THE CREW REPORT
What says summer on the French Riviera better than a beautiful and delicious glass of chilled rosé? As oenologist Louise Sydbeck of Riviera Yacht Support explains, rosé is becoming ever more sophisticated – and expensive enough to raise a few eyebrows.
A votre santé!
Have you ever heard of Domaine Ott? Well if you are in thé yachting industry you are bound
to have heard about it. For quite a while now, Domaine Ott has been by far thé favoured rosé of thé yachting scène, it is for some reason the only rosé that is considered “respectable” by yacht owners and charter guests. It stands for prestige and quality and has been one of the most expensive rosé wines around, until last year… In 2007 a newtype of rosé wine hit the market; a luxury cuvée made as a Grand Cru Burgundy wine with the expertise of thé former oenologist of Château Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux. The resuit is the world’s most expensive rosé and for sure thé best rosé I have ever tasted. This is the brain-child of Sacha Lichine, former owner of Château Prieuré-Lichine in Margaux. He had for a long time been looking for a property in Provence to produce world-class rosés when he one day drove into the Château d’Esclans close to La Motte in the Var. He quickly realised this was the place for it and after analysing the soils, which proved to be of great quality, it was a done deal. But how does one go about producing a rosé greater than any other on the planet? Well, it certainly helps to start out with a stunning estate of 267 ha (47 ha of vines) on great terroir and a large percentage of old vines (old vines produce more concentrated wine than young ones). The exposure is south/south-west and the grape varieties growing here are Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle, Mourvedre and Syrah. But so far this is nothing out of the ordinary; a lot of producers in the area have these same means.
Not even the fact that Sacha Lichine has invested heavily in this project, both in terms of vineyard management and ultra-modem equipment in the cellar, is so special – it has
been done elsewhere thousands of times. What really makes a différence, though, is the philosophy behind the project, the belief that it is truly possible to make a grand rosé wine, deep, complex and elegant. Normally vineyards in Provence are planted with around 3-4,000 vines per hectare, but at Château d’Esclans the new plantings are made with a density ot 6,000 vines per hectare. This is also a factor that increases concentration and quality of thé wine, and of course price… and grapes are hand-harvested in small 10-kg plastic boxes; this is to avoid the grapes being crushed and aromatic fruit compounds evaporating. As we ail know, it is very hot at harvest time (August/September) in this part of the world and heat is not good if your focus is to retain freshness and fruit flavours in the wine. This is why the grapes are only being harvested in the morning when they are still fairly cool from the night. Once in the cellar the grapes are sorted at three different sorting tables; at the last one there are 12 people sorting grape by grape to make sure that only the best grapes go into the wine. The grapes are then lightly crunched before entering the press, where the juice stays in contact with the skins for around 6-7 hours (this is what makes the wine pink). If one wishes to make a darker rosé, the time on the skins is simply extended. Then we come to a very interesting part of the vinification, the fermentation. Normally it is done in stainless-steel vats or cement vats for rosé, but at Château d’Esclans it is made in 500 L french new oak barrels under temperature control. Since the temperature is very low the fermentation takes several months, and during this time the yeast sediments that are created, are stirred in the barrel to give richness and mouth feelto the wine. This is a technique used widely in Burgundy but, as far as I know, never heard of for rosé production. All the above-mentioned methods and ideas contribute to the quality of the wines of Château d’Esclans and certainly to the price. Their top wine is called “Garrus” and is made of the grape varieties Grenache and Rolle and the 2006 sells for €72.00! ! Or I should say sold, because it is all gone. When visiting the estate I could only taste the 2007, which was still in barrels and being bottled as I write. Luckily they also offer other cuvées (blends) at a more public price; “Les Clans”, also barrel fermented and the “little sister” to “Garrus”. It is made of Grenache, Rolle and Syrah and sells for €46.00. Both these two wines offer a new experience in the rosé wine context. Fruit concentration, depth, complexity and length is far greater than any other rosé I have tasted and they do benefit from some bottle age. Normally when you buy a bottle of rosé you take the youngest vintage available, but for these two some time is needed for them to show at their best. Château d’Esclans and Whispering Angel are the two other wines produced at the estate, and are more traditional and fruit driven in style. A bit lighter in body and less complex but filled with clean, pure fruit and freshness and at an almost normal price – €20.00 and €14.00. And talking about price; can it really be worth it, to pay €72.00 a bottle for a rosé, no matter how fantastic it is? As long there are top Burgundies, Barolos or Bordeaux to be had for that price I know where my money goes. But then again, with unlimited means…who knows what one would drink. So, rich man’s rosé or mad man’s rosé? In any which way it is the best one around.
Article supplied by Louise Sydbeck, Riviera Yacht Support