1:4 You Should Drink Rosé from Provence this Summer and Forever


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In this episode Jameson speaks with Wine Enthusiast European Editor Roger Voss about rosé from Provence. Its color and flavor are the epitome of summer wine. But there’s more to rosé from Provence than its looks and taste. Explore the surprising diversity surrounding this pale pink charmer and find out why it should be enjoyed all year long.

Wines Discussed:

@3:15 Château la Vivonne 2017 Les Puechs Rosé (Côtes de Provence)

@9:28 Commanderie de la Bargemone 2017 Rosé (Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence)

@13:58 Gassier 2017 Château Gassier Cuvée 946 Rosé (Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire)


Jameson Fink: 00:08 Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink.

Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines, and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, I'm exploring rosé from Provence, with contributing editor Roger Voss, who covers and reviews wines from the region. So if I was able to go back in a wine time machine, maybe 20 years or so, when I was first starting to drink wine, I was certainly drinking rosé and enjoying it, but I never, ever would have expected rosé, and particularly, rosé from Provence, to be so incredibly popular as it is. It just seems like it's beyond a trend. It's its own category, it's continuing to grow, doesn't seem like it's going to slow down. It seems like rosé is just a part of our life, like red wine, and white wine. Which is great, but I wanted to explore it a little further, and get to know the world of Provence rosé with Roger Voss. Roger, welcome to the show.

Roger Voss: 01:14 Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jameson Fink: 01:16 It's delightful to talk about rosé. It is almost tropical here in New York. It seems to be a theme that I'm exploring, it's really hot out, it's really humid, and luckily, we're talking about wines that fit this season. Of course, rosé fits every season, but Roger, what's your take on ... I mean, are you surprised at how popular rosé from Provence has become? Does it surprise you?

Roger Voss: 01:39 Well, yes, because when I first got to know the American wine scene, rosé was sweet. It was called blush, and it was sweet. So it's astonishing to me that we've moved on from there, to drinking dry. That is really where Provence comes in. Because Provence, to me, is the perfect dry rosé. I always think, you combine sun, sand, sea, and summer with the sophisticated bars and restaurants beside the Mediterranean. That, to me, is the image of Provence rosé. And that's obviously gone down in America.

Jameson Fink: 02:16 That's a good point, too. How much is that lifestyle, too, that's part of its popularity? Do you think that's tied in? It's sort of aspirational. Like, "I'm drinking this rosé, and pretending I'm transported to Provence"?

Roger Voss: 02:29 Well, there is something about it. There's a little story, which I heard from one of the top producers. He spent a lot of time trying to sell Provence rosés, but he knew he'd arrived, when he got a phone call from one of the major yacht builders in the Mediterranean, saying, "Can you tell me the size of your double magnums? Because I need to ensure that the iceboxes, the fridges on my yachts, are big enough to take your double magnums." He knew he'd arrived.

Jameson Fink: 02:59 I wish I had that thought going through my head. I wonder if my fridge is big enough to fit double magnums of rosé. I'd probably have to take out a couple shelves, but I think I could do it. But, really, I'm fortunately living more of a 750 milliliter standard bottle lifestyle.

Let's talk about the first wine. I would like to attempt to pronounce it, Roger, but I think that would be a crime scene, and an affront to all things French if I did. I could sort of say it phonetically, but it would be awful. So I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind introducing the first wine?

Roger Voss: 03:33 Sure. First wine is Château la Vivonne. It's 2017 vintage, because that is what rosé is all about. Young, and ready to drink now. And its cuvée name is Les Puechs.

Jameson Fink: 03:46 That's from the Côtes of Provence, and that's 91 points, Best Buy.

Roger Voss: 03:49 Yes, indeed. I reviewed it in March, and the review was published in July.

Jameson Fink: 03:56 One of the things I'm interested about in your review is you talk about the wine, that it has a certain perfume, from the Mourvèdre. I'm wondering, what's the typical blend? Is that something that you see in a lot of these Provence rosés, that you're getting some Mourvèdre poking out, or is it, the blend vary?

