Monday, August 20, 2012

Tasting some Wines of Provence

My husband and I have recently returned from the French Riviera in Provence where we, of course, drank buckets of rose wine in between sight seeing, sun bathing and eating. We also sampled some of the local red and white. Despite all of my wine studies, I really had not had that many wines from Provence. It seems to be a somewhat overlooked region when it comes to the various wine classes and I admittedly had not sought out much of the wine on my own. 
I was on vacation so I didn't spend my time writing up tasting notes but I did try to take pictures of the different bottles that we liked or make a note of what we drank. Originally, I was not intending on writing up this portion of my trip in regards to the wine. We did spend some time in Bandol and I will be writing that region up more in depth in my next posting. My husband is not one to get all geeked up at the thought of pink wine so it was interesting to see how quickly he got on board with all the rose drinking moving rapidly from "It's not that bad" to "This is pretty good" to "I wonder if they have this in Houston." 
Of course, when you are lying on Nikki Beach in St Tropez and eating fresh seafood at La Plage des Jumeaux, the scenery and the food take center stage and I actually forgot to make a note of what we drank on that day though I do remember that it was pink and that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I believe it was Chateau Minuty which was a wine that seemed to make it onto many wine lists.
A majority of the wines that we tried were from the Cotes de Provence AOC which is the largest appellation in Provence covering about 50,000 acres. Due to its size, it is fairly diverse as far as soils and climate as some of the vineyard area is close to the coast and some is further inland. This appellation produces the majority of Provencal wine. White wine is made primarily from Clairette, Rolle and Ugni Blanc. Red and Rose are blends comprised of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Tibouren and Syrah.
. After spending the morning sightseeing around Monaco, we stopped in at little cafe near the Prince's Palace to have some local seafood and this was the rose that our waiter recommended. We were getting hot and we had been walking all morning and we found it to be very refreshing. I later learned from some fellow travelers that the La Chapelle de Sainte Roseline Rose comes from a winery that is located at a former abbey which is surrounded by vineyards. They thought they were doing a winery tour and tasting which was a small part of their excursion but the highlight of the tour turned out to be seeing the exhumed intact body of Saint Roseline on display who died in 1329. Their tour may not have been all they expected but we enjoyed the wine. It is one of only eighteen estates that is classified as Cru Classe.

That evening we had dinner in Cannes at L'Auberge Provencale. We had both the white and the red from Chateau Hermitage St Pons. We had a glass of the white with our spring salad and a bit more of the red with our beef filet. I think we both enjoyed the red more than the white.

During our day at the beach in Cannes, I know we had Chateau Minuty Rose which is also one of the 18 Cru Classe wines. Interestingly, this wine was one that we were served several different times at lunch spots and patio bars in the evening but it is one which I apparently never took a picture of the label. I do know that we always enjoyed it. Another Cote de Provence rose that we enjoyed that I didn't take a picture of was the St. Julien d'Aille Cuvee Praetor.

One evening we had gone to dinner in Mougins, a medieval village just a short ride from Cannes, at La Brasserie de la Mediterranee where we tried one of the local specialties, John Dory fish fillets along with asparagus risotto, and we had both the red and white from Domaine Berthoulet.


After returning home, we opened a bottle of Chateau Miraval from the Coteaux Varois en Provence where the terroir is less variable in respect to the chalky limestone and clay soils found throughout. The variation is in the altitudes but on average it is at about 1,200 feet. It is surrounded by mountains that add a continental influence to the Mediterranean climate. It includes twenty-eight towns in the heart of Provence. The wines from this area are thought to be a bit more powerful with greater structure. I wasn't sure what to expect as this wine is also known as being "from the vineyards of Brad & Angelina". The American culture of celebrity worship is alive and well in Cannes. This bottle had been a gift not something that we chose but we absolutely enjoyed it while we looked through all of our vacation photos. 

Overall, we enjoyed everything that we tried of Provence from the unknown pink by the glass at a pizzeria at lunch to the Cru Classe bottles to our celebrity bottle back home. The rose common denominators- all dry with good acidity, each was very fresh (most was from the 2011 vintage) with flavors of fresh berry (some riper/some more tart) and some had a bit more spice while some had a bit of the herbal garrigue note (more noticeable in the reds).

In retrospect, maybe I should have taken more notes but as it was my first time on the French Riviera, I really was just enjoying indiscriminately soaking up the atmosphere and letting it impress upon every cell of my being so that when I think back upon my time there... I just feel warm sunshine with a pleasant breeze and a glass of cool rose in my hand with the sense of the hills behind me and the Mediterranean in front of me.
Au Revoir Cote d' Azur until we meet again.