Pink Wine for Everyone
By Elizabeth Gabay MW
The world of French rosé is vast, with Provence the tip of the iceberg. Although often thought of as a singular category; rosé is a colour with multiple styles from all around France: dark or pale, easy-drinking or complex, dry or fortified styles, plus many regional varieties. Modern winemaking has raised the quality to ensure freshness and balance as well as greater longevity.
Before Provence-style was all the rage, the rosés from Anjou were popular, even being drunk by James Bond! These cool-climate wines have superb acidity and plentiful fruit thanks to their long, slow ripening. Rosé de Loire (dry) is made with varieties such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and local varieties. To balance the vibrant acidity and enhance the fruit, a small amount of residual sugar is traditional in Rosé d’Anjou (off-dry) based on local variety Grolleau and Cabernet d’Anjou (sweeter off-dry), showcasing the violets and red berries of Cabernet Franc or the darker fruit notes of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Hot, sunny and dry Provence produces elegantly bone-dry rosés with ripe fruit and soft acidity and is identified by its extreme paleness. Currently the on-trend rosé, its association with glamour and the Mediterranean lifestyle has contributed to its success over the past 20 years. These Grenache-based wines are blended with floral Cinsault, fresh Rolle (aka Vermentino), fruity Syrah, structural Mourvèdre or rich Tibouren in supporting roles. The key appellations are Côtes de Provence, fuller-bodied Bandol, fresher Luberon, Coteaux d’Aix and Coteaux Varois and regional IGP Méditerranée. Top wines show greater structure and complexity through time in barrel, concrete eggs or amphora.
France’s largest rosé producer is, however, the Languedoc-Roussillon consisting of a mosaic of rosé appellations, including regional Pays d’Oc IGP, weightier Côtes du Roussillon (near Spain) or Languedoc AOP, to highly localized, such as the historic rosé cru of Languedoc-Cabrieres, closer to the Rhône. The Languedoc shares Provence’s Mediterranean varieties, often for a fraction of the price, with Pays d’Oc specializing in single varieties such as Petit Verdot, Syrah or Grenache, or atypical blends.
Outside of these main regions, France is home to an incredible wealth and diversity of rosés including Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s sister appellation, historic Tavel, with its darker pink, bolder structure and ageing potential; silky Pinot Noir rosés from Sancerre, Burgundian Marsannay and rare Rosé des Riceys in Champagne; Cabernet and Merlot-based pale rosés and darker clairet from Bordeaux; fortified ambré Rasteau and pale pink Muscat-de-Beaumes-de-Venise in the Rhône and, of course, sparkling pinks from Champagne and regional Crémants.
There really is a rosé for everyone.
Elizabeth Gabay has been specializing in the wines of southern France since the mid-1980s and has lived in the region since 2002. A Master of Wine since 1998, she was joined by her son Ben Bernheim in 2020, expanding the business of working with producers, education and writing about the wines. They have published a number of books on rosé including “Rosé, understanding the pink wine revolution” (2018) and “The Rosés of Southern France” (2022).