It’s unfortunate some people brush rosé aside as inconsequential or unworthy. They’re thought of as ‘poolside’ and ‘summer drinking’ quaffers, without much complexity or ageability. If you keep reading, however, you’ll find that terroir rosé is much more than that!
Introduced to them a while back, I had no idea Tavel wine would be a springboard for Rosés de Terroirs, as they’re referred to in France.
Since that introduction, producers in the Tavel appellation established the International Association of Rosés de Terroirs (kicked off January 2022), which now, extends well beyond Tavel. In fact, the dynamics of the Association illustrates a change in the world of rosé wines. Stay with me to learn more.
Terroir rosé is not the same old rosé
Let them warm up a bit and they reveal a world of complexity for year-around drinking and pairing with delicious foods. Dare I say they’re gastronomical wines? Yes! This style gives new energy to the rosé category and, in fact, might be considered a whole unique style un to its own. Take Tavel wine for instance.
What do you get when you purchase a bottle of Tavel?
First, know it will never be red or white wine. In fact, it’s one of only two rosé appellations in France. The other is Rosé de Riceys within the Champagne region, whereas Tavel is in the Rhone Valley between Lirac and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. (Read about the first Rosé de Riceys terroir rosé here.)
When someone says, “Let’s order a Tavel”, you know it’s rosé.
“Tavel is the Rhône’s singular rosé-only appellation. “Tavel rosé” is, therefore, a redundancy. All wines here are pink, by law.”Meg Maker – storyteller, wine judge, educator, artist, gardener at Terroir Review
Next, you always get a blend of grapes where Grenache Noir must be present and commonly makes up half. Fifteen grapes are allowed (both red and white) yet the principal varieties are Bourboulenc, Cinsault, Clairette Blanc, Clairette Rose, Grenache (Noir, Blanc, Gris), Mourvèdre, Piquepoul (Noir, Blanc, Gris), and Syrah.
If you travel to Tavel, you get a warm, dry, Mediterranean influenced climate with average annual sunshine teetering at 2,700 hours and low rainfall. This means grapes with tremendous concentration that produce bold wines pulsing with personality.
What I especially like however, you get a wine that gets better over time – yes Tavel, and many terroir rosés can age. Not years and years, yet if you find one in your cellar with up to three, four or even eight plus years*, open that bottle, the wine should be fine!
(Click through to see all photos.)
An interesting particularity about Tavel is how it’s made.
In France, 90% of rosés are made by direct pressing. Tavel’s maceration method is slightly different.
From the grapes, a combination of juice, skins, seeds, and sometimes stems macerate from 6 to 72 hours (depends on winemaker choice of color and style) before drawing all or a portion of the juice off the solids. The juice is then racked and the remaining solids lightly pressed to get the remaining juice; the drawn and pressed juice is blended for fermentation. Some producers keep a small amount of juice with the skins longer, then press and blend it into the previously drawn off juice. This maceration stains the juice and, because the mixture contains tannins, imparts a low tannin level, and a layer of structure, greater weight and complexity. In Tavel, this entire process is referred to as the Taveloise technique or méthode Taveloise. The maceration stage is crucial, bringing complexity and personality to Tavel wines.
Technically in Tavel, the drawing off isn’t what’s called bleeding (saignée in French). That’s when there's a need to increase the concentration of juice for a red wine thus some is bled off to concentrate the remaining. In actuality, the uniqueness of Tavel lies in the appellation being 100% rosé. The process is 100% about the main contender, Tavel wine!
Tasting Tavel with Chateau Trinquevedel
Guillaume Demoulin, the fourth generation of his family to run Chateau Trinquevedel, makes two Tavel wines from vines grown on sandy, stony soils (called Olivet) with deep clay loam, limestone, and silt underneath:
- Traditional – made with six grapes from mixed vineyard plots averaging about 35 years old.
- Les Vignes d’Eugene – made with three grapes from a three hectare plot of old vines, 70 – 80 years. I received a sample of the 2022 vintage of this wine for review; no compensation was received.
I spoke with Demoulin prior to harvest, learning quite a bit about the history of the Tavel area, the soils, the Tavel winemaking method, and what makes his wines terroir rosé worthy. He is the former president of the International Association of Rosés de Terroirs.
Chateau Trinquevedel – Tavel – Les Vignes d’Eugene, 2022
Grenache 50%, Clairette and Syrah 25% each
From the maceration, the juice takes on a deep watermelon red color with a slight garnet hue and orange highlights.
This wine bursts with savory leaning aromas and flavors: rhubarb, baked red berries, garrigue (lavender and rosemary scrub land), faint licorice, and white pepper. The garrigue and berries dominate the palate, as does a savory richness, a round mouthfeel and enough acidity to keep the finish lingering. All this and mild tannins reminded me Tavel is not an ordinary rosé!
Based on the wine’s color and fair bit of complexity, I guessed more skin contact than 24 to 36 hours? Were stems possibly included during maceration? The tech sheet shares:
“Temperature-controlled operations at 19°C to keep the fruity, aromatic palatte. 48-hour skin co-maceration: Grenache and Clairette de-stemmed, Syrah in whole bunches. Racking of bled juice then pressing of berries. Blending of bled and press juices. Alcoholic fermentation on lees for around 20 days (indigenous yeasts). Malolactic fermentation (ML) to bring out fullness and roundness. Aging for 6 months: 50% ovoid, 30% demi-muids and 20% barrels.”
I certainly wasn’t thinking ML but after reading the sheet, understand what gave the wine richness.
Regarding food, quite a friendly bottle here. We enjoyed it two nights, pairing it with Asian spiced trout cakes, then Halibut with caper ghee sauce (see video below). Honestly, a mélange of foods work … main dish salads, cheeses, roasted vegetables, mixed charcuterie boards, meats and fish. Even better if you throw in middle eastern spices, samosas and other ethnic and vegetarian dishes.
Terroir rose is unique!
These are not formulaic wines. Each one is an artistic creation given the area, its varied history, and the style of wine desired via winemaking. Artistic expression makes them genuinely different from your average rosé. After tasting many, their depth and complexity definitely stand out. You’ll have to grab a few and decide for yourself!
*Aging terroir rosé is possible, some longer than others depending on the grapes (some age better like Syrah and Mourvedre for example). Look for those in green bottles, which gives a tip the producer values quality and ageability. Tinted green bottles are used to avoid light strike!
- Rose – Understanding the pink wine revolution, Elizabeth Gabay MW
- Guillaume Demoulin, Winemaker and Manager, Chateau Trinquevedel
- Wine Scholar Guild