Roger Voss: 04:16 Well, Mourvèdre is a very specific grape to a certain part of Provence, which I'll explain in a second. To answer your first question, the general blend is Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. Those are the three which, in fact, they are the secret behind really good Provence rosé, which is why rosé from France is so good, 'cause it has Grenache in it.

But Mourvèdre, to move onto this wine, is from a region called Bandol, which is on the coast, near Toulon. It's a very mountainous set part of Provence, and the Mourvèdre grape seems to have settled there, and loves it. So most of the Bandol wines have Mourvèdre in them. This wine comes from a producer who's actually based in Bandol, he just happens to have vines outside in the Côtes de Provence area, but he's also using Mourvèdre in his rosé.

Jameson Fink: 05:15 So is it fair to say, this is, maybe, for Provence, kind of a heartier rose? Is that accurate?

Roger Voss: 05:22 That's a fair word to use, yes. Slightly richer than your standard Provence rosé. And certainly to say, as I say in my note, more perfumed.

Jameson Fink: 05:31 That's interesting too, because a conversation about Provence and its rosés is that of is ... there's certainly a lot out there that's sort of one-note, and so pale, it's almost watery, and nondescript. What's the variety? Am I painting Provence with too broad a stroke? Is there, within Provence, a lot of diversity of rosé?

Roger Voss: 05:54 There is, yes. First of all, we have different appellations. de Provence is by far the biggest. But we've also got a wine, we're going talk about later on, from Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, which is slightly further to the west, and is Bandol, which, this wine comes from next to Bandol. Then there's other areas as well, within Provence. Now, you mentioned the color, and I think it's been very funny, because I review these wines every year. I've been noticing the color getting paler and paler each year. Until this year. Because, really, some of them were absolutely white. But this year, I've noticed they're actually ... a little bit of color's crept back in to even the palest of the rosés. So you naturally see it's rosé, rather than a white wine.

Jameson Fink: 06:48 Do you think that's a product of vintage, or is it winemakers saying, "You know what, maybe we went a little too far with the pale, and it needs a little more color and flavor"?

Roger Voss: 06:59 Well, I did say in my notes last year, they were just stupidly white, in some cases. So maybe they read those, I don't know.

Jameson Fink: 07:08 They could've. They could have taken it to heart.

Roger Voss: 07:11 They could've taken it to heart. But just, the problem you see with stripping out color, is you also strip out flavor. So, the paler the wines, very often, the less actual taste they had. So if you're drinking rosé really chilled, fine. But I taste rosés not chilled, because then I taste the wine complete. I was noticing with these really pale rosés last year, that they were getting less and less taste. So I'm glad to see they're stepping back from that really, really pale, almost white trend. Pale is fine, provided you can also have taste.

Jameson Fink: 07:50 Yeah, and that's something interesting to talk about rosés, you think about Tavel, or something like that, that's a really deep, dark, rich rosé. But is it always mean that, oh, because its pale colored, it's going to be lighter, or that kind of thing? Can it be still pale, and still have a lot of oomph or structure?

Roger Voss: 08:12 Well it can do, yes, and that's obviously, it's just up to the skill of the winemaker. The thing about rosé, all rosés, is lot of it to do with winemaking. Because of the use of the getting the color just right, and how long you macerate the skins of the grapes to get just the right color that you want and so on. So, rosé is probably the most, they say in the wine business, it's the most technical wine.

Jameson Fink: 08:38 I think that's something that people would be surprised to hear about. I think people maybe think because, "Oh, rosé, it's summery, it's light, it's pale," people don't think that it takes a lot of skill and effort to make a rose like it does. They might think a red wine, or even a white wine, would need, necessitate.

Roger Voss: 08:59 Yes, it actually takes even more skills than ... white wine's more difficult than red, and rosé's more difficult than white. You need to have a lot of skill, and you need to actually dedicate yourself to making a rosé, rather than just saying, "Oh, I've got some red juice, let's drain it off red grapes and macerating, let's drain them off, and we'll have some rosé." That doesn't work with good rosé. Provence has understood this, and so that's why their wines are good, even if, as we said, some of them are too light in color.

Jameson Fink: 09:32 Well, let's move on to the second wine, so if you could go ahead and introduce that for me, Roger?

