A Tasting of French Rosé

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provence bandol sop

Vineyard in Bandol, courtesy of Elizabeth Gabay.

California made people think rosé is sweet…and lesser quality. But it’s made all over the world. And, Provence (France) is credited for putting it on the map.

Rosé is for serious wine lovers, yes, but really anyone interested in wine. Perhaps it were the marketers that ruined its image? Cheap and affordable?

Rosé is just the opposite. It can be complex with layers of flavors. And the grapes that go into it are some of the finest known. It’s a wine for all occasions, so let’s jump in!

The southeast of France is a huge rosé producing area, and continues to be one of the largest in the world.* And the epicenter of rosé is Provence. But who knows how long that will last- winemakers everywhere are getting in on pink.

provence aop map

source: www.vinsdeprovence.com/

Mark and I are huge rosé fans. It goes famously with about everything. Mediterranean tastes and grilled foods, both of which we love, and of course pizza. Until moving to Bordeaux, our rosé consumption was primarily from Spain, California, and Oregon; barely a dozen French rosé landed on our table. This summer is about French rosé exploration.

Last week I organized a rosé tasting with three people. In preparation, reaching out to Elizabeth Gabay, Master of Wine proved helpful. One of her specialties is southeastern France and Provence.

Her recommendations were as follows:

  • Stay away from mass generic Provence rosé; instead look for more classic styles which show terroir.
  • For Languedoc, look for varietal based rosé (Grenache or Syrah). Such rosé tend to have much more pronounced fruit. And it’s interesting to see how much fruit they can have versus those from Provence.
  • Rosé from the Rhone– Much the same as Languedoc.
  • For Bandol rosé, choose one with a high percentage of Mourvedre.
  • Select a Clairet; a wine that has longer maceration, to show how longer skin contact can alter a rosé completely.
  • Loire Rosé- Go for a rosé tender such as Cabernet Anjou – Petit Roche if you can find it. 10g/l minimum sugar but should be so well balanced the sugar is barely noticeable, just fruit.

This information was shared with the others, asking each person to get a different wine. We ended up with the following:

A very productive tasting, we each finished with the same conclusions and learned a bit about the different styles. I hope this ignites your desire to explore rosé. If you do, or do so already, let us know!

Here are my notes:

Clos de L’Ours L’Accent 2016, Côtes de Provence AOP (13.5% ABV; 15€)

provende rose Clos de l'Ours

An organic producer located in the village of Cotignac, in the northern part of the Coteaux Varois. The winery is newer; the current owners opened their doors in 2012 and work with consulting winemaker Daniel Abrial.

We were smitten with this wine, a more classic style, and our favorite. Going back to it a few times, as it warmed, it continued to present different aspects. Herb and rose petal notes surfaced after it sat for a bit.

The palate is dry, with a round mouth feel of less ripe peach, dried herbs, and an appealing mineral driven, lingering and slightly bitter finish. Nicely balanced, a delightful acidic structure, just enough complexity to keep you coming back. A wine to ponder.

  • Area in Provence: Coteaux Varois, or “The Var”
  • Grapes: Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah
  • Color: salmon pink
  • Aromas: raspberry, red grapefruit, citrus, slight car oil (in an intriguing way), dried herbs, rose pedal, (light sourness aroma)
  • Palate: fresh, crisp and dry, round mouth feel, ever so slight bitterness on finish.
  • Body and Acid: medium
  • Tannins: slight
  • Vinification: True rosé

Winery Website

Domaine Mirabel, Le Dessert du Loup, Pic St-Loup 2016 (3.5% ABV; 10€)

It was difficult to find information on this winery. Monsieur in the wine shop I frequent recommended it, sharing that the brothers do it all themselves organically.

We liked this wine too. Although the aromas made us think ‘sweet’, it was dry, fruity and fresh. For me it had some tannin feel, but less than the L’Ours. For two others it had more. Given the grapes- Grenache has moderately high acid and Syrah, although low in acid it’s got big structure– we expected a bolder wine. It was a softer easier drinking bottle than the Clos de L’Ours but much fruitier, as Elizabeth Gabay indicated.

