Wine: Pretty pinks from Provence are prime
PUBLISHED: 20:00 08 June 2015
Rose shades run from pale shell pink to crimson but south west is best, says Liz Sagues.
No argument: it was, as the young woman next to me insisted, “the prettiest tasting I’ve ever been to”. Lined up were 36 rosé wines, decanted into identical clear glass bottles better to display their ravishing colours – from the palest shell pink to near-crimson.
This was a friendly contest organised by Jean-Christophe Mau of Château Brown in Bordeaux to compare 2014 vintage premium pinks from around the world. Eight wine-making nations were represented, though bottles from France were by far the majority. And the verdict from the trade and media there? Provence is the best place for pinks.
It certainly was for me. Four of my top five wines came from those sunny vineyards close to the Mediterranean – and the fifth was from just a little to the west. All five were in the top seven overall when everyone’s preferences were compared.
Really stylish Provence pink doesn’t come cheap – although I didn’t much like the most expensive (just pennies change out of £100). But at around £16, Château Léoube Rosé de Léoube 2014 is a deliciously classic example, light yet with plenty of rounded, attractive fruit, crisp and lingering: a wine that says “drink me”. Buy it fromdavywine.co.uk or daylesford.com, the organic farm in Gloucestershire that is sister estate to Léoube, or at Daylesford farm shop in Marylebone. It’s a typical Provence blend: grenache, cinsault, syrah and mourvèdre.
The grapes in the wine I liked best of all are rather different: grenache again, but with rolle – a white grape aka vermentino – and tibouren, rarely seen beyond Provence. Château d’Esclans Rock Angel (£19-£20, fromvineyardsdirect.com, millesima.co.uk) is a true food pink, serious, fascinating, with lovely length.
FromVineyardsDirect also has its appealing sibling, Whispering Angel, well-priced at £15 (£17 Waitrose).
The joker in my top five was Château La Sauvageonne, from Gérard Bertrand’s newest estate, near Montpellier (£13, Majestic). It has a little more colour than the Provence wines but shares their delicacy, plus excellent concentration.
Majestic continues to be the best high street source for Provence pinks. All these are recommended (some prices are when buying two-plus): M de Minuty (£10), Miraval (£18), Château Barthès (£11), Minuty Cuvée Prestige (£15), Château de Berne (£11.25). Waitrose is increasing its choice: Mirabeau (£10) and Mirabeau Pure (£13) are very tempting.
But the two rosés I’ve been drinking recently with real pleasure, while Provence-inspired are made of different grapes and come from other places, one from the far side of the world.
Clos Rocailleux is the wine-loving dream realised by Britons Jack and Margaret Reckitt in south west France, home of many unfamiliar grapes. Rocailleux rosé (£12-£13, .redsquirrelwine.com, Corks Out) is made from braucal, more often seen in red blends, and is fragrant, crisp and tangy with dry strawberry flavours, good as an aperitif or with summery salads.
The argument that rosé can be a proper food wine is even better confirmed by Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Rosé (£24, Harvey Nichols), from New Zealand. Again, it looks the pale Provence part and has elegant scents followed by a basketful of flavours. Take your time enjoying it – the wine develops impressively as the first edge of chill eases away, a perfect start to summer.