Recently I attended a tasting sponsored by Vins de Provence, which represents the wine growers of that French Mediterranean coastal region. There were dozens of enjoyable summer sippers that displayed the classic characteristics of Rosé de Provence—aromatic, crisp, dry. Last week, I mentioned a few favorites, but several others stood out from the classic flavor profile, displaying brighter, riper fruit (still without a hint of sweetness)—taking rosé to new heights.
These bottles all came from Chateau D’Esclans, the property of wine innovator Sacha Lichine. Lichine grew up in a Bordeaux wine family and bought land in Provence in 2006 with the intent of crafting rosé that could stand among the best wines in the world. Working with consulting oenologist Patrick Lèon, whose credentials include overseeing winemaking for Château Mouton Rothschild, Lichine has brought new techniques to the storied region, including many from Grand Cru Bordeaux houses and Champagne.
The winemaker focuses mainly on two of the region’s popular grapes: Grenache and Rolle, the French name for the Italian grape Vermentino. He also keeps a keen eye on temperature while fermenting, and makes sure the winery leaves all its juice in contact with the “lees”—the term for the spent yeast used in fermentation. The time with the lees gives the finished product more depth and a rounder mouthfeel.
Because of the care and techniques used, the price starts higher than the typical Rosé de Provence, but both serious wine drinkers and occasional sippers will appreciate the difference. Start your adventure up to the peak of Provence rosé wine with Whispering Angel—it’s available at many locations on the North Shore, including Henry’s Wine Cellar in Beverly, Butcher Boy in North Andover and Leary’s Fine Wines in Newburyport, where it is the number-two selling rosé of the summer, ahead of many less expensive tipples. Any good wine shop on the North Shore can special order the others.
Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel 2013
Springy floral nose with luscious tart cherries on the palate, this wine can easily fit in at any picnic, though the elegance and long finish reward contemplation. ($21.99)
Chateau d’Esclans Rosé 2012
With much less fruit and more spice, this wine is almost austere in its elegance—mouthwatering acid and an herbal tinge make it great for pairing with rich foods. (Think: lobster or cream sauce.) ($34.99)
Chateau d’Esclans Les Clans 2012
Ripe stone fruit on the nose with hints of spice and honey, the bright acid in this gorgeous wine is rounded out by time spent in large French oak barrels, giving it serious weight. Evocative of a storied White Burgundy, it’s a big step up in price but worth the splurge. ($59.99)
Chateau d’Esclans Garrus Rosé 2012
Critics say this may be the finest rosé in the world. Blended from a selection of 80-year-old vines, it has a yeasty, toasty quality reminiscent of Champagne, but with notes of dried fruit and a palate that is round, smooth, and sexy—an inspired choice for special occasions. ($99.99)