  • Area in Languedoc: north east of Montpellier
  • Grapes: Grenache, Syrah
  • Color: light pomegranate
  • Aromas: sweet strawberry, raspberry, mixed floral bouquet
  • Palate: fruity, round and crisp
  • Body and Acid: medium
  • Tannins: slight
  • Vinification: saignée method

Remy Pannier Rosé D’Anjou 2015 (10.5% ABV; 4€)

Considered an off-dry wine, this one caught our attention. You could feel the sweetness on your palate (18gr/l residual sugar) but when swallowed, it mostly went away with a slight sourness surfacing. We liked the fruity freshness and thought it’d be a nice apéro with grilled or spicy appetizers. For me, it’d be interesting to taste the same but a higher quality.

  • Area in the Loire: Anjou
  • Grapes: Grolleau Noir
  • Color: light ruby
  • Aromatic Intensity: high
  • Aromas: red current, raspberry, sulfur (like a match strike), minerals, slight lactic/milk, rose
  • Palate: mineral driven palate with minimal fruit
  • Body and Acid: medium
  • Tannins: almost undetectable
  • Vinification: saignée method

Winery Website

Chateau Thievley Clairet, 2016 (12.5% ABV; 7€)

This was our least favorite wine (and I question whether it was off, detecting a bit of VA- volatile acidity). Although nice fruit aromas, there were none on the palate, in fact it was rather harsh. Unfortunately it was not a good Clairet representation to show how longer skin maceration could alter a rosé. Too bad! And for the record, Clairet is not really considered a rosé.

  • Area in Bordeaux: Entre-Deux-Mers
  • Grapes: 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Color: light ruby
  • Aromas: cherry, raspberry, light roasted coffee, slight carbonic maceration aroma
  • Palate: Aromas did not follow through to the palate, high bitterness on finish, not for quaffing
  • Body and Acid: medium
  • Tannins: medium

Vinification: Pre-fermentation maceration from 24 to 36 hours followed by pneumatic pressing under nitrogen. Cold settling followed by alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks between 16 and 18 ° C. Aging on fine lees in stainless steel tanks for 3 to 5 months.

Winery Website

Due to time constraints, I opened the Bandol Rosé 2016 the next day 🙂

pierre feu

Pierre Feu vineyards in Provence- thanks for sharing your picture Elizabeth!


*According to 2012 statistics from Vins de Provence, France was the worlds largest producer of rosé at that time (6.33 million hectoliters produced).

Rosé consumption in France alone increased by 45 % between 2002 and 2015, according to France AgriMer.

*Exports of Provence rosé to the U.S. increased 40% (both volume and value) from November 2012 to November 2013. This was the 10th consecutive year of double-digit increases in rosé export volumes from Provence to the U.S. (Source: French Customs and CIVP)

9 thoughts on “A Tasting of French Rosé

  1. Lauren Walsh

    Thanks for diving into some of the finer points of rosé production. I wasn’t familiar with Clairet and am not sure I could find a bottle here in the States, but I will try. Sounds like a fun and informative tasting!

  2. john

    Bring Rose’ back! It’s such a fabulous wine for so many occasions. Last night we enjoyed a Provence Rose’ with spicy Shrimp Tacos – scrumptious!

    The Rose’ story has “long legs.” Too bad it was mass marketed and its image hurt 25 years ago. Rose’ should be part of every cellar to enjoy. Rose’ Everyday!

    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks for sharing your “spicy shrimp tacos” with rosé John, and for the great idea. Will have to try that one. We have several other bottles of rosé so perfect timing. And yes, while it’s image was tainted years ago, it’s on the up and up- a rosé cheers to you!

  3. Jennifer-American Mom in Bordeaux

    What a wonderful post. I too am becoming a rosé lover….(still adore my reds)
    I have been pleasantly surprised by many of the new Bordeaux roses.
    Let me know next time you do a wine tasting, would live to join in.
    Hope you are having a lovely summer.
    Great post#

    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks for stopping by Jennifer! Yes, Bordeaux is making some nice rosé wines. I’m working on a follow up tasting of rosé, will definitely reach out to you- it’s always nice to have another person’s input ?!

    1. Lynn Post author

      The pleasure is mine! I was happy to discover Clos de l’Ours and taste L’Accent. Look forward to recommending it to others, and to tasting more of your wine in the future.


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