Provence Rosé

Provence Rosé

Pretty, pale and pink, the elegant rosé found in Provence, southern France, has become synonymous with the region. Although the region produces high-quality red and white wines, it is its world-class rosé that it has become rightly famed for.

History

Provence: the land of lavender and wine
Provence: the land of lavender and wine

Provence is notable for being the first wine region in France. The region was first exposed to viticulture more than 2600 years ago, around 600 BC when the Phoceans and founded Marseille in Provence, bringing with them the grapevine.

Since the initial Greek settlement, other cultures naturally followed, including the Romans, Catalans, Gauls and Savoyards, and Provence became a mixing bowl of Mediterranean viticultural techniques. Even during the early days of Provencal winemaking, the region had already cultivated an enviable reputation for world-class rosé. The Romans then continued to cultivate other French wine regions, including the Rhône Valley, Burgundy and Bordeaux.

Winemaking was then refined during the Middle Ages, when monks took up the production of rosé to help fund their monasteries with notable abbeys like Saint-Honorat, Le Thoronet, Saint-Victor and Saint-Pons all producing high-quality wines that garnered a reputation as luxurious status symbols among Europe’s rich nobility and army officer classes.

Unfortunately, the arrival of the phylloxera louse in the late 19th Century – around 1880 – saw vineyards decimated, and both producers and the region had to build back up using grafted rootstocks, and it is possible that in the replanting some of the original character was lost. The 20th Century saw winemakers in Provence come together to form a cooperative, which went on to ultimately establish an Appellation d’Origine Contr?lée. The year 1977 saw the formation of the AOC, C?tes de Provence and 1985 saw the formation of the AOC, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence and 1993 saw the founding of Coteaux Varois en Provence.

Testament to the region’s longstanding history of producing rosé wine, Provence is home to the world’s only research institute dedicated to rosé wine, Centre de Recherche et d'Expérimentation sur le Vin Rosé, which was founded in 1999.

Today the region is broken into three main AOC appellations, with the two largest and most recognizable being the C?tes de Provence and the Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, followed by the Coteaux Varois en Provence. The C?tes de Provence is split down further into five smaller communes.

Grape varieties

The main grape varieties used in the production of Provence rosé are Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, the more local Tibouren and, occasionally, Carignan.

On the palate

Tasting notes:

Provence rosé is typically a pale pink and light-bodied wine with strong flavors of summer berry and orchard fruit, herbs and florals. Provence rosé typically makes for an excellent food pairing to fish and other seafood, chicken dishes and light zesty salads.

In depth:

Crisp and Dry rosé wines
Crisp and Dry rosé wines

Visually Provence rosé can range from pale shell-pink to ‘onion skin’, copper, deep salmon and every shade in between.

Generally dry in style, the wine is typically very fruit-focused, with a wide range of fruit at its core. Typically, there is a strong focus on fresh summer hedgerow fruit like strawberries, raspberries and redcurrants, which add both a sweet and tart character.

Additionally, there are often citrus notes of lemon or lime peel and even grapefruit alongside the berries. Tropical fruit like mango, lychee, melon and passion fruit can all make their presence known, although orchard and stone fruit notes like white peach. nectarine and apricot tend to be more prevalent. More unusual notes like artificial banana flavoring can also creep in.

Alongside summer and citrus fruit, herbal notes like sage, thyme and rosemary that can give the wines a note of garrigue as well as delicate floral notes of wayside flowers and deeper notes of toast and brioche. Occasionally, there can also be a saline element along with a minerality. Although light-bodied, the wines typically have high levels of acidity, which keep them fresh and food-friendly, while alcohol levels remain moderate.

Geography

Vines on the Massif des Maures
Vines on the Massif des Maures
? Wikimedia/Jodelet

Geographically, the region sits in between the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps Mountain range and spreads over the Var, Alpes-Maritimes and Bouches-du-Rh?ne departments and enjoys striking views of the Saint-Victoire Mountain, the mountains of Sainte-Baume, the Massif des Maures and the Esterel Massif, another volcanic mountain range.

Northern and western Provence is predominantly made up of limestone soils with the terroir becoming more volcanic towards the east. The varied topography ranges from scrubland to meandering coastlines, and benefits from having a wide range of soil types, long sunshine hours and cooling sea breezes. Alongside vineyards, garrigue, scrubland and woods cover the myriad of rolling hills, valleys and sweeping basins.

Although the soils are dry and poor in nutrients, they see plenty of sunshine, proving idyllic for the Mediterranean herbs and grapevines that grow there. Another key feature of the region is the whistling Mistral wind that howls through the valleys, serving to both batter, cool and cleanse the grapes in equal measure.

Key regions

C?tes de Provence

Classic Cotes de Provence scenery
Classic Cotes de Provence scenery
? Emilie Duprat

Formerly recognized as an AOC in 1977, Côtes de Provence is the largest of the Proven?al appellations sprawling over 20,000 hectares naturally making it the most productive.

The soils vary from limestone in the west to volcanic in the east, reflecting the diversity of a terrain that moves from rolling, vineyard-clad hills to craggy mountain ridges.

In general, rosé from the C?tes de Provence is dry and fruit-forward with a focus on fresh hedgerow fruit and strong herbal notes of garrigue along with floral notes of white flowers. In C?tes de Provence, 90 percent of production is dedicated to rosé.

