by Michael Pinkus
When I mention “rosé” to most people it conjures up sweet, pink wines best consumed ice cold … when you say “rosé” to Sacha Alexis Lichine he thinks of something completely different – and he’d like you to share in his vision.
In 1994, Sacha began looking at a property in Provence (France) that had 70-year-old Grenache vines – it is his belief that serious wine can only be made using serious grapes – and Grenache, of that age, are very serious grapes indeed. In 2006, Sacha opened Chateau D’Esclans in Provence with the intension of making the world’s best rosés – and he just might be on to something here.
This afternoon we tasted the four wines from the inaugural (2006) vintage of these extremely pale pink wines – and when I say pale pink I am not kidding. Imagine putting a drop or two of red wine into a glass of white, think orangey-pink; it’s amazing that the colour of these wines can defy proper description … let’s see what I can do about taste and smell.
First off, the range in price might just blow your mind, from $20 to $99 USD. Now, I hear you saying with some degree of incredulity, “For a rosé?” But trust me, once you’ve tasted them you’d know why. Of the four, three sparked my interest: Whispering Angel ($19 USD) made from Grenache, Vermintino (Rolle), with dashes of Cinseault and Syrah – this is a pool side pleaser, apples and raspberries on the nose with citrus, a touch of apple and great acidity in the mouth – light, refreshing and a lingering finish that hangs out long after the liquid is swallowed.Les Clans ($70 USD) – strawberry juice, sour-spiced apples with some spicy lavender on the nose; tastes were spicy, herby, sour apple with big acidity. Finally, Garrus ($99 USD), here’s the wine serious wine drinkers would fall over themselves for. Blind, there would be no way to tell this rosé wine from a red. Nose: spices, herbs, cinnamon and vanilla. Taste: minerality abounds with spicy-tannins and cinnamon. I loved the smells, especially the strong spiced-vanilla and in the mouth it then lingered with cinnamon, herbs and spice … this is a rosé to lie down another 3-4 years. Extraordinary. Sacha explained that the secret is to keep the berries nice and cool through the entire process to preserve the freshness and fruit quality, this makes for a long fermentation process, but the results are outstanding.