As the 2017 Rose selection goes into the sunset, and as the 2018’s get ready to hit our shores in the USA, it’s time to reflect back on some of the best Roses of the year. This is never an easy task. There are so many to amazing Rose wines to choose from every year. So hopefully, this will help set the stage for what to look for from the 2018’s as they start to arrive this month and next, while also providing a guide for what may be some bargains as some 17s that remain on shelves are worth buying up.
Wines of Friends
To avoid the spectre of being partial, I have to admit I do have friends who make killer rose wines. If I just drank their roses all year, I’d still be sharing and consuming some of the best.
2017 Chene Bleu Rose-This is a wine made high up in the Vaucluse region of the Rhone valley. It’s a blend of Grenache Noir (60%), Syrah (18%), Rolle (12%), Cinsault (5%) and Mourvedre (5%). The Rolle and Cinsault give off that silky smoothness while the Mourvedre provides a nice blackberry finish. The upfront strawberry and blueberry fruit flavors comes from the Grenache and Syrah. It’s a powerhouse, food craving rose, that’s also delightful with cheese and charcuterie.
2017 Margerum Riviera Rose- (and Reserve) Doug Margerum has been cranking out two fantastic Rose wines for the past 7 years in a row. His almost all Grenache based Rose (even offered in cans) is a surefire poolside sipper, that makes you think you’re in St. Tropez. It’s got that ripe strawberry flavor. The strawberry flavor dominates, but it’s the cool, crisp body that makes this wine so enjoyable. The Reserve, like the regular bottling, has the same five grapes in it that the M5 has (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cournoise, Cinsault). The difference is the time it sees in the barrel and the added body. This is more of a food wine that screams for spot prawns, bbq or lobster pasta.
2017 Kaena Grenache Rose-Year after year Mikael Sigouin turns out a Rose that is the most Tavel like of all of Santa Barbara’s producers. While at times it conjures up a reminder of it being Provencale like, harkening thoughts of Pradeaux, Bastide Blanche or Vannieres, the 17 was more like a Domaine de la Mordoree in color and style than their Bandol siblings. A blend of two different Grenache vineyard, some Syrah for color and Grenache Blanc for some additional body, the salmon-colored gem is one that has your taste buds tingling and your palate
2017 Villa Creek Paso Robles Rose-Cris Cherry is perhaps one of the undiscovered winemaking heroes in California. His blend of 70% Grenache / 20% Carignan / 10% Mourvedre is more like drinking a rose from the Languedoc or Roussillon, or even Spain than from the Provence, Rhone or Bandol regions. A bit more red than salmon pink in color. A bit more spice from the Carignan and Mourvedre. A long, rich, ripe taste and a very lingering strawberry finish. The exciting thing about the Villa Creek Rose is how light on the palate it is at the start, and how full on the mouth it is on the finish.
2017 Domaine d’Aupilhac Rose- I first tasted the Montpeyroux Rose at the winery just after it had been bottled and before it was released. While most Roses are made for sipping by the pool, Sylvain Fadat’s is more of a food wine than most. Deeper pink color, with the scent and flavor of the best Bandols. Think Pradeaux, Bastide Blanche, Gros Nore, La Tour du Bon, and you’ll see what Fadat is up to with his blend of Mourvèdre 50 %, Cinsault 30 %, and Syrah 10 %.
2017 Domaine du Mourchon Loubie Rose- made in the medieval village of Seguret, and called a Cotes du Rhone Village wine, the Mourchon Rose is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. It’s one of my go-to, almost every day kind of Rose as it’s got everything you want when you can’t decide between Tavel, Bandol or Provence. The reason is simple. The Mourchon has it all. Great color. An appealing bouquet. Loads of fruit on the palate, and a long, elegant, crisp finish of blueberries and strawberries.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the fine all Mourvedre Rose 2017 from Tercero, made by the one and only Larry Schaffer,. The Tercero has a very Bandol feel to it, with loads of citrus and fresh grapefruit on the attack. There's also the very pleasing 2017 Habit Rose by Jeff Fischer. It's got a dark Grenache color, and drinks like a red wine more than a Rose. Yummy.
The (Un)Usual Suspects
Rose wines that I tend to buy in quantity seem to come from three regions outside of the USA. While I tend to have the occasional Rosado or Rosato from Spain and Italy, and the rare, but always enjoyable pink Vinho Verde from Portugal. But when it comes to French Rose, not all of them are from the usual suspects, and not all from the usual places.
These are not always the ones that everyone looks for first, nor always the ones you expect to find the most joy from. And, sadly, these are not the Rose wines that you can find everywhere. You need to hunt around to find them, and when you do, it’s all about drinking them when the time is right.