Sainte-Victoire

Sainte-Victoire was officially recognized as a terroir designation in 2005 and is further divided into nine communes. Sainte-Victoire rosé is tends to be elegantly low-key with a focus on subtle fruit that can veer from hedgerow fruit to pale orchard fruit and herbal notes and also some spice notes, like white pepper. The wines can range from light to relatively full-bodied.

C?tes de Provence Fréjus

Côtes de Provence Fréjus has, due to its proximity to the sea, a maritime climate and sees slightly more rainfall than other regions. The terroir is predominantly made up of red clay, yellow-white tufa and sandy soil.

Fréjus rosé is typically elegant and fruit-forward with distinctive notes of pepper and cinnamon spice along with floral and brambly berry notes, there can also be notes of mint and dried fruit along with an earthiness.

C?tes de Provence La Londe

Côtes de Provence La Londe has a maritime climate but rainfall remains surprisingly low and the vineyards benefit from both high levels of sunshine as well as gentle sea breezes which help keep the grapes fresh while retaining acidity. The soils are made up of schist, quartz and sandstone.

The rosé tends to predominantly be made from Grenache and Cinsaut and the wines tend to be fresh and fruit-forward with a focus on rich, ripe red fruit like redcurrant and raspberry, along with herbal notes of white pepper spice.

C?tes de Provence Pierrefeu

Côtes de Provence Pierrefeu has aspects of both a strong maritime and continental climate. The low-lying flat ground and plateaus soak up the summer heat, while the nearby ocean acts as a moderating force and winters are rarely harsh.

The soils tend to be a mix of clay, limestone and sand with various patches of schist. The rosé made here tend to be rich, fruit-forward with ripe red cherry and berry fruit flavors at its core along with some floral and citrusy notes like pink grapefruit along with deeper notes of tobacco spice and occasionally a mineral quality.

C?tes de Provence Notre-Dame des Ange

C?tes de Provence Notre-Dame des Ange has some of the highest-altitude sites in Provence and is fairly landlocked compared to other parts of Provence giving it a largely continental climate with hot summers and cool nights, ideal conditions for both ripening grapes and retaining aromatics. The region’s terroir is mostly composed of sandstone, schist and pockets of galets.

The resulting rosé wines tend to be light bodied with high acidity and fresh aromatics, with a focus on bright berry flavors, citrus notes, clean minerality and occasional earthy spice.

Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence

The Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence is one of the largest – second only to C?tes de Provence – and most recognizable of Provence’s appellations, the landscape having been made famous by Cézanne’s evocative paintings. Although the Mistral wind still whistles through the valleys, the mountains provide protection from both the wind and excessive rainfall. The terroir is, for the most part, made up of clay, limestone, gravel and sandstone.

All the main Proven?al grape varieties are grown here, and Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence rosé tends to be light and pretty with a fruit-forward favor profile but they can also be extremely sophisticated.

The wines often have clean notes of strawberry and other wild hedgerow fruit, orchard and citrus along with floral aromatics, slate-like minerality and herbal notes of garrigue as well as high acidity which makes them extremely drinkable and food friendly.

Coteaux Varois en Provence

The Coteaux Varois en Provence appellation covers almost 50,000 acres in the center of Provence. The region is ringed by the Sainte-Baume Mountain Range which creates a continental climate that sees bitingly cold winters and extremely hot, dry summers.

The soils are mostly composed of gravel, flint, limestone and clay providing an excellent mix of free-draining soils and all of the main grape varietals for Proven?al rosé production can be found here.

Coteaux Varois en Provence rosé tends to range from light to deep sunset pinks and, on the palate, exhibit fresh berries along with richer, sunnier orchard fruit that occasionally veers towards tropical like melon and ripe grapefruit. These wines can sometimes have fresh floral aromatics of rose petal and orange blossom making for a sophisticated profile.



Frequently Asked Questions

Popular brands of Provence rosé include Château Miraval of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fame, Domaine Tempier, Château d'Esclans which produces the award-winning Whispering Angel, Domaines Ott, Château de Pibarnon, Maison Saint Aix, Château Leoube and Château Pradeaux.

The main grape varieties used in the production of Provence rosé are Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, the more local Tibouren and, occasionally, Carignan.

Provence rosé is typically a dry style of wine noted for it’s flavors of summer fruit and balanced acidity. Although the notes of fresh strawberries, raspberries and peach typically found in Provence rosé may give an illusion of sweetness, the wines still tend to be dry.

Provence rosé is popular for a number of reasons. The wines tend to make easy refreshing drinking and are extremely versatile as they tend to be excellent both by themselves and with food. When it comes to pairing with food, Provence rosé tends to go extremely well with all manners of seafood, white and pink meat and vibrant vegetable dishes and salads making it an extremely popular choice. 

Another reason for the popularity of Provence rosé is down to the aesthetics as pretty shades of pink are very Instagram-friendly making it a popular choice for social media influencers. Lastly, Provence rosé has developed a cachet as certain celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made the style incredibly popular.

The best food pairings for Provence rosé include white and pink meat like roast chicken and lightly grilled pork dishes. Provence rosé is also excellent with vegetarian dishes like fresh grilled Mediterranean vegetables, and fresh zesty salads with hints of meyer lemon. Most seafood works incredibly well with rosé, especially shellfish like prawn, langoustine and lobster as well as white and pink fish like seabass and salmon.

Most Popular Provence Southern Rhone Red Blend Wine

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