We generally don’t gravitate to rose as a wine choice. We may taste rose wine when we are at a winery and the person pouring the tastes says “but our rose is different and you have to try it”. Since we are tasting wines, we may try it. But I can’t think of a single time when we bought a bottle of rose over the past 20 years. This is probably due to too many memories of drinking cheap sweet blush wines in college and the fact that as we aged, we gravitated towards dryer, crisper wines. But when the Provence Wine Council from France invited us to attend “Provence in the City 2015” in San Francisco recently, we looked at it as an opportunity to learn more about their wines.
The event started with an educational seminar that taught us more about the region and Provence wines. While Provence produces more than rose wines (some of the wineries were pouring some red wines too), the predominate wine is rose which is made from red grapes (even through the European Commission had proposed new rules to allow rose to be made from combining red and white grapes in 2009, protests from French wine producers forced the withdrawal of this proposal, preserving the integrity of French roses). Common grape varietals include cinsault, syrah, grenache, mourvedre and tibouren. The skins spend only a short time in contact with the juice to give the wine colors ranging from pale pink to coral. Provence roses tend to be fresh, crisp, bright and dry, unlike the sweeter American roses that we shy away from.
The US is a huge market for Provence rose, with over 30% of its production ending up here, second in consumption only after France. And the American market is growing (risen at double-digits in each of the last 10 years) in its imported rose consumption as well as in the price Americans are paying per bottle. Not surprisingly (at least to me), women and young wine drinkers are the predominant consumers. But what I think is more important is that we need to throw out the preconception of drinking rose only while sitting on a shady deck on a hot summer’s day or enjoying it with a light appetizer with friends. We were told that the complexity and crispness of Provence rose actually goes with a wide range of foods too including Asian, Indian, and less structured foods where people may not want a heavy, complex wine. Hummm, while I might try rose with some of these foods (particularly some Asian foods), I still think it would be a stretch to pair it with Tex-Mex or BBQ as was also suggested.
But learning about Provence rose was one thing. We soon got down to tasting. I was surprised at the vast range of flavors in the various wines–including orange, caramel, peach, strawberry, licorice, raspberry, pineapple, cherry, grapefruit, banana, cinnamon, melon, and lemon. Some were more pleasing to my particular palate and likes–such as a wonderful Chateau Gassier 2013 rose (and was surprised to learn that you can allow roses to age somewhat). As you would expect, it all depends on which grapes are used, the terroir (Provence has limestone, clay and schist), the winemaker, etc.
Will we go out and fill our cellar with rose? No. But we have gained a new appreciation of this varietal–especially those dryer, crisper roses from Provence. Any who knows…a few bottles may sneak their way into our cellar for some of our dinner parties.