From celebrities to top wine producers, it seems everyone has a hand in rosé these days. While Mateus, Lancers, and Sutter Creek turned many people on to rosé in the past, Provence gets accolades for the pale rosé explosion in the 21st century. Yet another style exists beyond the beach and picnic rosés pushed grand marketing schemes. They are referred to as Rosés de Terroirs.
I tasted these wines recently with author, luxury brand marketer and professor Evelyne Resnick, PhD as part of the official kick-off of the Rosés de Terroirs group (Association Internationale des Rosés de Terroirs (AIRT)).
Disclosure: Wines provided as samples. No compensation received. Opinions are my own.
The People and Wines Behind Rosés de Terriors
The Tavel AOC initially launched “Rosés de Terroirs, unissons-nous!” (Terroir Rosés, let’s unite) campaign in 2020. Then recently a smaller group of producers from within Tavel, and other regions around Europe, took control and gave the campaign new energy, created the International Association of Rosés de Terroirs. Their aim is to promote rosés from great terroirs in France and abroad. The project kicked-off at WineParis 2022 showcasing 34 wines with the goal of 100 over the next three years.
These wines tell a story of the place they are grown (the interaction between the grape variety and their physical environment), the passion of the producers, and a commitment to using minimal, if any pesticides. A commonality among them concerns tannins. Each containing from light to a low levels of tannin coming from contact with the grape pulp, skins, and seeds, as part of the maceration process.
Starting Point: Tavel
As the Association was established in Tavel, it makes sense to start here.
The only French ‘cru’ dedicated 100% to rosé wine, and the first rosé appellation in France in 1937, the name “Tavel” comes from the Latin word “Tavellis” which means stone table. In fact, its 960 hectares spread over three types of stony terroir: flat white stones (Les Vestides), sand and stones (Olivet), and pebbles (Vallongue).
Photo source: Vin Tavel
Not to be confused, the name Tavel, applies not only to the village, but also the name of the appellation itself (Tavel AOC), and the wine produced in the appellation. It’s one of the smallest AOCs in the Southern Rhone, across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape where Grenache typically dominates, aided by Cinsault, and also sometimes Syrah, Mourvèdre, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Carignan, Picpoul, and Calitor. No mono-varietal rosé here!
Tavel is intense, with more to say. It is not a typical rosé. It’s a wine for the table and so good with food. And its color is much more intense, with the Cahiers des charges (French appellation rules) stipulating that Tavel wine must have a certain depth of color.
What gives Tavel wine these unique characteristics is the process of extended maceration of whole grapes, skins, and pulp during winemaking. This gives the wine greater weight, structure, complexity, and of course a deeper color and hint of tannins.
Wines from several producers beyond Tavel are included in the association. Below is a brief description of the regions where they reside and the wines.
Domaine Maby (Working organically since 2019)
- La Forcadiere 2021 – 39% Grenache, 25% Cinsault, and 10% of each Grenache Blanc, Mourvèdre and Syrah Price: $18 / 11.50€
- Prima Donna, Grande Cuvée 202150/50 Grenache/Cinsault | Price: $21 / 13.50€
La Vignerons de Tavel et Lirac – Trésor de Sables 2021
- 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan, 15% Clairette, Picpoul and Bourboulenc | Blend of saignée and direct press | Price: $21 / 13€
Chateau d’Aqueria 2021 (Recently purchased by E. Guigal)
- 52% Grenache, 12% Syrah, 11% Mouvedre, 9% Cinsault, 9% Clairette, 6% Bourboulenc, 2% Picpoul | Price: $18-$20 / 12€
Bandol rosés focus on the powerful Mourvedré grape, and have little in common with those from the rest of Provence. Mourvedré must be a minimum 20% of any blend, yet often producers use more as it provides incredible structure and complexity. Bandol rosé shows a slightly deeper salmon-like color and a candid body. Bandol wine does not hesitate to share its aromatics and mélange of flavors!
Domaine La Suffrène, Cuvée Tradition 2021
- 40% Mourvèdre, 30% Cinsault, 20% Grenache, 10% Carignan | Price: $19 / 16€
- HVE and organic certified
Domaine de la Tour du Bon, blend of 2019 and 2020 vintage
- 36% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 32% Cinsault, 7% Clairette | Price: $28 / 16.50€
- EcoCert organic, utilizes biodynamic principles
For Bandol rosé lovers, it will be hard to pass producer Domaine de la Tour du Bon. Precision, finess and charm from grapes on a limestone plateau in Le Brûlat, just kilometers from the sea. Not one vintage but a blend of the 2019 and 2020. Expressive and poised (mixed blossoms, pomegranate, creamy / powdery quality), a hint of dusty tannins, and a delicate sea spray lingering finish. Even better day two.
