Wondering what types of wine are found in the Provence region? The answer: Rosé. In fact, a whopping 87% of all wines made in the region are vin rosé, and the blushing pink wine finds itself exempt from the drinking cutbacks that other wines have suffered in the country. Actually, rosé sales are higher than ever in France, and consumption has increased by 12%
Popular for any time of day, and increasingly used as an apératif, or before meal drink, rosé is perfect chilled or even with ice to cool off on those warm Provencal days.
The first wine made in history, as early as 7000 BC, was rosé. Red wines came around 2500 BC and whites even later. The reason?
The wine is made using crushed red grapes and allowing the skins only minimal contact with the juice. Rosé is the simplest wine to make, and is so incredibly versatile, that the flavor options are near limitless.
There’s even a scientific research center, the Centre du Rosé located in Vidauban, Provence, that is wholly dedicated to vin rosé. At the center you can even participate in tastings and training to become a Provence wine savant in no time.
So which are the best vineyards to visit?
1) Domaine de Trevallon, 7 km west of St. Remy, is making some of the most original and striking wines in Provence. Because his slopes are north-facing Eloi Durrbach planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, instead of the predominant and traditional Mourvedre, which makes a wine that exudes the terroir of Provence and the special soils found in Les Baux (as in "bauxite", i.e. aluminum).
2) Brusset Cairanne and Brusset Hauts de Montmirail, nestled up to the slopes of the Ventoux, produce some of the best wines in the region. (Great olive oil can also be found in the district.) They have a place in Cairanne as well as in Gigondas. Go to Gigondas for the views and local flavor. There are some other great wineries there too, like Domaine de Pallieres and Domaine Raspail-Ay.
3) Mas de Gourgonnier, near Les Baux. It's family owned and has been farmed organically for over three decades. They utilize a mix of traditional varieties along with some Cabernet Sauvignon for their red wines and Sauvignon Blanc for the white. Their olive oil is a blend of four traditional local varieties.
4) Domaine Tempier's Bandol Rouge La Migoua, La Tourtine, Cabassaou, and also the Ros are legendary wines which are the product of the genial Lucien Peyraud who passed away a decade ago, but under whose guidance this old family estate, owned since 1834, became the birthplace of a modern Provencal renaissance.
This estate continues to be the summit of French Mourvedre viticulture; it's the classic and defining grape from Provence. Located near the town of Castellet, the local color is also attractive yet sophisticated with F1 and motorcycle races taking place here. It was also the location for the Marcel Pagnol film, The Baker's Wife.
5) Domaine de Rimauresq is in the Cote d'Azur in the beautiful town of Pignans and makes a delicious and unique white wine from around 85% Rolle, with a little Ugni Blanc. The red wines are also outstanding and the estate was one of the top places after phylloxera beginning in the late 1880s. The winery is modern in technique but the vineyard is old and traditionally farmed. It was acquired in the late 1980s by a Scottish family and is located near Toulon.
6) Chateau Vignelaure near Rians is making excellent wines...and so is Richaume in Puyloubier (Cotes de Provence), created by a cello-playing history professor and now run by his son.
Also, while not available to for visiting, Château Miraval, owned by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, makes a phenomenal rosé. The wine made it on 2013’s top 100 wines in the world list, and was the only rosé to get a spot on it, so be sure to grab yourself a bottle while in Provence!
Whatever your preferences are, be sure to experience the delightful wines of Provence one way or another. From wine drives, to vineyard tours, to training, and wine tastings, rosé can be experienced year round thanks to the mild climate and pairs well with the local, Mediterranean flavors.
In the spring, summer and fall, you can catch some amazing wine and food festivals as well, such as the Vendages Etoilees Festival in Cassis where chefs and vineyards offer demos and tastings of the wines of Cassis, which has the oldest registered AOC (designation of origin) in France.
Rosé from Provence, in general, is crisp, dry and refreshing, and not as sweet as American varieties. The wine is highly versatile and pairs well with a variety of sweets and foods and is embraced the world over as a casual wine that anyone can enjoy.