Here's the Secret to Snagging the Perfect Summer Rosé

Fields of lavendar run through vineyards in southern Provence.It’s the surest sign of summer when our wardrobes change to whites and our wines are awash in pinks. Now that it has been chic to drink dry rosé for years, not just any will do. The rosé has to exhibit the right shade from tea rose to salmon—the paler and more luminescent the better—and possess a taste that’s refreshing, not flabby, and rounded, yet not too fruity, with aromas that evoke strawberries, raspberries, cherries and summer flowers.

To find those perfect pinks, look to Provence, the world’s largest appellation exclusively making rosé. The Côtes de Provence, a Cru Classé since 1955, extends from northern hills above Saint Tropez westward to Aix-en-Provence, a surface area of 65,000 acres. Wine has been made there since the Greeks first brought vines 26 centuries ago. Today 600 Provence rosé producers export 11 million bottles annually to America.

The artistry comes in achieving those pretty pinks and corals. Provence rosés are made exclusively from red grapes. After the grapes are crushed, the clear juice comes in contact with the grape skins only briefly during a temperature-controlled fermentation. The color depends on the blend of grapes as well as the amount of time the skins soak in the juice.

The secret to the luscious flavor comes from the traditional South of France grapes: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Tibouren. The most effective winemaking technique is to ferment each variety separately in small batches, and then create a blend to achieve the desired bouquet, body and flavor. Côtes de Provence rosés are always cuvées, whereas in many parts of the world, rosés are made from one variety in the saignée method, that is, by bleeding off the first run juice when making a Cabernet or a Merlot. Provence makes rosé from the start, deliberately as rosé.

And practically all Provence producers practice organic viticulture. Through the luck of nature—a fortunate Mediterranean climate with no rain in summer and the Mistral wind blowing in from the northwest, which cools and dries the vines—no chemicals need to be used.

Provence has a cousin in the southern Rhône that is also renowned for exclusively making rosé. Tavel, across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is much smaller but established its reputation earlier than Côtes de Provence as a favorite of the kings of France and the Popes of Avignon. Grenache and Cinsault are the main varieties used along with some tongue-twisting grapes like Bourboulenc and Picpoul. Though less ubiquitous in our markets, Tavel wines, recognizable for their stately, shoulderless bottles with the letter “T” within a crest and “Tavel” engraved in the glass, are well worth seeking out. 

Baroness Recommends
Rosés from Côtes de Provence
Barton & Guestier Passeport ($15) is a translucent pink rosé that exhibits lively red berry and honeysuckle flavors.
Château de Berne Grande Récolte ($20), a blend of Cinsault and Grenache, exhibits floral and apricot aromas and a luminescent pale pink hue.
Château Léoube ($20) possesses a flesh-pink tone and hints of honey, berry fruits and a unique mint note.
Domaine Gavoty Cuvée Clarendon ($14) is an old-vine Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah blend that exudes ripe strawberries and citrus aromas.
La Villa Barton ($20) is a Grenache-dominant blend that displays lovely cherry and fragrant flower notes and has a lingering finish.
Rosés from Tavel
Domaine de la Mordorée Cuvée La Dame Rousse ($22), with its light pink hue made from a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, has vivid cherry and strawberry flavors.
Prieuré de Montézargues ($16) has harmonious flavors of peach and red berry fruit and a luminescent strawberry color.    

A version of this article appeared in the May 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: In the Pink.