Chiaretto di Bardolino
Chiaretto di Bardolino is a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) in the Northern Italian Veneto region near Lake Garda. The Corvina variety takes the lead here, with the addition of Rondinella and sometimes Molinara, each indigenous to this part of Italy. In Italian, Chiaro means pale and Chiaretto means a lighter shade of pale. A common characteristic of Chiaretto is its slight salty quality.
Le Fraghe Rodon 2020
- 90% Corvina, 10% Rondinella (1/3 saignée, 2/3 direct press after 24-hours) | Price: $16 / 11€
- grapes are grown organically
The lightest in color from this group (see photo above) with pronounced aromas including wild strawberry, red current and rose. The palate displays emphatic crispness, a medium-body and immaculate balance. Crushed stones and wild strawberries on the notably lengthy finish.
Clairet is the modern-day equivalent to red Bordeaux as it was in the Middle Ages: a pale red wine. But even today, the deeper color, more intense aromas, and fuller body and flavors are what set Clairet apart from present day rosé.
Chateau Ballan Larquette owner Regis Chaigne describes his Clairet as Rosé de Gastronomie Familiale, or the rosé of family cuisine. Quite true! I’ve not crossed a Clairet that wasn’t anything but fabulous with family faire on the table.
Chateau Ballan Larquette – Clairet 2020 (Part of Vignobles Chaigne & Fils)
- Cabernet Sauvignon 70%, Merlot 30% | Price: 11€
(Three to four day maceration. Saignée)
The most red wine-like of the batch with strawberry, red plum flesh, peach aromas and forest spice. The palate is lush and velvety smooth with flavors mimicking aromas. I would guess this a red wine if tasting blind. A ‘grab a blanket, good book and comfy couch’ wine on a cooler day.
Sancerre rosé is a rare gem made from 100% Pinot Noir.
Fournier Pere & Fils – Les Belles Vignes 2020
- Blend of saignée and direct press | Price: 17.50€
- Certified HVE3, in organic conversion
A marked Pinot Noir cherry core with zingy rhubarb aromas with spicy nuances on this wine. These follow to the palate with a medium acid and body structure. A low tannin level brings power yet in an elegant way. A wave of stony savoriness glides across the rather lengthy finish. A wine to go with seafood and sushi dishes like no other!
Côtes du Rhône
Rosé might not be the first Rhone Valley wine one thinks of, yet there are many lovely examples made in the Southern Rhone. Grapes include the usual suspects (Grenache, Syrah, etc.) and some less known varieties.
Domaine de l’Odylée – Rosé d’automne 2020
- 100% Grenache | Price: 25€
- AB (Agriculture Biologique) organic certified
Rosé des Riceys
Many folks may not know about this unique rosé and appellation in the southernmost part of the Côte des Bar in Champagne. Just a few kilometers from Bourgogne, it is dedicated to 100% Pinot Noir still wine with an ever so slight resemblance to Champagne (without the bubbles). They tend to exhibit dried herbs, cherries, and red fruits with bright, high tones of cool-climate rosé. Yet they have a delicate, soft, and sometimes savory edge.
When I encountered my first bottle of Rosé de Riceys, I paused… tasting a ten-year-old rosé?! I learned that if aged in wood, they do in fact age gracefully for ten or so years. I purchased two additional bottles from different producers (2016 and 2018) to get more of a feel for this wine. They also had the definite high tones associated with Rosé de Riceys.
Jacques Defrance – Vin Tranquille de Champagne 2012
- 100% Pinot Noir (Saignée) | Price: 19.30€ (from the winery).
A Brief Word about Rosé Winemaking
All rosés are made either by direct press or saignée methods. One is not better than the other, they are just different winemaking styles.
The direct press method involves pressing the grapes after only a short maceration period to extract the desired level of color from the skins. The saignée method, on the other hand, involves drawing juice from a tank of red grape must already being macerated for the production of red wine. In this way, the grape must remaining in the tank makes for a more concentrated red wine. The extracted juice often makes fuller bodied and more structured rosés as compared to those by direct press.
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A stunning diversity of rosé wines here that were fascinating to sip and compare. Each work as delightful companions on the table. As the French say, résolument gastronomique or decidedly gastronomic!
- Chateau Ballan Larquette
- Château d’Aqueria
- Domaine La Suffrene
- Domaine de la Tour du Bon
- Domaine Maby
- Domaine de l’Odylée
- Fournier Pere & Fils
- Jacques DeFrance
- Le Fraghe
- Les Vignerons de Tavel et Lirac