Posted on 10.07.20 Wine of the Week

#WOTW: thanks to Provence, pale really is interesting

Let’s face it, when the sun shines, there’s nothing quite like a glass of Provence rosé to refresh the parts that other wines cannot reach.

At the risk of sounding like Old Father Time, I can remember visiting St Tropez in the early 90s, buying rosé from what looked like a petrol pump at the co-operative winery in nearby Ramatuelle. You took your own plastic container and paid less than a tenner for around 3 litres. Coming from the UK, the experience of buying it was almost as exciting as knocking it back. Back then, the wines were charming, but pretty basic. It’s a different story now: Provence is premium.

Much like Champagne, vins de Provence wines are all about blending, with different grapes bringing different things to the party. The winemaker is much like a chef, adding a bit of this and a bit of that to come up with something even greater than the sum of its parts. The parallels with Champagne don’t end there: producers in Provence have embraced formats like magnums, and even jeroboams, to ensure their wines have a similar cachet.

It has been an astonishing success story, with double digit increases in sales for each of the last few years. The UK is the second biggest export market for Provence, after the USA, and the French domestic market is also mad for it, with rosé sales apparently exceeding those of white wine.

My wine of the week actually highlights one of the less appreciated facets of vins de Provence rosé: diversity. Famille Sumeire, Château Coussin, Côtes de Provence, Sainte-Victoire, 2019 (£16.50 at Oddbins) comes from one of the specific smaller zones (DGCs) of the Côtes de Provence, which is itself the biggest of 3 appellations (the others being Coteaux d’Aix en Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence). Wines from the Côtes de Provence tend to exhibit the ‘classic’ characters, pale, fresh and summery.

Blended with two of the region’s signature grapes, Grenache and Syrah, this wine is certainly summery, offering pink grapefruit, pear and peach character with a mineral streak that makes it feel like a ‘serious’ wine.

Rosé from Provence is incredibly versatile with food, so I would pair this with ceviche or an Asian-inspired salad. That’s assuming there’s any left by the time dinner arrives, as this wine disappears fast!

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