2017 Domaine de Marquiliani Vin de Corse “Rosé de Pauline” is one of two Marquiliani rose wine. While the Vin de Corse is nice and tasty, the “Rosé de Pauline” is almost translucent in color and is so light you may mistake it for white wine. A blend of three grapes, 50% Sciaccarellu, 40% Syrah and 10% Vermentino that avoids any malolactic fermentation, this is one of the freshest, juiciest and tasty Roses around.
2017 Yves Leccia Patrimonio Rose-if the Marquiliani is the light, then the Leccia is the dark counterpart. Not so much in color, but in power and how it hits you. This is a Corsican tour de force. Orange peel, grapefruit, overripe raspberries and strawberries that is best when served ice cold, you want to not stop drinking this charmer.
2017 Chateau Pradeaux Cotes du Provence Rose- this is the second rose from one of Bandol’s top producers. Beyond it being one of the best bargains around, it has the kind of fresh, forward flavor of black raspberry and blackberry from the blend of Cinsault and Mourvedre with some Grenache and Carignan too. It has a stunning floral nose while being a crisp and dry Rose that offers excellent value not usually found at the price point of under $14.00 for a French rose.
If there was a region in France that defines textbook Rose, it’s not Provence or Bandol or even the Loire Valley. It’s Tavel. Year after year the most food-friendly Rose wines I enjoy come from Tavel. And of late four producers really nail it.
2017 Alain Jaume Tavel Les Crustace- Jaume is one of these rising stars from visits to the Rhone in the ’90s and 00’s years ago and earmarked for future success. Their Chateauneuf du Pape wines are off the hook great, and their Cotes du Rhone reds for many years were go to’s while Guigal returned to form. The Les Crustace is one of those unexpected treasures where enjoyment in the glass is found all the time. Consistently reliable, the rose petal and strawberry aromas are fueled by the blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. Usually found for under $17.00, in the age where French Rose from Tavel is over $20.00 this is the out-performer of the bunch.
2017 Prieure de Montezargues- While La Mordoree and Trinquevedel garner more attention, I don’t know of another Tavel producer who over the past 5 years has given me the kind of enjoyment that Montezargues always seems to do. If Rose were made in Chateauneuf du Pape, the Montezargues would be that wine. A blend of 55% Grenache both red and white, 30% Cinsault, 13% Clairette, and 2% of various grape varieties including Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Bourboulenc, the wine needs a bit of time in the bottle but when you open one, you find that this is a serious food wine that has the body, acidity, and crispness to stand up to the most intense Asian BBQ. Lots of red fruits, berries, peach, and spice, enjoy this wine now or over the next few years.
2017 Château de Trinquevedel-this is a rose I’ve been drinking for as long as I can remember. It was a regular staple in my house for years, and one of the most consistently enjoyable Rose with BBQ ribs, roasted red peppers with anchovies, Pacific Rim cuisine and even with BBQ tri-tip. It’s a blend of 45% Grenache, 24% Cinsault, 15% Clairette, 10% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah and is so fruit forward, yet so crisp, you just don’t realize how good it is until it’s all gone.
The Domaine de la Mordoree in Lirac makes four rose wines, down from five in the past. One is their Cotes du Rhone which I tend to skip in favor of their other three. The two higher-end wines are always challenging each other year after year for which one is best, while their Vin de France, non-AOC Rose tends to provide the most pleasure because it is so different.
2017 Domaine de la Mordoree La Reine des Bois is a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Clairette, 10% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, 5% Bourboulenc is a blockbuster. She’s the “queen of the woods” and is royalty in the glass. It’s a big Rose, one that is not your poolside sipper but instead is the Rose you pull out to impress a guest who usually goes for a rose sparkler. It’s big, head turning, spicy, fruity and all the while a replacement for red or white wines when the weather heats up or when the food does.
2017 Domaine de la Mordoree La Dame Rousse Rose consists of 60% Grenache, 10% Cinsault, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 5% Clairette, 5% Bourboulenc is a fraternal twin to the Le Reine des Bois, but it’s the addition of Mourvedre that gives it a bit of white and black pepper kick and a deeper fruit taste. While dry and crisp, the Mourvedre makes it a bit riper in flavor to the Rousse adding to its exceptional ability to pair with spicy Asian dishes or rich lobster, shrimp, and clam dishes.
2017 Domaine de la Mordoree La Remise is the non-AOC blend of 35% Marselan, 35% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 15% Grenache and is in the same class as the Jaume Les Crustace as far as value. This is a very different Rose though, as the Marselan and Merlot makes it more fruity, bigger boned and much darker and deeper in color. While the color is light pink, the depth of fruit and richness in the body makes this ideal for thin crust pizza and grilled meats.