Roger Voss: 09:36 Sure. This is from the Commanderie de la Bargemone, and as I said, this is from Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, which is west of the Cote Provence main part of the region.

Jameson Fink: 09:48 That's a 91-point editor's choice, from you, the editor?

Roger Voss: 09:52 A 2017 vintage, again. Now, this is interesting estate, founded by the Knights Templar, who were one of the crusading orders. So it was founded as a place where they lived, as well as making wine, the Knights Templar. And it actually got its name, Bargemone, because a few centuries later, there's a family, called Bargemone, bought it.

Jameson Fink: 10:25 I'm familiar with this rosé, because I think it was one of the first rosés from Provence, or rosés ever, that I saw in a three-liter box, and I was really excited, and I started buying a lot of it, because I love that three-liter box. Is that something, I mean, you're in Bordeaux right now, correct?

Roger Voss: 10:37 I am, yes.

Jameson Fink: 10:38 Do you see rosé when you're traveling around? Is that alternate packaging for rosé popular, or is it more of, just, export market?

Roger Voss: 10:47 No, the French love boxes. They're very happy with boxes, and particularly, at this time of year, they'll be buying ... If you walk through the aisles of the supermarket, and look at people's trolleys, which is always fun. There will be boxes of rose in those trolleys. Particularly vacationers, but also the locals.

Jameson Fink: 11:06 That's good to hear. I'm glad to hear I get the approval from the people of France when I'm drinking a box wine in my Brooklyn apartment. Good. I also thought it was interesting, packaging-wise, too, that ... I was reading some things you wrote about last year's rosés on winemag.com, and more, I listened about the vintage, but you're seeing all this different kind of bottle shape and packaging. What do you think that is, with these rosés from Provence?

Roger Voss: 11:30 Rosé is also a marketing thing. I mean, I started off by telling you that little tale about the guy and his double magnums. But, really, rosé, particularly Provence rosé, has a definite marketing bling to it. You're quite close to the Riviera. People like to be seen to be drinking from a fancy bottle, so there's a lot of that that goes on, as well, introducing these rosés.

Sometimes, these bottles are so bizarre. I get ones that look just like gin bottles, and the wine inside is fine, but what it is, a lot of packaging is very important, so you can put it on your table, and make it look good. You can show off with your bottle of rosé. Otherwise, it's just a pink thing in a glass.

Jameson Fink: 12:22 Well, I wonder, also, if that's part of, sort of this thing, with a lot of these rosés looking the same, like, the same pale, pink color. I mean, maybe that's also another way to kind of stand out on a shelf. A different bottle shape, or graphics, or things like that.

Roger Voss: 12:35 Absolutely. It's all, it's obviously all to do with looks, and Provence has really understood the idea. Because you're dealing with a product that's, as I say, it's very bling. It's here today, gone tomorrow. You got to make something to distinguish it, and bottle shape is a very good way of doing so.

Jameson Fink: 12:53 To move from bottle, to more of a terroir type of conversation, I think it's interesting that, when I think of rosé from Provence, I just think, "It's Provence. It's rosé." But we're looking at a couple wines from more specific appellations, and the bigger Côtes, smaller than the Côtes de Provence region. Is that something where there's rosés, and you can be like, "Do you have specific qualities, that come from where the grapes are from?" Like, terroir. Is that the next step in rosé?

Roger Voss: 13:25 Well, it has already happened. Certainly with Aix-en-Provence, which is where this Commanderie de la Bargemone wine comes from. One of the reasons is, they also blend in Cabernet Sauvignon. And that obviously makes a difference. Gives more structure to a wine, because, as you know, from drinking Cabernets … there's always a lot of tannin in Cabernet.

So, even if it turned into a rosé, it certainly gives more ... Not just actually tannic character, but certainly, structure to the wine. Which is why a wine like this one, the Commanderie de la Bargemone, is probably more structured than the first wine, or the third wine, that we'll be talking about.

Jameson Fink: 14:08 Yeah, let's move right on to the third wine. Go ahead and introduce that for me, Roger.

