Provence and beyond: how 'pale pink' became a brand in itself
When we think of wine branding in France, we naturally think of Champagne. But head south to the Mediterranean coast and you’ll find a region developing intriguing similarities.
Pale pink rosé is as vogue in Southern France as it ever has been – but interest in this style has seeped out of this corner of France and its summertime favouritism, and into the rest of the world.
The south of France has had unique success in creating rosé brands in a relatively short space of time. The importance of branding in Provence is comparable to that in Champagne, with some of the most successful rosé brands not even owning their own vineyards.
From Chateau D’Esclans to Chateau Miraval, this success has been spearheaded by celebrity endorsement and the ideal of a chic summer in the French Riviera. Sacha Lichine, owner of Chateau D’Esclans and the critically acclaimed Whispering Angel, is credited with having “brought the St Tropez rosé lifestyle to the world”. And now St Tropez, the epitome of luxury and glamour, is also synonymous with pale pink rosé.
Bibendum’s Provence-born supplier manager for France, Emilie Blanc, comments, “We are seeing a distinct premiumisation of the category with some great-quality examples out there. The popularity of pale rosé is not only linked to the fact that the product is very easy drinking and has an attractive colour, but it is also due to the idea that we are exporting the lifestyle that comes with it to the UK. The consumer is drinking the whole experience as well as a delicious, great-quality wine – you can picture yourself, glass in hand, lying around the swimming pool in the south of France.”
And it’s not just Provence that’s seeing success from pale pinks, or even just France. The hashtag #roséallday is testament to the world’s love of pale pink, an Instagram gallery awash with shades of salmon that has gained over 30,000 new images in the last six months alone. Provence has opened up winemaking styles in other regions and countries, owning its very own brand of rosé, ‘Provence-style’, that others want to emulate. Emilie says, “We’ve seen a change in the rosé winemaking process in a lot of regions that were originally making deep-coloured rosé through maceration, such as Rioja.”
So what defines this ‘Provence-style’ brand? Aside from the obvious pale colour, there’s a complex palate of red fruits, citrus, and herbes de Provence, plus a distinct minerality in the best examples. We’ve picked out six of our favourites from Provence and beyond.
Pick of the pales
Chateau La Coste Chateau Rosé
Twenty kilometres north of Aix-en-Provence, Chateau La Coste is a vast domaine of 200ha, of which 123 are devoted to the production of organically-cultivated vines. The chateau also focuses on biodynamic principles, protecting the terroir and creating wines with real provenance. This rosé is characterised by finesse, freshness and minerality. White fruits dominate the palate alongside floral notes and hints of red fuits.
Chateau D'Esclans Garrus Rosé
Perhaps one of Provence’s most well-known wineries, the house of Chateau D’Esclans sits proudly on elevated land near the Gorges de Pennafort, 25km northwest of the Mediterranean coast. Quality is key here, and winemaker Patrick Leon has made wine for some of the most prestigious names in the industry, including Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Opus One. Produced from 8-year-old Grenache vines, the Garrus Rosé has amazing floral and mineral aromas. It has a lovely creamy texture, with strawberry, apple and lemon flavours, and a touch of lemon cream on the finish.
Domaine Pastoure is based in the town of Flassans-Sur-Issole towards the south of Provence. Surrounded by hills and the cooling influences of the River Issole, alongside limestone soils, this area lends itself well to the freshest styles of rosé. A classic blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, this bright wine is floral and fruity on the nose, with cherry on the palate and a long finish.
Rest of France
Minervois La Liviniere
Purchased by British ex-pat Bertie Eden in 1997, the 50ha domaine of Chateau Maris is 100% organic and biodynamic, and wines are produced in a self-cooling hemp winery. Pure and fresh, this rosé is a delicate yet complex wine with flavours of apricots, eucalyptus and raspberry brambles. Made from 100% Grenache, the palate has a fresh acidity with white pepper, spice and a distinct minerality.
The Agly Valley, with its black shale and layered schist soil in the shadow of ruined Cathar castles, is one of Europe’s most exciting terroirs. Eliane and Jean-Marc Lafage specialise in growing old vines that impart pronounced minerality and concentration to their wines. This rosé is a blend of Mourvedre and a small amount of Grenache Gris. Grown on terraced plots along the Roussillon coast and aged in concrete, it is decidedly Provencal in style. It is juicy, with pure strawberry, citrus and orange peel flavours. The wine has a distinct minerality, and a super fresh finish.
Alphonse Mellot La Moussiere
The Mellot family started making wine over 500 years ago, and the rich family history includes a stint as wine advisers to none other than Louis XIV. In 1970, Alphonse Mellot took the control of the estate and started focusing on quality rather than quantity. Now the 47ha estate has vineyards across the upper Loire Valley, farmed organically and biodynamically. This rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir from the La Moussiere vineyard. An elegant, fresh and structured wine, with aromas of red berries and spicy hints, it is mellow and full bodied. A great wine to enjoy both as an aperitif or throughout a meal.