Provence is the gold standard for rosé. It is often light, bright, and refreshing, pairing elegantly with a large variety of cuisines. It is seen as a warm climate wine, ideal for spring and summer, with sales rising dramatically April through mid-September. However, Provence is the largest geographical wine region in France, producing a wide variety of rosés. In fact, there are as many different styles of Provençale rosé as there are producers, 582 to be exact.There are many characteristics that distinguish Provençale rosés. One such characteristic is color, with six approved colors that emulated by rosé producers around the globe. Other distinguishing characteristics of Provence is its soil and climate. The region contains two main soil types; western and central Provence soil contains limestone and limestone-clay; eastern Provence soil contains crystalline massif and schist, thus greatly impacting the vines and the overall taste of the wine. Because of the size of Provence it also experiences a variety of climates. The coastal regions of the east experience a temperate, seaside climate, the central region experiences an inland Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summer days and cold winters, and the north western region experiences a myriad of micro-climates, continental climates, and a very active Mistral wind. Provence rosé is a blend crafted of Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Tibouren. The blending process is up to the discretion of the winemaker. Furthermore, even the process used to make rosé (direct pressing or maceration/bleeding) is up to each winemaker. However, in the end what is crafted from these elements of terroir and winemaking style accounts for what the world recognizes as Provençale rosé.
There is one more key element of surprise available to the winemaker, an element that adds an entirely different dimension to Provençale rosé: oak. Typically Provençale rosés are steel or concrete fermented, aged a short time in the bottle, and then shipped for early spring consumption. However, if you look hard you will find those aged in oak. And it is worth the search! These wines are ideal for consumption between October and March and pair elegantly with heartier cuisine. The added layers of flavors and textures of the oak treatment on Provençale rosé take the wine to a different level of enjoyment.
Oak aged Provençale rosés not only offer depth and texture, they have age-ability. The older the oak aged rosé the more sherry-like in flavor it becomes, migrating from fresh berries and herbs to dried figs, apricots, caramel, and nutmeg; its texture becomes viscous like a dessert wine, yet it is not sweet and maintains its round acidity. For example, a 1996 Château Bas Le Temple Rosé today is vibrant, with layers of flavors and a rich texture. Additionally, the 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2015 are stunning wines with depth and complexity. The 04 and 06 offer notes of holiday potpourri simmering on the stove. Oak aged Provençale rosés should be synonymous with holiday enjoyment and are an ideal way to enjoy rosés year round.
To start your oak aged Provençale rosé wine collection here are three suggestions from outstanding wineries:
2015 Château Bas Le Temple Rosé Coteaux D’Aix en Provence, France ($20): A blend of Mandarine with Mangue hues, crafted of 80% Mouvèdre and 20% Rolle, this wine offers notes of fresh red berries with soft notes of spice, it is crisp and round on the palate with a depth of richness and texture developed through the time it spent in French oak barrels. A perfectly structured wine with bright acidity and an added complexity that further expands the possibilities of an already food friendly wine. This wine has an aging potential of ten years or more; evolving into a mandarin, caramel, holiday spice, dried fig wine over time.
2015 Château Thuerry l’Exception Merlot – Caladoc Rosé, IGP Var Coteaux Du Verdon, France: A pronounced Mandarine hue with a touch of Groseille added; crafted of 52% Merlot and 48% Caladoc, offering all the crisp red berry notes of a stainless steel rose with added spice notes and a touch of marcona almonds, refreshing with an added volume and depth due to its 7 months of aging in new French and American oak barrels, textural on the palate with round acidity and a lingering, mouth-coating finish. This wine claims a five year aging potential, longer is possible in proper conditions for an entirely new expression.
2014 Clos Cibonne Cotes de Provence Tradition Rosé Provence, France ($24): Beautiful Mangue color of soft pink with orange hues, crafted of 90% Tibouren and 10% Grenache, dazzling notes of cherries and strawberries are met with dried orange peel and baking spices, it has depth and texture that stands out among non-oak aged rosés, it is full bodied, almost fat on the palate with layers of flavors and rich texture. This wine offers an elegant structure with more depth than the previous two rosés because it is aged in French oak longer than the other two wines. Excellent aging potential for a metamorphosis of sherry style flavors in a crisp, acidic wine.