Monday, 28 May 2012

Rosé de Provence: a glamorous taste of summer

I've been waiting too long to write this piece. After an endlessly cold, damp, dreary spring, we are now basking in bright sunshine and temperatures in the high 20s. Back in April, on a cool evening, I braved it through heavy rain to the Bistro du Vin in Soho to taste some Provence rosé. These offer a chic and refreshing contrast to the deep coloured, powerfully flavoured rosés that dominate supermarket shelves. I've always been drawn to delicately hued, restrained Provence rosé, while visualising lavender fields, olive groves and yachts bobbing up and down on glinting water (without a noisy jet-ski in sight). There aren't many wines more perfectly suited to summer.

At the Bistro du Vin we heard about the work of the Provence-based Rosé Research Centre (apparently the only organisation in the world dedicated to this style of wine). The emphasis is on careful, controlled winemaking to produce such pale, clean, fresh wines and to preserve the fresh acidity. Three wines were presented that reflected this approach (and all of which I really liked):

Côtes de Provence Tradition 2011 from Domaine Sainte Marie (Baume les Mimosas, near Saint Tropez): a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cabernet and Mourvèdre. Creamy strawberry fruit, aromatic and fragrant, with a whiff of minerality. Refreshing and stylish. (8 Euros ex cellars. Not available in the UK.)

Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, Cuvée Aix Rosé 2011 from Domaine de la Grande Séouve. This Grenache dominated blend (Grenache 60%, Cinsault 20%, Syrah/Counoise 20%) has a tasty savoury complexity and aromatic fragrant fruit – a great food wine. (Majestic Wine £12; also available in magnums.)

Coteaux Varois en Provence, Perle de Margüi Rosé 2011 from Château Margüi. A Cinsault/Grenache blend, very pale (from 90 minutes' skin contact), dry, crisp, aromatic, with a particularly fragrant finish. Subtle and chic. (11.50 Euros ex cellars. Not available in the UK.)

We enjoyed these three wines with canapés and more Provence rosés were served with dinner. Although rosé is a versatile option, I selected lighter dishes at dinner for these subtle wines: firstly Cornish crab with toasted sourdough (although there was a lot of dark meat, so quite an intense flavour to take on), followed by fillet of bream, crab potato (an inspired idea) and parsley velouté.

Crab struck me as an ideal match for Provence rosé and some shone: Château du Galoupet Côtes de Provence Cru Classé 2010 (£13.08 for 50cl from London Wine Shippers) and Domaine Ott, Clos Mireille Coeur de Grain 2010 (£27.95 from Roberson Wine). I've always regarded Ott as a bit blingy, but here it was very dry and deliciously savoury. It tasted serious, as it should for the price. With the cheese, Vignelaure rosé (£11.95 Wine Society) did a good job, especially with the creamy, slightly tangy cabécou. Perhaps demonstrating rosé's versatility, further along the table, it was enjoyed with steak. With dessert we had another smart dry rosé Côtes de Provence (Château d'Esclans 2011 from Sacha Lichine £21.50 Bibendum Wine). This was not flattered by the redberry sorbets, shortbread and cream which made it taste bitter. For me, the fish and seafood and canapés were the best matches.

I attended the event as a guest of Provence Wines.

Top pic: courtesy of Provence Rosé/Hachette.

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