Roger Voss: 14:13 Okay. This is from the Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire appellation, Chateau Gassier, Cuvée 946.

Jameson Fink: 14:24 What does the 946 refer to? Is that a mystery, or is there something to it?

Roger Voss: 14:31 946 is actually, is meters.

Jameson Fink: 14:32 Oh, okay. That's right. Well, in your review, it says, "It's a vineyard at a height of 3,000 feet."

Roger Voss: 14:42 Which is a rough conversion of 946. The thing about Sainte-Victoire, the mountainous Sainte-Victoire, which is why it has an appellation, is that it creates a microclimate, if you like. Which is very sheltered. It's drier, just a bit drier, because the mountain protects it from any rain that might arrive. It is, it gives wines with ... let's say, extra richness, and certainly, they do have weight to them, which some other Côtes Provence wines don't have.

So Sainte-Victoire's seen as an appellation apart, and it is because of the Sainte-Victoire mountain. Which is, I have to tell you, it is a scary mountain, just to look at.

Jameson Fink: 15:31 Scary, how?

Roger Voss: 15:32 Because, you're in the vineyard, and you're looking face, and there's this sheer rock face lowering over you.

Jameson Fink: 15:42 It's ominous. I don't think of rosé when I think of threatening and ominous, so there's kind of, there's some kind of dissonance there, but I'm sure, when you drink it, it's a glorious wine. I should also mention that this wine scored, that you scored at 93 points, and this ... So this rosé, when I'm hearing you talk about it, and reading it, and some of your notes that you can wait awhile to drink it. Is this an age-worthy rosé? Is this something you can age for a year, two years?

Roger Voss: 16:05 Yeah. So, I mean, this particular one, which is actually, had a bit of wood, with aging, certainly could be aged longer. And I said, I'm just reading my note now: "Wait until late 2018, but you could certainly drink it in 2019, and probably 2020."

Jameson Fink: 16:23 Is oak something common in rosé from Provence? Is there this, kind of, making it like these super rosés, if you will, and with some oak on them? Because I would think most of them are stainless steel, correct?

Roger Voss: 16:36 Absolutely. Stainless steel, or cement tanks. Neutral, neutral containers, but there is a trend, where two or three ... well, more than two or three. There's several wines, which I taste, which have been aged, not much. Just lightly, in big barrels, not little. Not little Bordeaux-type barrels, which rounds them out a little bit, and certainly makes them age-worthy. And, of course, means you can put their price up.

Jameson Fink: 17:05 What's the oldest rosé you've ever drank? Like, if you had one that was five, 10, more years old? If you had a really old rosé that made you stand up, and you're like, "Wow, this is really surprising"?

Roger Voss: 17:17 Yes. I mean, five years, maybe six, is as old as I've tasted, and that was still very good. I mean, it was no longer a fruity fresh wine that we think of as rosé. It was more like a, actually, it was more like an aged red, in a curious way. Because the structure would come forward, but the fruits are falling away.

So it was an interesting wine. I wouldn't say it was a stand up wow moment. But it was very interesting, but I think that "interesting" is not necessarily the word you want to hear, when you're talking about a wine you want to drink.

Jameson Fink: 17:54 Right, I'd rather, "delicious," or things like that. But it just makes me think, kind of, what we talked about earlier, about the skill it takes to make a great rosé, versus white wine and red wine. Are we getting to a point, where ... I mean, rosé is a serious wine, but are people striving to say, "Hey, I can make a rosé that will reach the heights of the greatest red wines"? Is that possible?

Are we selling rosé short, or it is just something, that, "Hey, you know what? Let's enjoy it, and its youthful properties." Are people reaching for the stars with rosé?

Roger Voss: 18:28 Well, I mean, the wine we're just talking about, the Cuvée 946, is certainly, got serious intentions, ambitions.

Obviously, I liked it, because I gave it a good score, and there are others like that. I mean, there are some which are more expensive than this one, which retail at $50, but there's one which retails for $100, and they exist, and they are actually wines you can look at seriously.

To go back to your original point about aging. I don't think you can age even these really expensive wines for very long. But you can certainly age them for longer than, "Buy it now, drink it this summer," which is what most rosé is.

