by Craig LaBan
Provençal rosé is doing the quick fade, at least when it comes to color. Popularity of the refreshing southern French pink, in fact, has never been stronger, with a 62 percent growth in U.S. imports between 2010 and 2011, according to the French customs agency Ubifrance. “It started with the yacht crowd in the Hamptons,” one distributor told me, “and spread from there.”
The fashion among Provence’s modern rosés, however, has been to make them as pale as possible, and the best, like Château D’Esclans, manage to achieve this without sacrificing fullness of flavor. Just north of St. Tropez, this relatively young estate owned by Sacha Alexis Lichine allows the grenache grapes to ripen deeply, but uses high technology to keeps the grapes chilled, minimize skin contact, and prevent oxygen exposure. With the addition of aromatic vermentino, winemaker Patrick Léon has crafted some high-end rosés with complexity and aging potential (like my fave, the hard-to-find Les Clans, $59) Their entry-level bottle, though, Whispering Angel, is worthy in its own right, with limestone brightness and notes of strawberry and cassis that leap from the glass, with a creamy mouthfeel from extended time on the lees. The color may be pale, but the flavor sure isn’t.
Château D’Esclans Whispering Angel Cotes de Provence Rosé 2011, $18.99, in Pennsylvania (39312).