Rosé is the New Black

May is the month when trees, vines, parking tickets (at least in Macao) and women are blossoming. (Women are last on my list but first in my heart; I don’t want to be accused of sexism, especially since I am the one in the kitchen most of the time). This is also when the art festival Le French May is blooming in Hong Kong and Macao. Within this festival 10 years ago the French Gourmay was created, where every year a region of France is chosen to promote its gastronomy. The star this year is Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, and the heart of it is Provence, the most prominent rosé wine region of the world. Provence is also home to the only research institute dedicated to the style.

Plus now with this hot weather it is the perfect time for a good rosélution!

For the past decade rosé wine has become more and more chic, and consequently less and less cheap. Just last year rosé sales in the USA increased by 40%! The fact that the famous couple Brangelina and more recently George Lucas own vineyards in the region might have contributed to the popularity.

The Romans named it “Provincia Nostra” (Our Province) as it was the first Roman province created out of Italy, hence the name “Provence”.

With more than 2,600 years of winemaking history, the oldest vineyards in France, and occupations of different cultures (Ancient Greek, Romans, Gauls, Catalans and Savoyards), Provence possesses a large spectrum of grape varieties. Across France  Provence is allowed the most varieties, reaching the impressive number of 36.

The region is divided into 10 main AOC/AOPs, Côtes-de-Provence being by far the largest and most famous, Bandol notorious for its reds, and Cassis for whites.

Provence, like Bordeaux, has some “Crus Classés” based on estates and not terroir. Some wineries gave themselves this title built more on their history and reputation than on the intrinsic quality of the wines.

Another connection that Provence has with Bordeaux is the art of blending. All rosé wines are made from a few grapes to reach a consistent quality and good balance.

As we saw previously in the article “Wine Making,” rosé is made mostly out of red/black grapes. The leading black grapes, known for making the most complex and refined rosé, are Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.

There are two ways of making rosé: the first is “direct press”, allowing the skin of the grapes to have limited contact with the juice to extract colours, flavours and tannins. Or it is vinified like a white wine: the pomace is removed immediately, and we have a “Vin Gris” (Grey Wine), closer in taste to a dry white wine with a light pink reflection. The longer the contact with the grape skin, the darker the colour and richer the taste.

The second way is the “saignée” method: fermenting the grapes to make a red wine and “bleeding out” fermented juice for later blending. This gives the more dense, more tannic and fruitier part of the rosé.

Note that unlike most of the rosés around the world, Provence ones are always dry.

Technically a rosé being between a white and red, it should be served in a medium temperature around 12 degrees celsius (“Wine Service”). Yet in Provence it is often served “bien fré!” (very chilled), to enhance the acidity and freshness. Also many rosés are regularly drunk too young.  

This versatility of the rosé makes it one of the best for food pairing. Mediterranean cuisine of course but also BBQ, Asian cuisine from sushi to Yumcha, Charsiu, or Thai food to Indian curry. Its cheerful colour and quenching style also make it a good  addition to parties.

AIX Rosé 2016, Coteaux-d’Aix-en-Provence AOP 

Made from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, with a splash of Carignan, 30% saignée and 70% direct press, I would habitually describe the colour as bright salmon. But since Provence created their own colour chart comprising six pink shades (peach, melon, mango, pomelo, mandarin and redcurrant) and three nuances (clear, medium, intense), I would now say “medium melon”.

The nose is fresh with some raspberry, pear, yellow peach and garrigue (dried grass, thyme and lavender) aromas with some rock smell after a summer rain. Very fresh on the palate with a crisp acidity and some yellow grapefruit, orange peal and crushed rocks flavours. Medium finish on minerals and lime, calling immediately for another sip. David Rouault

David Rouault is a professional classical musician, part time wine consultant and full time wine lover, holding WSET Level 3,
Certified Specialist of Wine and Introductory Sommelier diplomas.

Categories World of Bacchus