Jameson Fink: 19:09 Well, I think you just mentioned $100 as a ... I think if we ever had any doubt that rosé from Provence, and rosé in general has really skyrocketed, I don't know if any of us would have predicted we'd see a $100 bottle of rosé awhile ago, or maybe even not that long ago.

Roger Voss: 19:25 I know. That's an exceptional wine, and an exception to the normal rule, which puts Provence rosé as a very drinkable $20 bottle. Really, I mean, we can talk about these fancy cuvées, and these more serious wines.

But let's not forget, that at the end of the day, rosé is meant to be drunk with pleasure. You got hot weather in New York. I've got hot weather here, this is when I've got a bottle of rosé sitting next to me, ready to be drink, and, as soon as we finish talking.

So, there is, that's definitely what, rosé, we should think of rosé. That's really how we should look at it.

Jameson Fink: 20:10 Also, the pleasure of rosé has to do, I think, with, it's probably one of the most food-friendly wines, too. I mean, there's certainly classics, especially in Provence, but what do you like to enjoy, food-wise, with rosé? Are there some things, people might be surprised, that you think is a good match?

Roger Voss: 20:27 Well, pretty much everything, actually. You've sort of indicated that. Rosé is a versatile, I mean, it definitely goes with fish. It goes with things like gazpacho, or it even goes, it certainly goes with chicken.

I've even had it with red meat, and it's fine. Black truffle, if you can afford it, is a great match, cheeses. You name it, pretty much, rosé goes with pretty much anything. Especially if the weather's hot. You'd much prefer to have a rosé, than a red wine. So, in the summer, we drink a lot of rosé, with pretty much anything we're eating.

Jameson Fink: 21:06 I like drinking it in the winter, too, I think. I mean, for the big holidays here, like Thanksgiving. With turkey, it's such a great match. Then, also, when I think it starts getting cold and dreary, especially here, when you have a bottle of pink wine, that can make, it just sort of brightens up your day.

Just like how it's emblematic of summer. It's like, it's December, or January, there's a blizzard in New York, and you open a bottle of rosé, and pour it in your glass, and it's this beautiful pink color. And you're like, serenity now. At least, that transportive property that is has.

Roger Voss: 21:40 Yes. I know, exactly. You're absolutely right with Thanksgiving turkey. It's a brilliant match. I've certainly done that. Yes, I mean, it reminds you of the summer that's just passed, and gives you hope for the summer that's about to come. I think that sets another great thing that rosé can do.

Jameson Fink: 22:00 Well, Roger, thank you very much for this little tour of Provence rosé. I think it's interesting to note that there's a lot of one-note rosé out there, but when you dig a little deeper, there's really interesting, different grapes being used, different locations, different prices, and different styles. So, thank you very much for this in-depth look at rosé.

Roger Voss: 22:21 You're very welcome. I enjoyed talking to you about it, and now, I'm going to have my glass of rosé.

Jameson Fink: 22:25 All right. You have more than earned it. You could have had it while we were recording, too, and I would have been delighted, as well.

Roger Voss: 22:30 I do point out, it is seven o'clock in the evening here.

Jameson Fink: 22:33 Oh, yeah, yeah. You're overdue.

Roger Voss: 22:37 Okay. Nice to talk to you, Jameson.

Jameson Fink: 22:38 Okay. My pleasure.

And thank you, for listening to the What We're Tasting podcast, sponsored by Vivino: Wine Made Easy.

The three wines we talked about today are:

Roger Voss: 22:48 Chateau La Vivonne, 2017, Les Puechs, rosé, Côtes de Provence.

Second wine: Commanderie de la Bargemone, 2017, rosé, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence.

Third wine: Chateau Gassier, Cuvée 946, rosé, Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire

Jameson Fink: 23:10 Perfect. Thank you so much. You saved me from grave embarrassment of pronunciation.

Roger Voss: 23:16 Oh, come on. I'm sure you can do it.

Jameson Fink: 23:17 Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Googeplay, or wherever you find podcasts. If you liked today's episode, please give us a five-star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends.

What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

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