Provence Rosé mini review 2020
The winehack team have donned our summerwear and headed for an alfresco, socially distanced blind tasting! Fortunately it was the perfect setting to enjoy some Provence Rosé…
Provence rosé – Decanting its meteoric rise as our favourite summer party tipple. We’ve got 3 wines from Tesco, Sainsburys and Lidl to try in our somewhat makeshift lockdown picnic setting. If you’ve got to drink something from a paper cup, this should be it!
Provence wines have been made for the last 2600 years since the Greeks created the city of Marseille in 600BC. Since then, the methods and styles have been influenced by many rulers and cultures. Following the phylloxera vine epidemic at the end of the 19th Century much of the viniculture was wiped out. As they were eventually re-planted, the arrival of tourism in the 20th Century and railroads which opened up a new Parisian market shifted the focus to rosé production as it complimented regional food favourites, such as seafood bouillabaisse. As the area became synonymous with the jet setters, the demand for this pink favourite grew. Who doesn’t think of a chilled, refreshing rose on the terrace overlooking the Med? Its popularity grew so much, rosé now accounts for 89% of all wine production in the Provence region.
The Provence region
There are 9 appellations in Provence with AOC status, the largest and most recognisable of which is the Côtes de Provence. Rosé is of course made largely of red grape varieties (occasionally a white grape maybe in the blend), in the Côtes de Provence you will find Carignan, Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Tibouren. Occasionally Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah will also be used. By far the most dominant grapes you will expect are Grenache and Mourvèdre. Contrary to the belief of some, the grape juice from red grapes is clear as it is with white grapes. The pink colour comes from the skins, typically a Provence rosé is a very subtle shade unlike others in Europe. After a short period of time in the mash some colour will have bled into the liquid juice. At this point the winemaker presses the grapes and separates the liquid from the skin. Without this interaction you would end up with red wine. Unlike other wines, I’ve found over the years that most people choose their rosé in a shop environment solely based on its colour. I rarely recall ever being asked what grapes are used the wine or what it tastes like. When asked, people assume that lack of colour will mean two things, it won’t have a strong taste and it will be dry. There is arguably some truth to this on average but don’t be deceived, the colour is more of a wine makers choice than it is about the flavour of the wine. Brands like Whispering Angel have used this to some advantage and arguably have singlehandedly created the global trend for super pale pinks.
Global exports of Provence rosé grew by an astonishing 23% by volume and 28% in value in 2018 alone. This is a trend that began a decade ago when the export volume was 5 million litres, this year its 30 million. These are big numbers considering the region produces 176 million bottles per year. That’s enough to fill over 12 Olympic swimming pools in exported rosé wine alone. This of course leaves 40 Olympic pools worth, which is consumed by the French and the chino clad, jumper on the shoulder jet set in St Tropez. What’s really interesting is the £ value increase of the exports, the rise in popularity is being unusually led by premium versions of rosé, as opposed to cheaper wine.
Leading this charge is the aforementioned Whispering Angel from Chateau D’Esclans. Although it was only launched 10 years ago it’s now the number 1 selling French wine in America according to Nielsen. That’s not just rosé, that’s all French wine!! Thanks to an incredible marketing effort, it’s safe to say that their team were amongst the first to make their brand sexy whilst encompassing that jet set south of France feel, and it worked. Bikini clad ladies pouring a bottle overlooking the crystal sea got upmarket Americans gasping for more. So much so that the wine was nicknamed ‘Hamptons water’ after the summer home paradise of upmarket New Yorkers. Not only was the branding spot on, the wine itself is widely regarded as the best rosé in the world by many leading experts. Following their success, other famous names have got in on the action, Brad and Angelina’s Miraval is also popular as well as the collaboration between Jon Bon Jovi and Gerard Bertrand wines. They even slightly cheekily, named their wine Hampton water. Of course, there are several great producers out there that are not celebrity owned too! Such as our very own Melopee de Gavoty.
Supermarket wine tasting
So, the premium brands aside, what’s left for us in the supermarket? Can we still get a good dose of that St Tropez experience at a cheap price? We’ve taken 3 bottles from Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Tesco and put them through their paces at our blind tasting (socially distanced) picnic on the sunniest day we could find. We haven’t done one of these for a while due to Covid, so a quick reminder… We grab some friends who love wine like we do, cover the bottles so none of us know which is which and then we rate them on smell, taste and finish. Finally, we each mark them out of ten and the winner is the one with the highest average.
What we should be tasting…
Notes of Citrus fruit, exotic fruit (passion fruit and mango) and red fruits (redcurrant, strawberry, raspberry and cherry) floral notes such as white flowers and fennel. The classic Provence taste is crisp, refreshing and clean on the palate.
Smell deep strawberry, hint of basil, apricot
Taste strawberry again, more full bodied, cherries
Acidic freshness, peach
Buy this if… you want something with summer fruit hints and a touch more body (for a rosé)
Smell rosewater, peach
Taste strawberry present but more tropical, peach, stonefruit
Finish more lingering finish with tropical notes
£9 (on offer for £8 at time of writing)
Buy this if… you want something a tad lighter and more acidic, with a more tropical feel
Buy this if… you want something which will refresh on a hot summers day while saving a few £ in the process