Rosé and Rain in the South of France

Rose and Rain in the South of France by Nicola HeyesToday on the blog we welcome back the lovely Nicola Heyes who has recently got back from an amazing wine tasting tour of Provence in the South of France. It certainly brought back memories of my time backpacking and wine-ing my around the South of France back in 2011.

I wish I could jump on a plane right now (even if it is raining when I get there!), but alas I’ll have to enjoy the fruits of South of France rose from here and soak up all these delicious words and pictures. Enjoy guys!


Provence wine facts

  • Provence (Provençal) wine comes from the French wine-producing region of Provence in southeast France. The Romans called the area provincia nostra (“our province”), giving the region its name. Just south of the Alps, it was the first Roman province outside Italy.
  • Wine has been made in Provence for at least 2,600 years ever since the Greeks founded the city of Marseille in 600 BC.
  • Many different cultures have influenced the viticulture and winemaking in Provence – these include the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Gauls, Cataland and Savoyards.
  • Today the region is most famous for its rosé wine which currently accounts for more than half the production of Provençal wine.
  • Out of the 140 million bottles produced annually in Provence, 75% of it is rosé. That’s 105 million bottles every year.
  • In 2008 Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt enjoyed a helicopter ride over Chateau Miraval in Provence and fell in love with the place so much they bought it. They hosted their wedding there six years later. Despite being divorced for more than a year, it is one asset they will not be dividing up! They purchased the 1,100-acre estate for $60 million and although there have been many rumours about selling it, the parents of six are going to use Miraval “as an investment for their children”.

Planning our trip

We eagerly planned our rosé wine tasting tour of Provence in the South of France on a sunny afternoon in the Lake District, UK. I say ‘sunny’ – and it was…for about half an hour…but for those 30 glorious minutes, sipping rosé I think I actually tasted sunshine!

The wine was a deliciously light and incredibly crisp rosé called Étoile from Mirabeau En Provence. It had elegant aromas of white peach and a hint of lychee. Its colour was sublimely pale – the palest of pinks and it was a perfect rosé to get us all into the mood for Provence.

Mirabeau wine in lake District - Nicola Heyes Mirabeau rose wine in lake District - Nicola Heyes

Whilst excitedly swapping tasting notes, my husband and my mum, were incredibly keen to visit their cellar door, which is nestled in the picturesque village of Cotignac, in central Provence – well known for its quaint old town and imposing troglodyte cliff.

However…our dreams of rosé in the sunshine were not only short-lived in the Lake District but were shockingly destroyed in the South of France. Hence the name of this blog ‘Rosé and Rain’ or it could also be ‘Wine and Waterproofs’.

Nicola Heyes wine tasting in the South of France in the rain Rain in a South of France Vineyard

And then came the Provence rain…

It was not the exact dream of France we had and because of the extreme weather – rain, rain and more rain (with a bit of thunder and blustery wind thrown in as well). We, unfortunately, didn’t make it to Mirabeau En Provence. Its wonderful winding roads up to the mountains would have been disastrous – especially in a hire car! Cellar door staff at the winery did advise that travel was a risk – so we do plan to visit in the summer (keep that rosé on ice for my blog part 2).

“Apparently”, Provence has a classic Mediterranean climate with mild winters followed by very warm summers with little rainfall – but the rain certainly did fall this April!

But the rain didn’t stop us from sipping the rosé – and we had some truly wonderful rosés.

Visiting Domaine de La Croix

Our first stop, Domaine de La Croix, was a mere 10-minute walk down the road from my mum’s apartment in La Croix Valmer. It’s a stunning vineyard which spreads over 100 ha, from Tabarin, close to Gigaro beaches, to the hills of Saunier Neuf and Saunier Vieux, from which you can see the beautiful Islands of Hyères, Le Levant and Porquerolles.

Its inviting driveway had such elegance and style with beautiful tall trees, rolling hills covered with vines (which had little bud-bursts when we visited) and a stylish cellar door, which certainly lures visitors in.

Domaine de la Croix Lights - South of France

I think my biggest concern wine tasting in a European country was the language barrier. I was afraid to practice my basic conversational French  (much has been lost since my school days, many years ago!) but I managed a “Parlez-vous Anglais” (Do you speak English?) and thankfully our cellar door salesperson did. In fact, she was superb at explaining the wines and grape varieties. Phew!

Domaine de la Croix - Provence Domaine de la Croix in Spring - South of France Wine Domaine de la Croix - South of France Vineyard

La Croix Cru Classé Cuvée “Eloge” Blanc 2016

Our first taste was La Croix Cru Classé Cuvée “Eloge” Blanc 2016 – a gorgeous pale yellow-gold Rolle or probably better known as Vermentino – a popular grape in Provence.

