Early this week I spent a few days wandering around the Millesime Bio fair in France. Billed as the world's largest biodynamic and organic wine fair, it was definitely a sight to behold. Lest anyone think that organic and biodynamic wine were a fringe movement, there were more than 800 vintners from dozens of countries showing their wares to tens of thousands of attendees.
I explored a number of things at the fair, but by far my most pleasurable tasting experience was the couple of hours I spent tasting organic rosés from the Languedoc and Provence. Whereas in other areas of the fair, my tasting yielded very mixed results, my exploration of pink wines was largely quite rewarding.
If you'd like to save yourself the trouble of reading the rest of this post, here's the takeaway: it's hard to go wrong with organic rosé from the south of France..
Interestingly, this tasting was also an opportunity to check out a trend that had been widely reported to me, but that I had only glimpses of recently. Rosé from France is getting lighter in color.
"It's all the rage now," said more than one winemaker to me in the course of my wanderings through the Languedoc and the Roussillon earlier in the week. "It's just the fashion, these days."
Rosé from Provence and the Languedoc have always been light colored (especially compared to most of the crap that gets passed off as rosé in California), but the rosés I encountered on my trip took the concept of pale to another dimension. A few were barely distinguishable from white wines. Even rosés from Tavel, the Rhone region famous for its rosés (which I've recently learned have a MINIMUM color density required to carry their official AOC designation) seem to be pushing towards the lightest end of the spectrum.
No one I spoke to in France could offer much in the way of explanation for the phenomenon of increasingly lighter rosés, except to say that everyone loves the light-colored rosés of Provence, and so perhaps that's the end of the color spectrum that everyone is heading towards. And for those already there, well there's no place to go but lighter.
Of course, the color of the wine doesn't make it good. It does, however, tell you something about either how much time the juice sat in contact with the skins, or how much white wine may have been blended in.
Most of the rosés below don't include white grapes. Which means that generally they have been made by throwing a bunch of red grapes into the press as if they were white, and gently squeezing them. Which means the juice has very little contact with the skins before it is whisked off to a steel tank to ferment (and usually lose a bit of whatever color it gained in the process).
It's probably worth clarifying what it means to say that these wines are organic. This primarily means they have been certified by one of several bodies in the EU as adhering to the standards of Agriculture Biologique, which requires that the grapes be farmed without chemical herbicides or pesticides, and that they do not have levels of added sulfur exceeding 150 milligrams per liter (a reasonable and rational amount, especially in comparison to the idiotic rules in the U.S. which only allow wines with zero added sulfites to be labeled as organic).
These wines have lots to love about them, but above all they are crisp, refreshing, and fabulous to drink with just about anything you might want to eat. So before we get into tasting notes and scores, remember what I, and every other working wine writer wish you would remember: you should drink rosé all year long, not just in the summer, when the fashion magazines tell you it's cool.
Normally I list wines in descending order of quality, but to allow you to more easily match the wines to the photo montage below, I have listed the wines in the order tasted, which corresponds to the order of the photos below, left to right, top to bottom. Prices either reflect true market prices in the US or have been approximated based on retail price in Euros. Unfortunately many are not available to purchase in the US on the internet, but I have provided links to those that are.
Without further ado, here are my favorite organic rosés from the south of France.
2012 Chateau de la Selve "L'Audacieuse" Rosé, Coteaux de l'Ardeche, Ardeche, France
13.2% alcohol. Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15.
2013 Chateau Guilhem "Prestige" Rosé, Languedoc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
A pale peachy pink in the glass, this wine smells of watermelon and strawberries. In the mouth, bright citrus peel, hibiscus, and rosehip flavors are juicy and tart thanks to excellent acidity. Very refreshing. A blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $13.
2013 Domaine de Valescure "Domaine de la Fourmi" Rosé, Sable de Camargue, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Pale coppery pink in color, this wine smells remarkably of cantaloupe melon. In the mouth, cantaloupe, orange peel, and light forest berries take hint of sweetness even as they gain a deeper wet leaves earthiness in the finish. Quite delicious and an incredible bargain. 100% Grenache Gris. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $15.
2013 Domaine Monplezy "Plaisirs" Rosé, Coteaux du Languedoc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
13.5% alcohol. A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $10
2013 Mouton Bertoli "Notes Frivoles" Rosé, Pays de Caux, Pays d'Herault, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
12.5% alcohol. A blend of Carignan, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $11
2013 Chateau Larou Rosé, Fronton, Sud-Ouest, France
13% alcohol. A blend of Negrette, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Score: around 8. Cost: $10
2013 Les Planes Famille Rieder "Cuvee Tiboulen" Rosé, Cotes de Provence, France
Pale copper in color, this wine smells of exotic flowers and orange blossoms. In the mouth flavors of orange peel, rosehip and herbal notes are bright and juicy thanks to fantastic acidity. Nice wet stone minerality grounds the airy flavors of the wine. 13% alcohol. A blend of Tibouren and Grenache. Score: around 9. Cost: $14.
