In these days of cancelled holidays and postponed continental jaunts it’s good to have a wine that immediately offers you a huge dose of sunshine, whatever the weather, and can transport you in your imagination to a Mediterranean café or an al fresco beachside meal.
Rosé does that with its chilled combination of white wine elegance married to a red wine fruitiness.
Rosé wines are now produced everywhere from Kent to California, but for this round-up we’re looking at its spiritual home, the south of France, and more specifically, the Côtes de Provence.
Here, grenache is the dominant grape with supporting roles from cinsault, syrah and carignan and perhaps a dash of mourvèdre or rolle.
Pale, blushing pink in colour, these wines have proved in recent years not to be merely a welcome holiday tipple but wines of stature and repute.
Whether it’s Château de Berne’s well named "ultimate Provence", the award-winning Mirabeau, Brangelina’s Miraval or the complex and intense L'Hydropathe élite rosé, these are wines worthy of respect – as indeed are the 10 here that come from that particular, and at the moment much missed, corner of France.
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L'Hydropathe élite rosé Sainte Victoire domaine de diables 2019, 13%
A striking bottle from the “devil’s domain” – vineyards owned and run by Guillaume and Virginie Philip at the foot of Mont Saint-Victoire. Regular award winners, its wines are produced in a sustainable, eco-friendly way with the grapes harvested at night or early in the morning so as to save energy and protect from oxidation with dry ice, reducing the need for added sulphites. This top of the range rosé is complex and structured with a cascade of intense red fruit, peach and strawberry flavours with floral and herb notes. It seems the devil not only has the best tunes, but the best wines too.
Chateau la Tour de l'eveque pétale de rosé 2018, 13.5%
A scintillating blend of cinsault, grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, sémillon, rolle and cabernet sauvignon, this rosé is made from grapes hand-picked from 25-year-old vines near the Massif des Maures in Provence. Only natural animal fertilisers are used, some of the vineyard is ploughed with horses and the area between the rows of vines is grassed over with cereals, making it one of the most environmentally friendly wines you’re likely to find. As its name implies it's a beautiful blush pink with notes of strawberry, citrus peel and nectarines along with a subtle minerality.
Mas de Cadenet Côtes de Provence rosé 2019, 12.5%
From the Mas de Cadenet estate in sight of Cézanne’s beloved Mont Saint-Victoire comes a salmon-pink rosé bursting with strawberry and summer fruit flavours. The Negrel family has been making wine here for seven generations at vineyards 250m above sea level. Production of the rosé – a blend of grenache (45 per cent), cinsault (45 per cent) and syrah (10 per cent) – has also been certified organic since 2013, and the 2019 vintage shows no sign of a lessening in quality or taste. A real mouthful of summer.
Miravel Côtes de Provence rosé 2018, 13%
No round-up of Côtes de Provence rosés would be complete without a sample of the most celebrity starred of them all – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Miraval. Many may have felt that the stars’ involvement in French winemaking was simply a promotional gimmick taken too far. But with the help of inspired winemaker Marc Perrin they actually produced a dazzling and exhilarating rosé that matched its owners' star quality. The 2019 vintage doesn’t disappoint, with fresh, tongue-tingling fruitiness and an exuberant minerality.
Château de Berne selection ultimate Provence 2018, 13%
A statement wine that with its slim, embossed bottle, impresses before you’ve even got the cork out. And when you have, it doesn’t disappoint. A subtle, blushing pink in colour, this blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah and rolle provides a textured taste of the Provençal terroir from the first sip. Redcurrant, red berry and orange peel notes combine with hints of spice and pepper in a true reflection of the best the south of France can offer. Enjoy it by itself or with lightly spiced French or Italian dishes.
Mirabeau étoile Provence rosé 2019, 13%
A high end and award-winning gastronomic rosé that is the product of an English couple, Stephen and Jeany Cronk, who moved to Provence in the Noughties, setting up their own winery. The end result was a procession of top-class rosé, including the limited edition étoile, launched in 2017. Pale, blushing pink in colour, this blend of grenache (90 per cent) and cinsault (10 per cent) impresses with soft fruit and pear flavours along with a teasing minerality and hints of orange and tangerine zest.
Calvet Côtes de Provence 2019, 13%
Calvet may be part of a continent spanning conglomerate that now sells in a hundred countries, but its philosophy according to winemaker Vincent Euzet remains “making the best wine appellations of France, with the same expectations for high quality, whatever the region of origin”. In this case, that means a scintillating blend of syrah, grenache, cinsault and mourvèdre with a well-defined rosé flavour of raspberries and wild strawberries allied to a crisp and dry finish. Perfect as an aperitif or an accompaniment to a summer salad.
Love by Léoube Côtes de Provence 2019, 13%
A new organic rosé that proclaims its originality by dispensing with a label and proclaiming its Valentine’s Day-like message straight onto the bottle. Happily, the wine more than lives up to its presentation with a mouthfeel of strawberry and peach offset by a crisp acidity. Even if it’s cloudy overhead this should bring a shot of south of France sunshine to any table. Like the food it goes with, this is a wine best enjoyed fresh, so don’t hide it away in the cupboard for a later date.
Château Saint-Maur excellence Côtes de Provence rosé 2019, 13%
A top of the range rosé from a vineyard that nestles in the oak tree-covered hillsides of Cogolin just 10km from St Tropez. A blend of grenache, tibouren (an indigenous Provençal grape), cinsault, and syrah, it’s the product of the ambition of French industrialist Roger Zannier who took up the challenge of making Château Saint-Maur into one of Provence’s finest vineyards. His son-in-law, Marc Monrose, was entrusted with that task and if this superb rosé is anything to go by, he appears to have achieved that aim. Fresh and appealing with notes of citrus fruit, white peach and apricot, it’s the ideal drink for the end of a long summer's day.
Château gairoid Côtes de Provence rosé 2019, 13.5%
From a vineyard crowned by a chateau built in 1734 in the village of Cuers, midway between Marseille and St Tropez, comes an organic rosé that benefits from the mistral, the wind that blows in from the north-west and protects the grapes from disease. Pale, salmon pink in colour and blended from grenache, cinsault, syrah and mourvèdre, it has all the tantalising Provençal flavours you would expect, with layers of strawberry, peach and citrus on the tongue. Serve it with light fish dishes or try it as superb accompaniment to sushi. This comes in a box of six.
The verdict: Côtes de Provence rosé
That enticing combination of summer fruits – think strawberry and peach – along with a subtle acid structure which gives you that dry but refreshing taste on the palate is what makes rosé the perfect, well chilled summer drink.
It can be found at a moderate price in the Calvet Côtes de Provence but pay a little more and you can enjoy the exhilarating Miraval, with its star-studded provenance. But for the ultimate in Côtes de Provence rosé, sample the stylish and supreme L'Hydropathe élite rosé – pale pink in colour but overflowing with those full and lifted fruit flavours, presented in a delicate but balanced way
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