It had a delicate nose with an abundance of tropical fruit and a wonderfully silky mouthfeel. It was an incredibly light and very elegant rosé.

Bastide Blanche Cuvée “TwoB” White 2016 AOP Côtes de Provence (Provence), White 2016

Next up was the Bastide Blanche Cuvée “TwoB” White 2016 AOP Côtes de Provence (Provence), White 2016This was an incredibly interesting white – 90% Rolle and 10% Semillon. The grapes are from one of the other vineyards, The Domain of la Bastide Blanche, surrounded by slaty cliffs and the sea.

The description on their website just sounds so perfectly dreamy:

Leave behind the luxury and the glitter of the famous beaches of Saint-Tropez and discover the bend of Cape Taillat, the Domain of la Bastide Blanche. A virgin beach, nested between two capes in turquoise blue waters, surrounded with slaty cliffs. This green setting shelters a 15 ha vineyard, where a friendly-environment vine is growing. The light soils of the back beach encircled with pines carry the vines which make rosé and white wines.’

Just prior to tasting the wine, the cellar door salesperson said the wine will actually make you salivate as you almost taste the salty sea. Incredibly, the wine does have a salty taste – and you can taste the sea. On the nose, there are hints of citrus fruits, which follows through on the palate – with a salty taste. Hard to explain in writing but it really is quite something else – and delicious. I imagine it goes amazingly well with seafood, especially fresh oysters – it would enhance the salty sea like flavours.

Croix Cru Classé Cuvée “Irrésistible” Rosé 2016

First up on the rosés was La Croix Cru Classé Cuvée “Irrésistible” Rosé 2016  described as an aperitif-style wine, and very easy drinking.

It was incredibly pale yet had an intense nose of raspberries – it really was aromatic. It was beautifully silky and fresh on the palate with a persistent finish.

With a blend of a number of grape varieties it’s easy to understand it’s complexity with Cabernet-Sauvignon : 10% Cinsault : 25%  Grenache : 30%  Mourvèdre : 15%  Syrah : 5%  Tibouren : 15%.

Cuvée ‘Organdi’ Rosé AOC Côtes de Provence

Next was the Cuvée ‘Organdi’ Rosé AOC Côtes de Provence. It’s a newly born cuvée from the Domaine de la Croix, Organdi is an anthem to elegance and refinement.

This rosé is certainly a food wine with almost a buttery mouthfeel – which is not that different to lightly oaked chardonnay. On the nose, there is more of an exotic, rich fruit, hints of floral and a hint of spice. This is also a blend of  25 % Cinsault, 60% Grenache and 15% Tibouren.

La Croix Cru Classé Cuvée “Eloge” Rosé 2016

Next up was the La Croix Cru Classé Cuvée “Eloge” Rosé. 2016 – And wow, on the nose it was like an explosion of fruit cocktail, so fresh and zippy – and that alone lured me in, it screamed ’drink me’. The mouthfeel was long and with a dominant taste of exotic mandarin and strawberries. Incredible to think that this wine packed so much intensity on the nose and taste when the colour of it is so beautifully pale. With a fine blend of 20% Cinsault 65% Grenache noir: 5% Mourvèdre 10%Tibouren it’s easy to understand why it packs a punch in the taste stakes.

Bastide Blanche Cuvée “TwoB” Rosé 2016

The rosé wine kept on coming, our next taste was the Bastide Blanche Cuvée “TwoB” Rosé 2016 – again from the vineyard near the dreamy turquoise ocean and slaty cliffs – and again it had a fine, delicate and salty finish, just like the white we tried. Incredible really. Once again, strikingly pale pink with almost salmon highlights. With a rich nose of rose petals and a buttery lingering finish, this wine is perfectly rich and ideal with food, such as a luxurious fish pie or even fish stew – bouillabaisse. It is a wonderful blend of 70% Grenache 5% Tibouren 5% Rolle: 20% Cinsault.

Magnum La Croix Cru Classé cuvée “Eloge” Rouge 2013

Although Provence is well-known for its rosés, we couldn’t resist a taste of a red! It would be rude not to! The Magnum La Croix Cru Classé cuvée “Eloge” Rouge 2013 shrieked of blackcurrant and dark luscious fruits. It certainly was of a more complex aroma compared to the delicate yet fragrant rosés. The colour had a real purple vibrancy, the taste was full, rich and silky with a wonderful lengthy finish with hints of vanilla and wood.

