I drink rosé all year round, but it’s awfully nice in the summer (as nearly every wine magazine and newspaper has been telling you for the past three months). And where better to get your rosé than the one appellation that is practically dedicated to it: Coteaux d’Aix en Provence.
This area of southern France produces 1.7 million cases of wine each year, a full fifty percent of which are rosé. I don’t know any other place in the world that produces that high a percentage of pink wine in their overall output. Perhaps it’s because they’ve always been making it. Some historians think that when the Greeks and then the Gauls planted vines on the low, sloping limestone and limestone gravel plateaus that sweep out to the coast here, that the very first wines they produced were rosés. The region now known as Coteaux d’Aix en Provence has been making wine since the sixth century BC. It was here that the use of wooden wine barrels first became prevalent thanks to the Gauls, who invented them.
Situated on the sunny southern coast of France the days are warm and the nights cool, sometimes cold (spring frosts are a particular danger), thanks to the famous Mistral winds which choose this section of the coastline to start their journey up through the heart of Southern France. The second largest Provençal appellation (after Côtes de Provence and before Côteaux Varois, Bandol, Cassis, Bellet, and Palette) Coteaux d’Aix en Provence is planted mostly with Grenache, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Mourvèdre (reds), and Ugni-Blanc, Clairette, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc (whites).
Perhaps one of the most famous sections of this appellation is the Puyricard plateau, a broad limestone bench that sits inland from the sea about 20 miles and at the base of the Trévaresse hills, a small finger of the mountain chains that build gradually upwards towards the alps. This plateau, about 1000 feet above sea level with southern exposure, has hosted vines as well as almond and olive trees for centuries, their roots reaching deep into the limestone and clay soils for moisture.
Chateau des Gavelles has been a large, wine producing estate in the heart of the Puyricard since the 17th century, and boasts two large vaulted stone cellars from that time period which are still used for aging and storage of wine. Perhaps its location at foot of Le Castellas Château and the Grimaldi hillock, owned by the archbishops of Aix-en-Provence, gave it the protection and favor it needed to thrive through the centuries.
The current winery on the site dates to the 1930’s and was renovated in 1989 just before its current owners Benedicte and James de Roany purchased the estate in 1993. With an education in Agricultural Engineering, James has worked for years in the international wine trade and Benedicte, a history major and business woman, runs the business side of their operation. James was at one time (and possibly currently?) the president of the Coteaux d’Aix Trade Board, which is nominally responsible for the marketing and availability of the region’s wines to the rest of the world.
Gavelles, which is a translation of the Provençal word “gaveou,” or “bunch of vine sticks”, produces a white wine made from the varietals Rolle and Clairette, a red wine of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault, a reserve red wine from old low-yield vines of Syrah and Grenache, in addition to this rosé, which makes up approximately 55% of their production.
Unfortunately I know very little about the winemaking or the specifics of this wine (including the exact varietal mix, which is likeley mostly Grenache with some Syrah and Cinsault). Tastes like it was fermented in Stainless Steel (no oak).
A medium peachy pink color in the glass, this wine has an alluring nose of cranberry, hibiscus, and a hint of “iodé” which is the local term for the smell of the sea. In the mouth it has bright, but not steely acidity, with an average mouthfeel, and primary flavors of cranberries, lime, rosehips, and rose petals. It finishes clean and with a small hint of sea air creeping in again.
This wine would go well with so many foods, but particularly with anything Mediterranean or Southern French in style. Why not try it with something like this goat cheese and Provençal herb souffle?
How Much?: $11
Gavelles wines can be tough to find on the Internet, but some are available, including previous vintages of this wines.