Everything’s coming up rosé

Rosés go with everything from bouillabaisse to a charcuterie platter to pasta with mushrooms to a salade niçoise made with fresh tuna. (Photo: Total Wine website)

Having tasted a lot of rosés lately, it’s impressed me how different most of the southern French styles are from the Australians. Even those local wineries aiming to make a Provençal style rosé – and many are doing a very fine job – are not really nailing the texture of the French wines. These wines, not only from Provence but also the Southern Rhône, Bandol and Languedoc, are currently rampantly popular the world over. So it’s no surprise that our winemakers are trying to copy them.Replicating this style is more than just a paler and more salmon-pink colour, and a drier palate. It’s a textural thing, which is a subtle but crucial difference.

But replicating this style is more than just a paler and more salmon-pink (rather than purple-pink) colour, and a drier palate. It’s a textural thing, which is a subtle but crucial difference. The Provençal and Bandol wines, which are the best, have a density of palate at the same time as they have ‘lightness of being’. The texture is almost chewy, and it gives the taste of these wines more weight, length and strength to partner a variety of foods.

No doubt a key part of this comes from tannins extracted from the skins. Somehow, the winemakers achieve this texture without extracting too much colour. As already mentioned, these wines are notable for their paleness. And that paleness must be difficult to control as French law stipulates that still (not sparkling) rosé must be produced exclusively from red grapes. So they can’t make them paler by adding white wine. No such law applies in Australia.

The wine I’ve been enjoying most are the Bandols, made mainly from mourvèdre, but also cinsault. Domaine Tempier, Château du Pibarnon, Domaine du Gros Noré, Château Canadol and La Suffrene are all good examples. Cinsault, together with grenache and mourvèdre, is the main grape of Provence rosé, and good examples are Domaines Ott, Domaine Saint Andrieu, Le Rosé du Vallon des Bousquets, Miraval, Domaine La Sanglière, Aix, and our very own Rose Kentish, who travels from her McLaren Vale home to Provence (and Corsica) each year to make wine.

These are all terrific food wines. They go with everything from bouillabaisse to a charcuterie platter to pasta with mushrooms to a salade niçoise made with fresh tuna, and much more.

4 thoughts on “Everything’s coming up rosé”

  1. Christopher R says:

    I have found that the best Australian rosés always have some cinsault in their composition.

  2. Harshal Shah says:

    Hi Huon, interesting point about the use of white wine. Whispering Angel from Ch. d’Esclans in Provence, and their various lines including Garrus (often regarded as the best rosé in the world {certainly the most expensive}) use a percentage of Rolle. I would hazard that many other producers do the same.

    Another interesting point when it comes to quality (and wine texture) is that the majority of AOC Côtes de Provence rosé is actually purchased as wine and blended/finished by estates. This is certainly the case for high-end Provence rosé like Whispering Angel and Minuty. I’m not sure what happens in Bandol..

  3. Mike Calneggia says:

    One of the most popular rose’s to come out of Provence is Whispering Angel. The 2017 tasting note says it is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle (Vermentino), Syrah and Tibouren (Rousanne). Rolle and Rousanne are white grapes. https://esclans.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/wa-2017-sheet.pdf. How are they able to use white varieties if it is forbidden under French winemaking law.

    1. Huon Hooke
      Huon Hooke says:

      Interesting questions raised here about blending of grapes to make still French rosés. I have made inquiries about the French law on this matter and plan to publish a follow-up item very soon.

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