Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer. Hot days by the lake, beach trips, and long weekends in the country are at hand, and for many of these seasonal outings, Provençal rosé will be served. Yes, rosé can be from anywhere, including other regions in France, but Provence is the most famous producer. The area’s three major appellations—Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, and Coteaux Varois en Provence—produce a good majority of what’s in American glasses, but also look out for Bandol Roses, which command higher prices because of their higher quality. In fact, you’ll primarily see rosés from Côtes de Provence as they produce 75% of the area’s wine, but when you see the others, they are worth picking up.
Generally, Provençal rosé is dry and low in alcohol, with subtle berry, citrus, floral, or light stone fruit flavors. All of these things make it the perfect accompaniment for a sultry summer evening. But you can find rosés with more complexity than the average glass, which is especially good if your palate is discerning. Also, you shouldn’t have to spend a lot, unless you really want to impress.
The Classic Provençal Rosés
• Les Maîtres Vignerons de la Presqu’île de St-Tropez Cep d’Or 2016 ($14, Jerome Selections)
• Les Maîtres Vignerons de la Presqu’île de St-Tropez Mas de Pampelonne 2016 ($20, Regal Wine Imports)
• Château Réal d’Or 2016 ($16, Monsieur Touton Selections)
• Domaine Sainte Marie VieVité 2016 ($18, Turquoise Life)
• Nautiqa 2014 ($15, Golden Ram Imports)
• Commanderie de la Bargemone Rose Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence 2016 ($15, Regal Wine Imports)
• Bieler Pere et Fils Rose Sabine Coteaux d’Aix en Provence 2016 ($14, Skurnik)
When You Need a Little More (aka not Frosé Wines)
Château Vannières 2016 – Made of Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Grenache, Château Vannières has a nice acidity and tangy citrus aromas, with a little peppery kick to it. ($25, H. Mercer Wine & Spirit Imports)
Mirabeau en Provence ‘Etoile’ 2016 – You wouldn’t think Grenache and Syrah make up this incredibly pale pink rosé that comes in a bottle that is evocative of higher-end Champagnes, but they do. This balanced palate delivers ripe apricot and white peach flavors that will make you wonder why anyone would dilute rosé into slushies. ($35, Pacific Highway)
Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2016 – The area around the seaside town of Bandol has its own AOC due to the silicon and limestone soil’s unique impact on Mourvèdre grapes. Because of this distinct characteristic, all wines from Bandol have to be at least 50% Mourvèdre. This outstanding rosé is 55% Mourvèdre with Grenache and Cinsault, and is the perfect example of a different terroir from Provence. ($40, Kermit Lynch)
Of course, easy summer appetizers, fresh salads, and dinners of grilled meats and vegetables go well with rosé. But if you branch out into spicy territory, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Rosé is perfect for tempering down the bold chili flavors found in popular Mexican, Szechuan, Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes. Just remember to save a bit from those classic subtly sweet summer desserts, like strawberry shortcake.