My lunch with Provence
Regular visitors here know how much the Wine Curmudgeon loves rose, and how much I want to share that enthusiasm with the rest of the wine world. Hence my excitement to to attend a Provence rose lunch this week, given that that Provence (located in southern France on the Mediterranean) is to rose what Napa Valley is to cabernet sauvignon and Burgundy is to chardonnay.
And I was not disappointed. Rose accounts for 80 percent of Provence’s production, and its producers have learned a thing or two in the 1,500 years they’ve been making it. The region’s grapes are cultivated specifically to make rose, and not to make something else where the rose is an afterthought. And there’s even a rose research center — call it the UC-Davis for pink wine.
Best yet, Provencal rose is still cheap, something that the lunch’s host, Wines of Provence, emphasized at every opportunity. Talk about being in pink wine heaven.
The best wines we had, and one of them wasn’t even rose (prices are suggested retail, which will probably be a couple of dollars less in the store):
• Domaine Houchart Rose 2013 ($15, sample, 12.5%): One of the best roses I’ve ever had, with depth and a roundness that most pink wines at this price, no matter how well made, rarely have. Not too much fresh red berry fruit, crisp, and bone dry. Chill this, and you’ll never want another wine all summer.
• La Vidaubanaise Le Provencal 2013 ($15, sample, 12%): A notch below the Houchart, but that’s hardly a criticism. More fresh red berries, nice acid balance, and even a little melon on the back. Another terrific value.
• Chateau de Berne Terres de Berne 2013 ($20, sample, 13%): It speaks to the wine’s quality that I’m including it here, since it’s not $10. A flowery aroma, almost white fruit flavors, some spice (believe it or not), and so fresh it was hard to believe. Availability may be limited.
• Rimaresque Cru Classe Rose 2013 ($24, sample, 13%): Rose for people who think they need to spend more than $10 for wine, with a rich mouth feel, minerality on the back, and a little more heft, given that cabernet sauvignon is one of the eight grapes in the blend.
• Domaine Houchart Rouge 2011 ($15, sample, 14.5%): How a red wine with this much alcohol can be this light and enjoyable is apparently one of those things you pick up in 15 centuries of winemaking. A blend that shows off its grenache and carignan, with cherry fruit and some spiciness. Highly recommended, and don’t be afraid to chill it a bit.