It is a delicious blend of 30% Mourvèdre and 70% Syrah.

Domaine de La Croix Address:

816, Boulevard de Tabarin
83420 – La Croix Valmer
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9am until 1pm, then 2pm until 7pm
Email: contact@domainedelacroix.com

The winery hosts some wonderful events throughout the summer months, such as Jazz festivals and music events – which has always been on top of my mum’s social calendar when in the South of France! These ticketed events are often BYO picnic and the wines are usually at a very good price on the day.

Domaine de la Croix Tasting Glasses - South of France Domaine de la Croix Wine Tasting - South of France Domaine de la Croix Cellar Door - South of France

Visiting Château De Chausse

Our next vineyard, also a stroll away from my mum’s apartment is Château De Chausse in a stunning and classic stone country-house style château. Beautifully inviting with its homely feel and forest backdrop.

The grapes are all harvested by hand and the wines are carefully selected including an AOC Côtes de Provence red, white, and rose blends along with two prestige cuvées, Diamant, a white from Rolle, and Rubis, an award-winning Syrah-based red. For me, the red was a winner. Well, to be honest, all the wines in this winery were just lovely.

Chateau De Chausse Boxes - South of France Chateau De Chausse Tasting Room - South of France

The cellar door was simple and rustic but had real charm.

Château De Chausse White 2016

First up was the Château De Chausse White 2016 a wonderfully aromatic Rolle: 100%. It had an intensely rich nose with hints of nectarine and peach. It is a pale yellow/straw-like colour and has an elegant lingering finish of ripe apricots.

I’ve never really associated France with Rolle or Vermentino as I know it, I always thought it was more popular in Italy – and have tried some great Vermentinos in Western Australia, namely Pinelli Estate – whose Vermentino is crisp and mouth-watering.

I guess it makes sense for the grape to be popular in the South of France – as it shares a similar climate with Italy and also grows well in vineyards near the sea. The difference with the Rolle in France is the richness. Some wineries, like Château De Chausse, have used oak to enhance the wine and indeed add to its complexity. There are some Rolles which we tried which are unoaked, and a very much ‘drink now’ aperitif style wine and others which have been aged in oak for only a matter of months, which produce a more elegant, food-rich wine. I really enjoy this grape – and its versatility.

Château De Chausse Rosé AOP CÔTES DE PROVENCE

The Château De Chausse Rosé AOP CÔTES DE PROVENCE was delicious. It was all about elegance. It’s pale salmon-like colour was sophisticated, it’s inviting aromas of white-fleshed fruits had such grace and on the palate, the wine was stylishly balanced with a long and delicate finish. Yum! A blend of 65% Cinsault and 35% Grenache. The Cinsault grape often produces light skins and therefore soft tannins, whereas Grenache is spicy and berry-flavoured – so both marry well together.

Château De Chausse Red 2013

Now for the red, Château De Chausse Red 2013 – this wine was velvety smooth and silky. It was a rich blend of 50 % Syrah 50 % Cabernet Sauvignon with powerful notes of liquorice and black cherry. It was so good – and it’s at times like these when you wish you weren’t flying with a budget airline, carrying hand-luggage only!! If only we had the car – this wine would certainly be in the boot! But thankfully, the winery is only down the road from my mum’s apartment – and we are planning to do a self-drive tour of France – so, I know this will be a pit-stop along the way. With its rich subtle tannins, this beautiful wine is drinking amazingly now but will certainly age gracefully for 4-8 years.

I was so impressed with this unassuming vineyard, all the wines were stunning. I can’t wait to go back – they also open their doors for special events and music events – a few which caught my eye over the summer months! I could easily imagine sitting among the vines at this unassuming château supping a glass of rosé, listening to the cool sounds of jazz!

CHÂTEAU DE CHAUSSE

Address: Rue Frédéric Mistral – 83420 La Croix Valmer
Email: contact@chateaudechausse.fr
T: +33 (0)4 94 79 60 57
Visit their website to check opening times.

Visiting Domaine Tropez

From the charming and rustic vineyard, to a swishy modern/contemporary cellar door, we next visited Domaine Tropez.

This vineyard has recently undergone a major refurbishment and has built a state of the art cellar door – and with its trendy feel, I’m guessing from the wines we tried, it’s aimed at the younger generation of wine drinkers.

Ice Tropez

The vineyard is incredibly popular for its cocktail blend of rosé and peach pulp, known as Ice Tropez – and is available in the trendy bars of Bondi, Sydney -which, I’m told, apparently does very well – and why not, hot sunny days mixed with a cool refreshing cocktail of rosé is the perfect combination!