Best of Bandol
2017 Chateau Pradeaux- there are Roses, and there are Rose wines. While a few from other parts of France make the cut into the latter category, at the top of the list is the Rose from Pradeaux as the Pradeaux Bandol Rose is a food wine and a rose. It only has two grapes in the blend. Cinsault and Mourvedre but what power there is in those two grapes. Big, bold, spicy, racy. This is the blockbuster, Rose. It’s not a timid wine, nor is it one you just sit back and sip.
2017 Bastide Blanche-Made from Mourvèdre, some Clairette with just about the same amount of Cinsault and Grenache, the limestone soil based pink wine has melon and peach notes that balance out a very ripe berry and cherry wine. Lots of flavor, and lots of depth, like the Pradeaux the Bastide Blanche is as at home with food as any Rose around.
2017 Château Vannières-One of the hidden gems of Bandol that deserves more attention and acclaim are the wines of Vannieres. The rose is one that every time I visit the region I have sought out and then try to locate it in the USA. It’s one of those magical wines that stands out when you put it in a lineup and keep coming back to. It’s also pure and crystalline in style. Salmon colored, rose petal bouquet, bright blackberry and strawberry fruit the blend of 30% Grenache 30% Cinsault 40% Mourvedre is one of those wines that just keeps on coming at you, and while not full throttle, it’s the kind of wine that before you know it, the whole bottle has been consumed.
2017 Domaine de la Tour du Bon- this is one of those producers you wish you had more of their wine in your collection, and yet at the same time know you won’t keep your hands off of them for long. That’s always been the case with the la Tour du Bon reds for me, and when it comes to the Rose, I just never keep them around as long as the Tempiers or Pradeauxs. Much like the Vannieres, I find the la Tour du Bon as the most approachable, delightful, light on the palate and rich on the taste Rose wines made in Bandol. A blend of Mourvèdre 36%; Grenache 25%; Cinsault 32% and Clairette 7%, the light oriental spice aroma, backed by orange peel, blackberry and raspberry fruit and some black plum flavors makes this another ideal food wine from Bandol.
2017 Domaine Tempier- I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Tempier. It’s perhaps the most age-worthy of the Bandol Roses as it comes from some of the oldest vineyards in the appellation. Lighter in color than the Bastide Blanche and Pradeaux, it has that very light color, but lots of body. It’s refreshing at the same time as mouth filling. It’s juicy and filling, crisp and vibrant all at the same time.
Picks of Provence
2017 Chateau de Roquefort Corail Rose-longtime friend in Paris, Tim Johnston of Juveniles fame turned me onto the Roquefort rose back in the 2012 vintage. It was a monumental wine as the winery had lost its entire crop but many of the neighboring wines from Provence pitched in with grapes and the year wasn’t lost. The 2012 was a wine never to be duplicated, but since then I have sought out the Chateau de Roquefort Corail Rose like a hunter seeks its prey. Each year the wine changes in the percentages of the grapes in the final blend, which is one of its most charming characteristics. The 17 was a perfect blend of Syrah 35%, Grenache 27%, Carignan 24%, Cinsault 8%, Clairette 6% giving off citrus notes and spicy flavors of white fruit, Crenshaw melon, plums, cherries, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, black currant and more. It’s also one of the best buys under $15.00 around.
2017 Château Sainte Roseline Lampe de Meduse-served in a very stylish “lamp” bottle there are a few different Sainte Roseline wines, but it’s the Cru Classe Lampe de Meduse which has stolen the breath away of many a lady I know. For some reason the very pale colored, light violet and rose petal pink wine has something going on that makes it so appealing to so many. Having now gone through at least a half case of each of their rose wines the past few years since the 2015 vintage) I am wholly convinced that the Sainte Roseline is one of the hidden stars of Provence.
2017 Chateau Sainte Roseline Cotes de Provence Perle de Roseline-as much as the Lampe is a head turner, and a tremendous value for money pick in the Rose draft, the real winner is the Perle de Roseline, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Carignan. Different in style, complexity, aromas, and taste, this is one wine that like the Marquiliani is an outlier as the combination of Cabernet and Syrah with the Carignan is so different but the way it’s vinified makes it so light and austere while being fulfilling and tasty.
2017 Commanderie de Peyrassol Chateau Peyrassol makes a few Rose wines including its stunning and attention-grabbing entry level blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Grenache named Commanderie that is a great way to experience Provence in a bottle. But it’s the Chateau Peyrassol Rose that is the winner of the three roses produced in the hills of Provence. Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Ugni Blanc, and Rolle all come from the oldest vineyards on the property, and it’s the two white grapes, the Ugni Blanc and Rolle that give this wine the mouthfeel, fragrances, and structure that’s needed.