and the Tour de France!
While England was enjoying the August Bank Holiday weekend, and Sumi was neck deep in university planning for her daughter, Liz was spending the Sunday wrapped up in the excitement of the Tour de France racing through her mountain village. So for this episode a casual chat about Provence rosé with Kate Sweet, a wine PR from the UK who has a holiday home in Provence, and who is quite keen on cycling.
Straight in from a sunny afternoon watching the fun of the race, I indulged in two completely different Provence rosés - just to show the diversity the region can offer.
First up was Aurelia 2019 from Domaine le Grand Cros in the Pierrefeu region on the western slopes of the Massif des Maures north of Toulon. Canadian winemaker Julian Faulkner makes this special rosé with 40% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah and 30% Grenache, fermented in oak barrels and eggs and aged for 6 months in barrel with lees stirring. I last tasted this wine in February when the oak dominated and was out of sorts with the wine. Far too much rosé is tasted and drunk far too young in my opinion. Now it is showing some beautifully integrated oak and rich spicy fruit with some exotic fruit freshness. Still evidently a Cotes de Provence rosé but with gastronomic weight and complexity.
My second rosé was Silice 2019 from Chateau Gasqui, some 20 minutes or so from Grand Cros, but on a sheltered outcrop away from the schist soils of Pierrefeu. This biodynamic estate shows just how much fruit can be obtained in a spontaneous fermented rosé with some extra hours of skin contact. Made with Syrah, Grenache and a touch of Tibouren. Dark salmon pink, with lots of soft ripe fruit and almost opulent strawberry and raspberry jam fruit, balanced by lovely fresh acidity – barely noticeable behind the fruit but giving a long exciting finish. Its fruitiness has similarities to some Languedoc or New World wines but sadly this wine has just been refused the AOP Cotes de Provence appellation because it is atypical.
I chose a pair of 2019 rosés from wineries very close to ‘my’ village of La Croix Valmer (Disclaimer: my husband and I do some work with both wineries). Both wineries are just 15 minutes drive from St Tropez and are located around the St Tropez Peninsula with a definite maritime influence from the nearby Mediterranean sea. Both wineries are also Cru Classe - a classification made in 1955 which, until recently, hasn’t been greatly respected, but Cru Classe wineries (of which there are just 18) now appear to be making a greater effort to make the classification mean something worthwhile. No more resting on their laurels here.
My first rose was the Cuvee L’Excellence 2019 from Chateau Saint Maur. Chateau Saint Maur is a 100ha estate located about 10kms from St Tropez and only 15 minutes drive from my home. Chateau Saint Maur describe this cuvée as representing their DNA, and I always find the wine has a gastronomic feel with lifted aromas of wild strawberry and even watermelon, a creamy palate and a streak of minerality on the finish. The wine is composed mainly of Grenache (35%), Syrah (30%), and Cinsault (30%), with no oak ageing. Liz tasted this for the Decanter Panel Tasting back in February or March, and felt it needed a little time, and tasting it, six months later, I tend to agree that it’s showing beautifully now that everything has had time to integrate fully.
We recently placed the winery with Astrum Wine Cellars in the UK and we’re really excited that the wines are now available for the British market.
My second wine was the Domaine de la Croix Cuvee Irrisistible 2019. This, by rights, should have been my first wine as it’s more of a fun, exuberantly fruity ‘aperitif’ wine. I chose to pour this from a 50cl bottle, a common bottle size here in the south of France and one we find hugely useful for a lunch time wine or an aperitif. The wine is a blend of Grenache (40%) and Cinsault (30%) with the remainder of the blend made up of a mix of varieties including 5% Tibouren - a local variety which is notoriously tricky to grow but provides an interesting rusticity and fruitiness to wines that include it. The finish of the Cuvee Irrisistible has the tell-tale ‘salinity’ or minerality which I find is quite typical of the area. Domaine de la Croix directly overlooks the sea, and definitely benefits from the sea-breezes which often pick up in the afternoon. I’ve enjoyed this wine numerous times at my favourite beach bars nearby and we hope to find some UK distribution for it soon. Domaine de la Croix Cuvee Irrisistible, and its stable mate, Eloge, are smashing wines, really representing the delicious wines of this special area.
We never managed to get into the subject in depth, as Liz and I were too excited and distracted by the afternoon’s cycling - but I had planned to taste the wines with a duo of Tapenades from a local producer ‘Au Bec Fin’ - a green olive tapenade and a black olive one. Having tried them after the InstaLIve finished, the fruitiness of the Black Olive Tapenade went will with the fruitiness of the Cuvee Irrisistible and the slightly subtler flavour of the green olive tapenade worked better with the slightly more ‘serious’ style of the Cuvee l’Excellence. I also had a ‘rosette’ of prawns to hand (from Grand Frais, the best), but we never got that far. Shellfish such as prawns, crab and lobster work really well with these wines.