Ice Tropez certainly looks fashionable in its trendy slim-line cans – it’s made of light wine with aromas of white peach and upon taste, is quite deliciously fresh in an almost ‘alcopop’ way.

It has aromas of sweet fruit, fresh wine, deliciously bubbly, with a real fruit punch of white peach – it smells like summer in a can – but with 6.5% alcohol could be dangerous after a few in the hot sunshine!

As it states on Domaine Tropez’s website:

The recipe is perfect to seduce a clientele young and urban, who finds the friendliness of the South and the sweet scents of summer”. It’s definitely a drink perfect for cool beach bars and beach parties.”

There is also an Ice Tropez 0% version, a soft and fruity drink that looks very similar, just no alcohol.

Domaine Tropez - Can Wine - South of France Domaine Tropez - Can Wine

Crazy Tropez

Similar in its trend appeal is the Crazy Tropez – strange name but looking at the crazy design on the bottle, it’s easy to see why. It’s certainly eye-catching and again, aimed at the younger generation in its funky bottle and with its slightly sweeter palate. Although not as elegant as your typical Provence style rosé it does have a rich a complex bouquet which gives the wine a lively profile. It’s a blend of 40% Cinsault, 50% Grenache and 10% Syrah. It is slightly sweeter at first taste but finishes pleasantly dry.

It’s a quaffer-style wine, easy-drinking style – great for a BBQ or a picnic but in my opinion, not a complex food wine.

Domaine Tropez - Crazy Tropez - South of France

White Tropez Rosé

Moving on from the young and trendy wines…we tried White Tropez Rosé – which doesn’t sound quite right – but when you look at the bottle, it’s a beautifully elegant white and silver bottle. Again, it screams sophistication! On the eye, it’s a pale peachy pink with silvery highlights. The wine is a blend of 20% Cinsault, 70% Grenache, and 10% Rolle. The grapes are hand-picked and then pressed in a special process using dry ice. Before the grapes can be pressed, they get into an ice-cooling. Afterwards, the harvest continues to be gently processed at low temperatures. This time-consuming production is ultimately reflected in the taste of the wine.

On the palate there is an abundance of exotic fruit – imagine sun-ripened apricots and rich lychee, it’s velvety and silky with a finish that lingers. It’s a good looking wine – in the bottle and in the glass and it’s wonderfully fresh. It certainly looks the part if taking to any dinner party or picnic – it’s a fabulous accessory!

Domaine Tropez Wine - South of France

Black Tropez Rosé Argent/Silver

And now for the other rosé named BLACK TROPEZ rosé Argent/Silver – but don’t be fooled by the black bottle, this is another rosé with a balance of subtle red fruits, a lovely depth and a soft, lingering finish. There is a bit more intensity on the palate than the White Tropez and that may be because of the blend: 80% Grenache, 10% Rolle and 10% Cinsault. Beautifully presented in the black, slick bottle, again it has style and elegance, making it another perfect fashionable accessory – or indeed a lovely gift!

Domaine Tropez

Address: Campagne Virgile
83580 Gassin 
Telephone: +33 (0) 4 94 56 27 27
Fax: +33 (0) 4 94 56 11 81
Site: www.groupe-tropez.com

Provence is certainly a wonderful place in the South of France – we only had a little taster of what the region has to offer. It was so fantastic to see an amazing amount of rosé, and incredible varieties. Even the local supermarkets stocked such an array of different bottles and styles – it made choosing rather difficult, but exciting.

As I live in the UK at the moment, the market over here seems to be saturated with the sweeter styles of rosé – such as the pink Californian Zinfandels. There is a bit of variety with the Spanish and Italian rosés but a very limited choice of Provence rosés. I have also noticed since returning from France, that I’ve not been able to find a French Provence Rolle. May be I will have to seek this variety out in a more specialised wine merchants rather than the supermarkets.

A wine-tasting tour of France is definitely on our bucket-list on things to do this Summer (and I say Summer, because surely there will be a Summer next time we are in France!).

Here’s a couple of pictures from our last day in Nice:

Nice - South of France - Nicola Heyes Domaine de la Croix Eloge blanc with BBQ sardines - Lunch in Nice - South of France - Nicola Heyes Chateau De Chausse White with BBQ trout - Lunch In Nice

What are your favourites spots to visit in Provence and the South of France? Leave a comment below!

Grab a glass of wine and let me know what you think...

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