In a large post last year – https://oleudsenwineblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/2012-summer-drinking-the-rose-post/ – I went rather overboard and tasted a lot of rosés from around the world. That was harder work than I thought, but I wanted to challenge some long-held notions about where good rosés are made. I didn’t really succeed, though, as I more or less just confirmed my existing bias. Call it confirmation bias, and call me conceited that I think I can honestly set aside my prejudice, or just trust me, but I was not much wiser after tasting so many rosés than I was before.
One of the long-held notions I had was that rosé from Provence, despite the hype, despite enormous popularity, despite heavy investment, is dead-boring, flabby, alcoholic and anaemic. Unfortunately, those notions were confirmed by my tastings. I obviously did not taste more than a fraction of the total number of Provence rosés, and since people whose taste I generally trust keep telling me that they love Provence rosés, I am annoyed that I have not yet seen the light. I therefore masochistically continue tasting occasional Provence rosés to find the right one for me.
I recently had the opportunity to taste two Provence rosés that up front looked unusually promising.
The first one was the result of a collaboration between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on the one hand and the Perrin Family on the other. While the Jolie-Pitts certainly appear to have a lovely humanitarian, humanist and intelligent outlook on life, they are not famous winemakers in their own right, and so they were not the reason why I thought that particular rosé should be promising. It was of course the Perrins, wine superstars of Château de Beaucastel fame, whose involvement should get my hopes up.
The other bottle was from Château d’Esclans. While my 2012 rosé post featured tasting notes on the Whispering Angel rosé from the same ownership, the Whispering Angel is made from bought-in fruit and is the entry-level label. Château d’Esclans itself is owned by Sascha Lichine, himself a wine star, and son of now-deceased wine superstar Alexis Lichine. Sascha Lichine has decamped entirely from Bordeaux, where his father celebrated his greatest triumphs, and has settled in Provence. His ambition there is to make the best rosé wine in the world, and to that end he has poured massive investments into the Château d’Esclans. While the Whispering Angel did not overly tickle my fancy, I had high hopes for the next level up, the Château d’Esclans rosé itself, as it is made entirely in-house and from estate fruit only.
Well, here are my tasting notes (colour notes included for once, as they are of subsequent relevance):
Jolie-Pitt & Perrin Côtes de Provence Rosé Miraval 2012
Pale pink. Discreet, soft nose with strawberries, raspberries, peaches, hints of soft herbs and flowers, slightly alcoholic. Light, soft and round in the mouth, low on acidity, dry, and some alcohol heat. OK length with raspberries, plum, hints of liquorice, flowers and garrigue, and some alcohol. A flat and dull wine.
Château d’Esclans Côtes de Provence Rosé 2012
Palest pink with a greyish cast. Discreet nose with very light raspberries, hints of mineral and white flowers, and the merest touch of garrigue. Light to medium weight in the mouth, with acceptable acidity, dry and with some extract. OK length, very discreet aromas mirror the nose, with the addition of strawberry liquorice and granite dust. Almost devoid of taste and interest.
As you can see, great Provence rosé has eluded me again, despite vinous and other stardust being there in abundance. Here the stardust is more a reference to the flat, boring – yes, dusty – nature of the wines than to any added value from stardom.
Yesterday I briefly discussed with a winemaker friend my incredulity at why people actually like these dull concoctions, and she – a francophile if ever there was one, and so more likely than I to be forgiving so long as it is French – agreed with me. She did add a highly informational and revelatory remark, though: “But that’s because they vinify for colour”.
Of course! Provence rosés are uniformly of that insipid pale pink colour, frequently with grey highlights. That obviously means that skin contact is extremely brief, and so the chance of actually extracting a bit of taste and interest is low. This has come to epitomise the style of Provence rosés, and since this is (still!) commercially successful, I suspect that we are in for decades of the boring stuff. It is also an excellent illustration of the idiocy of the colour fetish so prevalent in the wine world these days. Really, colour is so rarely of any significance for wine quality that it should be left out from scoring sheets and wine descriptions. This is what I had chosen to do anyway, and – confirmation bias reigns supreme – if anything, this tasting and the obvious correctness of my winemaker friend’s remark have reinforced that stance with me.
Perhaps I should just be giving up my quixotic search for good Provence rosé. It probably doesn’t exist. Now off to Puglia…