2013 Domaine De Pecout "Sainte Victoire" Rosé, Cotes de Provence Saint Victoire, France
Pale copper-pink this wine smells of orange peels and white flowers and wet stones. In the mouth tart redcurrant and orange peel flavors have a crystalline minerality and a hint of sweet white flowers to round them out. Excellent balance and great acidity. Quite refreshing. 13.5% alcohol. A blend of Grenache and Cinsault. Score: around 9. Cost: $18.
2013 Domaine du Jas d'Esclans "Cru Classe" Rosé, Cotes de Provence, France
13% alcohol. A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, and Tibouren. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13
2012 Domaine de Pinchinat Rosé, , Cotes de Provence, France
13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14
2013 Domaine de Valdition "Cuvee du Battonnier" Rosé, Alpilles, Provence, France
Pale orange-pink in the glass, this wine smells of tangerine zest and rosehips. In the mouth the wine offers flavors of tangerine zest, pomelo flesh, and rosehips. Crisp and dry, there's a pleasant hint of woody bitterness in the finish that adds complexity to a very tasty, savory wine. 13.5% alcohol. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Chasan, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: around 9. Cost: $15.
2013 Chateau la Jeannette "Fleurs" Rosé, Cotes de Provence La Londe, France
Palest orange-pink in color, this wine smells of wet stones, citrus zest and white flowers. In the mouth gorgeous wet-stone minerality surrounds very savory flavors of crushed herbs, exotic citrus, and dried flowers. Deeply crystalline and clean and crisp. Outstanding. A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Mourvedre. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $15.
2013 Domaine des Annibals "Suives-Moi-Jeune-Homme" Rosé, Coteaux Varois en Provence, France
A blend of Cinsault and Grenache Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??
2013 Les Quatre Tours "Domaine la Rigouline" Rosé, Coteaux d'Aix En Provence, France
13% alcohol. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $14. click to buy.
2013 Chateau la Calisse Rosé, Coteaux Varois en Provence, France
Palest copper-pink in color, this wine smells of wet stones, wet leaves, and citrus peel. In the mouth the wine all but bursts with bright acidity that enlivens flavors of citrus zest, wet leaves, and a deep stony minerality. A blend of Syrah and Grenache. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $23.
2013 Chateau Barbanau Rosé, Cotes de Provence, France
A blend of Grenache and Syrah. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2013 Chateau Leoube Rosé, Cotes de Provence, France
A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvedre. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5.Cost: $22
2013 Domaine du Bois d'Yeuse "Chateau Cadenette" Rosé, Costieres de Nimes, France
13.5% alcohol. A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20.
2013 Chateau Beaubois "Expression" Rosé, Costieres de Nimes, France
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells (not unpleasantly) of bubble gum and cherries. In the mouth bright cherry and wet stone flavors are shot through with crushed herbs. Beautifully balanced with great acidity. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $7. click to buy.
2013 Domaine de la Mordoree "Dame Rousse" Rosé, Tavel, Rhone, France
Pale pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon, strawberries, and wet stones. In the mouth bright watermelon flavors are counterpointed by deeper wet earth and wet leaves flavors. A deeper wet cement quality gives complexity to the wine. Very savory. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2013 La Vernede "Tradition" Rosé, Languedoc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
13% alcohol. A blend of Cinsault and Grenache. Score: around 6.5. Cost: $12
2012 Vignobles Jestin "Chateau Vari" Rosé, Bergerac, Sud-Ouest, France
13.5% alcohol. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $12
2013 Domaine les Fouques "De l'Aubigue" Rosé, Cotes de Provence, France
13% alcohol. A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, and Rolle. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $14. click to buy.
2013 Domaine St. Roman D'esclans "Air de Famille" Rosé, Cotes de Provence, France
14% alcohol. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. Score: around 7.5. Cost: $15
2013 Domaine de Belambrie "Ephemeros" Rosé, Coteaux d'Aix En Provence, France
13% alcohol. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $13
2013 Domain Benoit "Rose Tendresse" Rosé, Alpilles, Provence, France
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of watermelons and raspberry. In the mouth bright raspberry fruit mixes with deep wet stones in a pure, crystalline pane of rose colored glass. Crisp, balanced and delicious. A blend of Grenache and the much less well-known Marselan, which is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $12.
2013 Domaine de le Grande Palliere Rosé, Cotes de Provence, France
Pale copper-pink in color, this wine smells of melons and wet leaves. In the mouth the wine is quite silky, with flavors of watermelon, berries and citrus zest, all shot through with a crisp mineral aspect. Crisp and delicious. 12% alcohol. A blend of Malbec and Cabernet. Score: around 9. Cost: $12.
2013 Domaine des Peirecedes "Le Fil de Ariane" Rosé, Cotes de Provence, France
Palest copper/peach in color, this wine smells of wet stones and citrus zest. In the mouth bright tangy citrus zest, wet stones, and wet leaves have a bright mineral quality and a nice savory quality. Crisp and delicious. 13% alcohol Score: around 9. Cost: $20.
2012 Chateau Guilherm Tourneir "Cuvee la Malissonne" Rosé, Bandol, Provence, France
13.5% alcohol. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. Score: around 7. Cost: $7
2013 Domaine Bourdic "Gris de Gris" Rosé, Cotes de Thongue, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
13% alcohol. A blend of Mourvedre and Cinsault. Score: between 7.5 and 8. Cost: $22
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