Last year, when we were able to travel without quarantine restrictions, my friends invited me to join them on a cycling trip in France. I made some excuses to skirt around the fact that I had never learned how to ride a bike! But as more details were revealed, my excuses crumbled. It was a cycling trip to Provence, the home of rosé – how could I resist?
Rosé wines are almost universally admired but often misunderstood. The misunderstanding relates to the wine’s varied shades of pink and how they come about. Many think rosé is made by blending red and white grapes. In reality, there isn’t a white grape in sight. The wines are entirely made from red wine grapes, usually a mix of two or three grapes to add complexity.
The enticing colour comes from the grape skins. In rosés, the grapes are lightly pressed straight after picking and the grape juice and skins macerate for a very short time, unlike in red wine, when maceration can last for days. The pink hue ranges from salmon to ruby, based on the grape variety and the length of maceration. The longer the skins steep in the juice, the deeper the shade of pink produced.
Along with the pink tones come explosive aromatics and minimal tannins. Lighter-coloured rosés are more delicately flavoured than deeper ones, which are fuller in flavour. The nose is evocative of flower aromas, red summer berries and fresh herbs, particularly thyme, juniper and rosemary. The palate is light and refreshing with a finish of mineral notes. Rosés are light, lower-alcohol wines and must be drunk chilled to fully enjoy their liveliness.
Provence rosés are rightfully the benchmark for rosé wines around the world. Rosés have been made in that region since 600 BC. The sunny, cool, dry weather and strong mistral winds that fan the vines after a rainy spell bring about the best rosés. Also, Provence rosés are always dry, unlike some New World renditions from California and New Zealand, making them very food-friendly wines as well.
Back to my trip last summer, when we toured four villages – Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Les Baux-de-Provence, Eygalières and Arles – and sipped a variety of rosés along the way. The gastronomy of the region amazed me. Almost every meat or fish dish was paired with a rosé; it isn’t just an aperitif wine there.
And, yes, I did cycle my way through Provence. I learned to ride as a mature adult, all for my love of wine.
Top rosé picks from Provence
Around the world, various versions of rosé exist, from sweet to dry, salmon pink to almost translucent ruby red. I have collected a few of my favourites to savour over the coming months as the weather heats up in Hong Kong:
- Domaine d’Eole 2018
One of the most highly regarded estates, Domaine d’Eole produces a textured wine from six different grapes. Each brings its own character and gives definition to the wine.
- Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel 2019
Delicate and fruity, this wine by Chateau d’Esclans is the world’s most popular rosé.
- AIX 2019
Widely available in Hong Kong, AIX comes from the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence region and is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. Pick the current year as most rosés don’t have a long shelf life.
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