Provence Rosés: A Summer Staple from Southern France.

Summertime is finally about here.  Warm evenings on the front porch or perhaps the back deck are a great time of year for Rosé wine.  Rose’s are made around the world, but, when I think Rosé, I think Provence, France.  One-half of all rosé wine made in France comes from Provence.  It is there that these wines are part of the lifestyle.   The most enjoyable bottle of wine I ever had (not necessarily the best) was at an outdoor sidewalk café called La Piazza in Cannes France.  The film festival was going on.  There were beautiful people and incredible cars going by.  The day was warm with great breezes coming in off the sea.  The wine itself (Chateau Rasque Rosé) was technically average, but on that occasion it was perfect.  Such are the Rosés from Provence. 

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Provence lies in the southeast corner of France meandering along the Mediterranean Riviera.  It is called the Cotes d’Azur in French because of the stunning blueness of the sky.  It stretches from Marseilles to Nice along the coast and a corresponding strip inland to the base of the alpine hills. It is thought that it was the Phoenicians who first brought grapes to this region around 500BC.  Wine has been produced in Provence since the Roman times.  Julius Caesar wrote about them in his diaries.  The wines of Provence reached their zenith of popularity in the 1700’s.  Today, they are much more popular locally than in the world market. 

The rosés of Provence are dry wines but they have plenty of fruit.  Often displaying itself as strawberries or watermelon, the best ones verge on tasting sweet due to the ripeness of the fruit.  They are great wines to drink before a meal or with a lighter lunch or dinner.  They go great with goat cheese and seafood; foods popular in Provencal cuisine.  That said there is a wide variety in the wines, depending on the grapes used and the actual site of the vineyard.  The vineyards vary in climate, distance to the sea and soil structure.  The best ones, for my tastes, use Rhone varietal grapes and are from areas closer to the Mediterranean.  Often I find the rosés with the lighter colors (think salmon versus electric pink) tend to be more interesting, but that is a gross generalization.  My only complaint is that some of wineries push the alcohol levels in an effort to get more fruit flavor.  This more often than not leaves them with a bitter almost scorched finish.  For this reason, I look for rosés with under 14.0% Alc. 

The AOC wine labeling laws divide up Provence into sub-regions.  The most important of these wines are labeled as Cotes du Provence, Bandol, Coteau d’Aix en Provence, Baux de Provence, Cassis, Coteaux Varois, Bellet or Palette.  Cotes du Provence is the largest of these and accounts for 75% of all wine production in Provence.  Of that nearly 80% of it is Rosé.  Most of that is made from Carignan, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre grapes.  With the exception of Bandol, the other regions make nice enjoyable wines.  Bandol has developed a worldwide reputation for it wines that are based heavily on Mourvedre. 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.