By Julie Hatfield
Rose wines are becoming ever more popular, and that’s why 18 of the 650 wine producers in Provence, France, came to Boston last week to show off their best roses. They set up a tasting in the South End’s Gaslight Brasserie du Coin.
It was the first annual Provence in the City in Boston, hosted by Vins de Provence, and we were asked to meet some of the producers following their previous stops in Los Angeles and New York, and taste their roses before they all headed back to France.
This is the sixth year that the category of rose is growing faster than red or white. U.S. retail sales of imported rose wines grew by 22 percent in 2010, and exports of rose and red wines from Provence jumped 50 percent. This makes dry rose one of America’s fastest growing wine categories.
Provence is the birthplace of dry rose wine and remains the world’s leading rose regions. Most of the producers we met have been in the business their entire lives, often taking over from their fathers after learning the business from within the family.
Sacha Alexis Lichine, owner of the beautiful Chateau D’Esclans located 30 miles north of St. Tropez, took over the wine business from his father Alexis, one of the 20th Century’s most influential wine figures, at the age of 29. But the business was in Bordeaux, and Sacha was drawn to the Grenache grapes located in the Provence region for their capability of producing delicate bouquets without sweetness; his roses are dry and have no sugar in them. He moved the business to Provence and bought the beautiful chateau, which had lain idle after being the residence of the Earls of Provence and the Minister of War under louis XV, Jacques Auxile Verrion. He worked with Mouton Rothschild to gain experience in winemaking, keeping Burgundian wine-making techniques he had learned. The “Whispering Angel” rose is delicate and fruity, harvested only in the morning, made without barrel fermentation but vinified in stainless steel vats to keep its freshness and all the fruit flavors. Some of the vines are 30 years old, some are 80 years old, all are in soil rich in clay and chalk, and they range from $18 to $80 per bottle, depending on the age of the vines. His roses have a Burgundian hazelnut nose. Monsieur Lichine likes to suggest foods that go with his roses, such as scallops with bacon, or lobster. Among the notable U.S. restaurants that buy his roses are California’s French Laundry.
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