The worldwide leadership of Provence Rosés is based on strict grape growing and wine making rules. Over 10 grape varietals are approved to make Côtes de Provence AOC wines (AOC stands for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée). Certain grape varieties build the foundation of all Provence Rosés, while others are more specific to certain areas within the Provence. After each harvest, the recently finished wines are assembled to create a perfect blend or Cuvée. In Provence, blending is a very old wine making tradition and the result is the Rosé perfection that we love!
For a Blending, in French “Assemblage” the grapes grow separately in the vineyard. The grapes are then harvested separately and also crushed and fermented separately. Once the fermentation is done and the wines are ready for blending, the final Cuvée is getting created.
Many people still believe a Cuvée is more or less the result of mixing everything that grows or everything that doesn’t sell together… This is false! While a single varietal wine can show beautifully the character of a distinctive grape varietal, it can also be lacking balance of flavors and taste rough. A master of blending is striving for the perfect harmony of aromas, color and mouth feeling. The art of blending is practiced everywhere in the world and some of the most expensive wines from Bordeaux, Tuscany, Rioja or Champagne are created using this technique.
Now let’s discuss the most relevant grape varietals for Rosé making in the Provence:
The most important grape varietal in Provence is Grenache. This grape originates from Spain. It is very robust and resistant to violent winds and drought. Grenache brings body and aroma to wines. It gives young wines like Rosés elegant hints of red berries and spicier notes to more evolved wines.
An elegant example of the Grenache Grape varietal is the Château de la Gaude - Garance Rosé BIO
Cinsault is another important Rosé grape varietal and Provençal origin. It is flavorful and attractive and has long been used as a table grape. It adds a fresh, delicate, fruity touch to wines, nuancing the power of other varietals.
The Château Sainte Roseline - Prestige Rosé is a Cuvée with a large proportion of Cinsault.
Syrah is a grape that produces small black berries with a bluish sheen and delicate but fairly hardy skin. Syrah creates solid, deep-colored wines. Whose tannins make them coarse in the first years, but benefit particularly from prolonged ageing. You get peppery cherry notes in young Rosés and over the years, it evolves into characteristic notes of vanilla, tobacco and candied berries. But even at a young age, Syrah in Cuvées, rounded off with Grenache, Cinsault or Tibouren, gives a beautiful, unique structure.
A perfect example for the white pepper notes of Syrah is the UP Ultimate Provence Rosé
Mourvèdre with its small berries prefer warm, limestone terroirs. This grape varietal ripens slowly. It is happiest when facing the sea, where it can ripen properly. It was planted in Provence a very long time. Mourvèdre produces robust wines with delicate, assertive tannins. Rosés made with this varietal offer touches of violet and blackberry. Its smooth suppleness, accompanied by characteristic notes of spices, pepper and cinnamon, are only revealed after several years of cellar ageing. Mourvèdre is often used in blends with Grenache and Syrah and it is fundamental in Bandol Rosés. It creates Rosés with slightly more body.
The Mourvèdre grape is the dominant varietal in the Domaines Ott - Château Romassan Bandol Rosé.
Tibouren is an authentic Provençal grape. In fact, the only place in France where it can be found is in the Var department in the Provence. Tibouren produces delicate, elegant wines. It is perfect for Rosés, in which it offers finesse on the palate and a rich bouquet.
In the Château Roubine - Lion et Dragon Rosé BIO you can taste the Tibouren grape beautifully.
Carignan grows great in poor soil and is well-established in the South of France. It needs to be cultivated on low-yield hillsides to fully express itself. It then produces robust, generous deep-colored wines that provide an excellent foundation for a blending. It delivers aromas of cherry, raspberry and prune.
The raspberry aromas of Carignan shine beautifully in this Cuvée: Château de Berne Esprit Méditerranée Rosé
To a small percentage it is also allowed to use white varieties in Provence Rosé. The most important variety is Rolle (Vermentino in Italian). This varietal has always been cultivated in Provence, where it is very widespread. It ripens late and needs a warm climate. Character Rolle makes wines with bouquets of citrus, peach, pear, almond and fennel. It also adds roundness, balance and a lot of finesse.
The fresh citrus flavors of Rolle are represented deliciously in the Château Favori - La Favorite Rosé BIO
Provence Rosé always has to be a blend with the so called principal varietals (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Tibouren) which have to be 70% or more of the Rosé Cuvée. The maximum amount of the white grape Rolle (Vermentino) for example isn’t allowed to exceed 10% of the final Cuvée.
The blending process is pure art. From a number of different tanks, barrels and grape varietals, the master wine maker uses to create the final precious pink wine. The challenge is to create a perfect blend each vintage while keeping in consistent with the vintages from the years before. That’s why in a Cuvée the percentages of the different varietals might change every year but at the same time the characteristics should be consistent. Wine is a natural product that is heavily influenced by the weather and other growing conditions. Big wineries with a lot of vines can balance each vintage a little bit easier than a small winery with less vines. Here can frost or hale for example have a huge impact for a specific Cuvée.
Assemblage and blending of wines is a real art and it guarantees individual character of each winery and each Rosé Cuvée. This is a crucial part of wine making and the craft of the wine maker can shine to its fullest with a delicious and beautiful looking final Rosé Cuvée.
(Photo: Château Sainte Marguerite)