grenache noir, 30% cinsault, 10% syrah, 10% ugni blanc, an exquisite elegant rosé from this quality estate of Ludmilla and Sylvain Morey. Note: If you pop into their cellar, grab their 100% Syrah L’Orientale.

Address: Campagne le Claux, 84240 La Motte d’Aigues, Tel 04-90-77-70-26, E-mail : contact@bastideduclaux.fr, Website

Located in the eastern Vaucluse: Directions: Take route D37 south from the village, left on Chemin du Claux,  follow signage.

Domaine de Marie, Gordes, rosé 60% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, pale rose in color with violet nuance, recommended by Pascal Gabetta of the Casa Rosario in Gordes.

Address: Quartier la Verrerie, 84560 Ménerbes,Tél : 04 90 72 54 23, Cellar open from Tueday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to noon, and 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Just outside the village, head east on D3 from village no more than a KM, signage, on right. Website

 

Châteaux Unang, Malemort-du-Comtat: The soi-disant Scottish rosé. It took a king to put this Châteaux all back together, in this case two kings: Joanna and James King, once of Scotland, via Beijing and Brussels, who purchased the vineyard in late 2001 with grapes harvested. By 2003, they had moved south with their kids to renovate the chateau and to nurture the vines back to form.

2010 rosé, Cinsault 40%, Grenache 35%, Syrah 25%, a true pink color, with fresh fruit on the palate and a fresh finish. Châteaux all sells its wine at the Friday evening summer market in Venasque (photo at left above).

Address: Route de Methamis, 84570 Malemort-du-Comtat, Tel: 04 90 69 91 37, From Malemort, take D5 direction Methamis. Call or email for appt. at the wine shop. Website

Prieuré de Montézargues, Tavel, Taking it name from buildings that formed a small monastery from 12th century, the vineyard produces an outstanding single vintage of Tavel Rosé.

Guillaume Dugas’ 2010 is a  richly-colored full-bodied rosé, a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Cinsault and Clairette. This exquisite wine has a red currant color, a nose of bright cherries and raspberries, a tangy texture and a clean finish.  Tavel rosés are pricey. Some disappoint. Not so the Tavel of Prieuré de Montézargues. It delivers value and great pleasure.

Address: Route de Rochefort du Gar, Tavel. Tel. 06 65 03 041, Website,

Four Wine Cooperatives

Vignerons de Caractère, Vacqueyras:  The  2010 Seigneur de Fontimple is a quality rosé, a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. Tasting notes: A complex nose with notes of raspberries and red fruits. On the palate, fruity and well-balanced with smooth texture (pictured in photo above).

The Vignerons de Caractère, whose wines find a place on the shelves of wine stores in the U.K. and in the U.S., is no middling operation with  more than 1,100 acres in production of vintages from Vacqueyras and surrounding appellations, including northern Rhones wines from St. Joseph and Crozes Hermitage.

Address: BP1, Route de Vaison la Romaine, Vacqueyras, Tél 04 90 65 84 54, website

Cave de Bonnieux, Bonnieux: Popular among the smart set in the Luberon. Offering a selection of AOC Côtes du Luberon and AOC Ventoux rosés: Les Safres and Orphea for 4.4€ each and Les Sentes at 5.5€. Rosés in “bagging box” are 15.2€ for 5L and 27.10€ for 10L.

Directions: N36 from N100, direction south towards Bonnieux 300 yards on the left. Coming from Bonnieux on N36, on the right after 4KM. Tel: 04-90-75-80-03; website

Cave Balma Vénitia – Vignerons de Beaumes de Venise, Beaumes De Venise

One of the youngest appelations in the southern Rhone, Beaune de Venise produced its first vintage of AOC reds in 2004. The wine cooperative accounts for 70% of the AOC production. The handsome cooperative has a long counter for tastings. The Legende des Toques Rosé deserves attention; other rosés to choose from.

Directions: Access Beaumes-de-Venise on highway D7, north from Carpentras or south on D7 from Vacqueyras. The cooperative is located outside and below the village in the Quartier Ravel. Tel: 04-90-12-41-00; website

La Courtoise, Saint-Didier, Founded in 1924, this busy wine coop has 200 vignerons, rosé in bottles or bag-in-box.

Address: 976 Route Cave, 84210 St Didier, Tél. 04 90 66 01 15, cave.la.courtoise@wanadoo.fr, Open from 8:00 a.m. to noon, and 2:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. everyday except Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to noon, and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Directions: North of the Village on the Route de la Courtoise, at the roundabout of D1 and D4.

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