Wine Lights on Rosé: Provence by the Bay

Wines of Provence Tasting Wines of Provence tasting event at One Market in San Francisco. Credit: Scott Chernis Photography/CIVP

On March 4 One Market Restaurant was colored of many shades of rosé by more than 25 Provence producers who showcased their wines.

In the past, it was common to relegate rosé wines to inexpert consumers, more intrigued by the color than by the aroma and the characteristics of the wine. Many of you probably correlate rosé wines with very sweet wines, very often extremely cheap; sometimes on the shelves at the supermarket they are the cheapest bottles among the sparkling wines. However, in the latest years the attention to rosé raised globally. They are not only sweet and I would suggest you to try some Rosé Champagnes and rosé sparkling wines: both with the Champenoise method (the process used for Champagne) and the Charmat method (the process used for Prosecco) you can have extremely fine rosé wines with exceptional complexity.

I was excited to attend this event since I really enjoy rosé wines, especially the fresh ones during the summer. One of my favorite rosé wines is Chiaretto from Lake Garda, where I used to spend many summer weekends. If you want to know more about the boom of this rosé wine from the north of Italy, there is a great article by Cathy Huyghe on Forbes, which explains the steps the Chiaretto Consortium took to triple sales in one year. Research and “know your customers” are the main takeaways from this example, so simple and difficult to implement at the same time.

Provence is one of the oldest French winegrowing regions and has an international standing for its top rosé wines. The growth in the U.S. market has constantly presented double-digit rates for the last 11 years, but the jump between October 2013 and October 2014 is remarkable: +35% on value and +28% on volume.

At the event, I visited the tables of several producers and asked all of them the same two questions:

  1. How do you differentiate yourself when you reach out to your customers? [value proposition]
  2. What keeps you awake at night? [main problem]

It was interesting to hear how different producers tackled the same questions from different angles.

Château d’Esclans

Whispering Angel from Chateau d'Esclans

This winery offered a very consistent and high-quality selection of wines. We talked to the importer and these were her answers:

1) Rosé is a lifestyle and it fits in every occasion, from skiing to sailing. Moreover, they don’t leave a significant amount of residual sugar to make it an “easier drink”.

2) The challenge is how to keep up with the increasing demand since they have already managed to reach a +20-25% in the production last year.

 

Among many good videos on the website of this winery, I selected the video below about the bottling and labeling process: you can see how the pink color is a key component in marketing rosé wines and how automated these activities are now.

Maitres Vignerons de Saint Tropez

Rosè Chateau GabrielAt this table, I had an insightful conversation with Liz, the winemaker. This winery has a long tradition and three different vineyards.

1) Her focus was on the terroir: winemaking is almost the same everywhere, the terroir makes the difference. She repeated several times they have three different terroirs for three different types of wine.

2) I was expecting her to say that the main concern was the weather, but she explained to me that they are lucky with that: it’s both sunny and rainy. And also windy. The color keeps them awake at night: they need to give a good structure and flavors keeping a light color because consumers don’t want dark colors.

Château du Puget

Once again, at this table I spoke to the importer. He explained to me he only selects small boutique wineries, and gave me the following answers:

1) The differentiation comes from the authenticity of the wines, which, in this case, lasts more than one year. According to him, this is an exception because “most of the rosé wines are already in their descending phase after one year”.

2) The challenge is finding food-friendly wines.

Château La Mascaronne

Rouge FazioliAt the Chateau La Mascaronne’s table, I tasted Rouge Fazioli, a blend of Syrah and Mouvèdre: it was a red fresh wine with low tannins, crafted with light maceration and gentle pressing (typical flavor in France but something peculiar for the US market).

1) The best value for this winery comes from the characteristic flavors, the result of hands-on preparation.

2) The main concern for Stephen, the winery’s contact at the event, was finding a distributor in California, which was the main reason he was there. So we take it as an answer. 🙂

Domaíne Clos de L’Ours

Grizzly Rosé 2014A very young winery was waiting for me at the Clos de l’Ours table: Fabien, the son of Fabienne and Michel, was the contact at the tasting. He told me how his parents decided to pursue their dream of making wine in 2008 and brought to life their first family vintage in 2012.

1) Since I was asking for fun facts, Fabien told me that the reference to “l’ours” (the bear) in the name of the winery is to his father.

2) What else can keep a winemaker up at night if not controlling the temperature every two hours and refreshing the wine when needed during the vinification process?

Domaíne du Grand Cros

Domaíne du Grand Cros, another family-owned winery, received the highest score among Provence rosé from Stephen Tanzer’s Wine Access in 2014. It was nice to talk to the importer who has a very good knowledge of this winery.

1) Canadian and British by origin, this winery can list as fun fact being mentioned in the wine documentary “Escaping Robert Parker”. In this documentary, you can find many popular winemakers and wine influencers such as Gary Vaynerchuk.

Here is the trailer:

2) The weather.

Domaíne Terre De Mistral

vin-rose-cotes-provence-rosalie

Laura gave me two very nice answers:

1) They wanted to have a modern bottle for a modern estate: to address their female customers, they designed the perfume shaped bottle you can see on the left.

2) During the vinification, as we heard from other winemakers, the weather keeps them awake at night. It can be too hot, too rainy… However, she pointed out that “the weather also makes the wine different year after year…”

 

Domaíne Pierre Chavin

At this table, I learned a new saying: whoever gets the last drop of a bottle of champagne, is expected to get married the following year.

1) New winery created from scratch: brings a modern approach with augmented reality on their labels.

2) “My daughters keep me awake at night” was the fun comment of Mathilde.

Gassier en Provence

I asked Olivier, the owner of the winery, what differentiates his winery from the others and he started with his list:

1) It’s the oldest winery, from the 17th century. There’s a high-end restaurant, a castle, a 5-star hotel, and – dulcis in fundo – the terroir is nestled in the crater of the Provence’s only volcano…

2) The issue, for Olivier, is keeping affordable prices for Provence.


What’s your experience with Rosé wines and which ones do you love?

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