Provence Rosé: More than Meets the Eye

Last fall I had the great pleasure of spending a week in the South of France sipping and learn about Provence rosé. It was a highly educational week, to say the least. Upon return I could not wait to share all I had learned about Provence rosé, except there was one problem. No matter how many times I say rosé is a year round wine that is perfect for the holidays, you seem to only want to hear about and drink rosé in the spring and summer. With Saturday being National Rosé Day, the time is now to talk rosé!

As we approach National Rosé Day I want to share with you some interesting information about Provence Rosé. On my first day in Provence our journalist group attending a presentation by Vins de Provence. The CIVP, or Provence Wine Council, was founded in 2004 and they represent 582 producers and 42 trade companies from three major Provence appellations: Côtes de Provence, Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, and Côteaux Varois en Provence. The CIVP assists in promoting the producers in these regions through conducting and providing economic and market research, technical wine research, quality control through testing and tasting, and providing marketing, communications, and public relations in France and abroad.

There are two key ways the CIVP assists its producers that I found interesting.

  • Rosé Wine Global Economics Observatory: Offers an overview of the global rosé wine market.
  • The Rosé Research and Experimentation Center: this center was created in 1999 and is unique in the world, here they collect and analyze over 1,000 rosés a year for research and study, they perform scientific experiments, and provide winemakers with practical information.

The CIVP have determined some interesting trends regarding global rosé sales and consumption.

  • In 2014, France produces 30% of the world’s rosé, followed by Spain 21%, and the US at 14%
  • In 2014, France consumed 36% of the world’s rosé (yes they import), followed by the US at 14%, with Spain a measly 4%
  • In 2014, global production of rosé was 24.3 million/hl (not including sparkling), that’s 9.6% of global still wine production, up 16% since 2002. Four countries represent 80% of that production: France, Spain, US, and Italy.
  • Rosé consumption of 22.7 million/hl represents 10% of global wine consumption, up 20% since 2002. This is in part to growth in new rosé consuming countries which includes UK, Sweden, Canada, and Hong Kong.
  • Main export countries in order include: Spain, Italy, France.
  • Provence rosé falls predominately in the categories of wines that are pale and dry.
  • According to French Customs in 2015, The US is currently the number one exporter of Provence Rosé, with the average price per bottle sold at $17.26.

This all begs the question, why do Americans love Provence rosé? Not only is Provence historically recognized as the birth place of rosé, it is also believed to be one of the oldest viticulture regions of the world. Why is Provence so special? As they say in real estate it is all about location, location, location. Provence is quite a large wine region; therefore, there is a significant amount of microclimates, resulting in diversity in the wines produced there. Provence is an ideal location for growing grapes. It is on the southern coast and sits of the Mediterranean Sea so it has long hours of sunlight, a hot, sunny, and dry climate, poor and well-drained soils that range from crystalline massif and schist in western Côtes de Provence AOP to limestone and limestone clay in western Côtes de Provence as well as Côteaux d’Aix and Côteaux Varois. The northern and mid regions of Provence endure strong Mistral winds blowing from Rhone in the winter while the southern region is heavily influenced by the sea. The three major AOP’s represented by the CIVP produce 95% volume of all Provence rosés.

Provence rosés are blended wines crafted from five main grape varieties: Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and a native variety called Tibouren. However, Provence rosés may also include Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Counoise. Although Provence is 88.5% rosé, they do produce 8% red wine, and 3.5% white wines. Of the whites I tasted the dominate grape used is called Rolle (also known as Vermentino), others included Ugni Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sémillon.

The majority of winemakers in Provence craft “intentional” rosés using the maceration method; however, we did encounter some that also use the saignée method. We even encountered a small amount of blending to craft Provence rosés. My take-away is that although the producers are part of the CIVP they are allowed autonomy to craft their wines the best way they see fit. Here is a quick breakdown of the three different techniques.

  • Maceration: red wine grapes (with the skin) are left to macerate (rest) as long as the winemaker likes (usually 2-20 hours); after this maceration the wine (juice only) is transferred into different tanks to complete the fermentation and wine making process; this is the most common form of crafting Rosé
  • Saignée: during the process of making red wine some of the juice of the red wine grapes is “bled” off (or drained) and transferred to another vat to be crafted into rose; this allows the winemaker to produce a Rosé wine while also increasing the concentration or intensity of the red wine
  • Blending: a touch of red wine (at the winemaker’s discretion) is added to a vat of white wine; this small percentage of red wine added (up to 5%) “stains” the white wine juice; though this is uncommon in still rosés it happens with more frequency in sparkling wine regions such as Champagne.

In the end the method of crafting the rosé did not matter, we did not have a rosé that was not delicious, and there is a simple reason why. Provence rosés are crafted to accentuate aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, melons, fresh summer berries, citrus, caramel, marshmallow, pepper, and licorice. The exotic fruit flavors offer the illusion of sweetness but the wines are bone dry, crisp, and refreshing. Additionally, even though the color of Provence rosé is tightly controlled, each wine offers its own unique tasting experience.

Do not be fooled into thinking Provence rosé is one size fits all!

The wines pair beautifully with any type of Mediterranean cuisine, sushi, grilled meats, BBQ, pastas, Asian cuisine, Thai foods, seafood, shellfish, pizza, tapas, you are only limited by your imagination. Plus each time you drink a glass of Provence rosé you are pouring a drop of the South of France.

“Dry, light-colored, aromatic and fruity, elegant, appealing, affordable, and versatile.”

Provence invented a style of wine that captures the South of France art of living and the love of consumers across the globe.

5 comments

  1. Do you have an example of a blended rosé? I remember that there was quite the fuss a couple of years ago when rosé vinification was being discussed on a European level, and half the Provence was in anger that the blending of red and whites to end up with rosé was even on the table. I would therefore be surprised if it is suddenly allowed, at least on an AOP level.

    • I will go back through my notes later and find a blend. We only came across one or two but the overall message is there are many ways to craft quality rosé and producers are using all of them, even in Provence.

  2. Really enjoyed the tour of the region & the wines, Michelle! It’s so much fun witnessing friends “discover” Rose for the gem it is. And in time, I think people will become more accepting of it being a year-round enjoyment. For now, we’ll cherish it when we can! Cheers!

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