Monday, November 10, 2014

Wines of Provence Luncheon

I was in Austin last Monday for a Wines of Provence luncheon with a presentation by Craig Collins, MS, at Chef Andrew Curren’s and his West Sixth Street casual French restaurant, Arro. As a lover of Rosé, particularly the dry, mineral-laced style of this region, I was excited to attend.

We discussed the region’s focus on Rosé including its long history of wine making and the making of this particular style of wine. About 88% of the region’s production is Rosé although they also make some rich reds and interesting whites.  In most other areas, Rosé is often made as an afterthought but here, every vineyard decision is based on making the best pink wine possible. 

The wines are typically blends from red grapes like Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre but may also include a few others. The hot dry climate helps keep pests and disease at bay so very little intervention is needed in the vineyard. They harvest at night to maintain the acidity. The wines are always dry; the residual sugar is under 3.5%. They generally keep the juice in contact with the skins for anywhere from 4-12 hours. Their goal is to gain the fruit aromas and flavors without gaining a lot of color or tannins, the result is an elegant and fresh food-friendly wine.

Our warm climate in Houston makes it the perfect place to enjoy these lightly chilled wines year round. The wines are always good with light American favorites like salads and grilled fish or chicken. The versatile food pairing ability also makes it a great choice with the diverse cuisine available to us here; it works well with seafood, Mexican, Asian and Indian dishes, as well as that most American of all meals, Thanksgiving. The wines also pair perfectly with traditional Provencal favorites like the ones prepared by Chef Andrew Curren that we enjoyed at the luncheon and with most vegetarian fare.

Menu and tasting notes:

Pissaladiere with onion, anchovy and olive 

Seared shrimp with clams, mussels and sorrel pistou 
  • 2013 Domaine de Sangliere “Cuvee Speciale” Rosé Côtes de Provence - A blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Cinsault grown in schist and clay. Ripe, sweet red berry character, light floral notes, touch of salinity; dry, refreshing, round, easy drinking. I enjoyed this with both courses. SRP $16 
  • 2013 Maisan Saint Aix Rosé Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence -A blend of 50 % Grenache with Cinsault, Syrah, and Counoise grown in limestone gravel with clay. Lighter notes of strawberry and grapefruit; dry, softer, clean citrus and mineral finish. SRP $19 
  • 2013 Maitres Vignerons de la Vidaubanaise “Le Provencal” Rosé Inland Valley- A blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Cinsault and 10% Syrah grown in light sandy soils on terraced limestone hillsides. Fresh fruit, candied notes; dry, round, light saline-mineral finish. SRP $15

Lamb brochette with grilled sirloin and white beans with shaved Brussels sprouts. 
Craig chose these two Rosés for this course because he likes the addition of Mourvedre with heavier meat dishes. 
  • 2013 Domaine Houchart “Sainte Victoire” Rosé Côtes de Provence- A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsault grown in red soil with limestone fragments from mountains, this was fantastic with the lamb.  Lighter aromas of fresh peach and strawberry with potting soil; dry, fresh, round, light mineral finish SRP $19 
  • 2013 Chateau Roubine “Cuvee Classique” Rosé Côtes de Provence Cru Classé- A blend primarily of Cinsault, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon with a small percentage of other local grapes, including Mourvedre, all grown in chalky clay soil. The more complex blend gives more complex flavors, blackberry and plum with light lavender notes and fresh earth; dry, crisp, long mineral finish. This was my favorite in this flight, it was also excellent with the lamb. SRP $25 
  • 2007 Chateau Vignelaure Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence- Our only non-pink for the day, this red wine was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grown in limestone and clay. This dark, intense wine had a blackberry, black pepper and dark chocolate character. Dry, rich with ripe tannins and a long finish, it was also perfect with the lamb. SRP $30

Goat cheese tart with dried figs, pistachios, honey and lemon zest. Craig explained the following three all come from sandier terroir which often helps to create a more aromatic wine that works well for cheese courses.
  • 2013 Hect and Bannier Rosé Côtes de Provence- This was a top pick for me when looking at the quality for the price. This was a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grown in limestone and clay. Rustic red fruit aromas and flavors with lavender and licorice; dry, crisp, very fresh, long mineral finish. SRP $19 
  • 2013 Chateau Paradis Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence- A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Citrus blossoms, pear and grapefruit with a dry, round, fruity finish. SRP $19   
  • 2013 Chateau Hermitage de Saint Martin Ikon Rosé Côtes de Provence - A blend of Grenache and Cinsault grown in a mixture of limestone and clay. Light, fresh aromas and flavors of mixed berries and citrus blossoms; dry, crisp, elegant, long mineral finish. SRP $35


All the wines were refreshing on their own and they all paired well with the different menu items; all are recommended. If you are visiting Austin, Arro is well worth a visit as well.