On May 31st, I had the distinct opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Valerie Lelong – a highly engaging and delightful lady who is responsible for Marketing and Communication of the Export Council of Wines of Provence.
Rosé wines make up 89% of the wine produced in the region. The total Provence vineyard area stretches 200 KM from west to east and is comprised of seven wine appellations with Côtes de Provence as the largest. The climate is sunny, dry and hot with approximately 2,800 sunshine hours a year and the terroir is made up of two very different soil types. By the Mediterranean Sea in the east, the soil is comprised of crystalline rock whereas the northern portion of the region is made up of limestone soil.
The red grape varieties used to craft Provence wines are usually Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mouvèdre, Tibouren, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon and these grapes are what both the red wines and the rosé wines are made from.
The colour of delicious Provence rosé is often a topic of conversation – most always pale and pretty. The Provence wine research centre has come up with 6 colour descriptors to assist in the identification of rosé wine. These are Cantaloupe, Mango, Peach, Grapefruit, Gooseberry and Mandarin.
When the sun is shining, there really is no excuse to not have a bottle of rosé ready. However, Lelong is striving to keep rosé wine on the shelf 365 days a year – not just for late springtime and summer enjoyment. She said that there has been a 45% growth over the last 5 years of rosé production – consumers are drinking more rosé.
I had a few questions for Lelong:
CC: What are the current trends happening in Provence?
VL: Large format bottles are on the rise. We are seeing many producers starting to bottle in the magnum size bottle. The trend started in St. Tropez and has really caught on.
CC: What about in the vineyard, is organic viticulture on the rise?
VL: Yes. Currently, 24% of the vines are farmed organically. This all has to do with the miracle that is the Mistral. This strong, cold wind blows through the vineyards at over 60 KM/H and helps the vines dry up and get cleared of any potential pests.
CC: What about the Provence appellations, are there more coming?
VL: Absolutely. We have right now a few more site-specific terroir designations currently under review. These will be finalized over the next few years.
Lelong led me through a tasting of four Provence rosé wines all available at select BCLDB stores that included:
- Varois En Provence Rosé L’Opaline 2016 $21.99
- Provence Saint Victoire Rosé ‘Elodie’ 2016 $23.99
- Côtes du Provence La Vie En Rose 2016 $22.99
- Aix en Provence Rosé Bieler Pere & Fils Cuvee Sabine $19.99
Hands down, my favourite of the flight was the Cuvée Sabine made with Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Rolle and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is structured and quite powerful with a long finish – delicious. Lelong pointed out that there is a ‘blue note’ descriptor when looking at the colour of an Aix en Provence wine. My second choice was L’Opaline with a good amount of juicy grapefruit, melon and floral notes.
As a final note, and I do hope that rosé winemakers around the world follow suit, Provence winemaking regulations state that there can be no more than 4 grams of residual sugar in their rosé wine.