Those who know my predilection for the South of France will also remember that I’m a huge fan of Provengal rose. Although these are generally unassuming wines meant for casual quaffing, there are a small number of them that completely transcend the ordinary. Some of these are from Chateau d’Esclans, a splendid 700-acre property just north of St. Tropez, in the Cotes de Provence AOC.
The estate is owned by Sacha Lichine, son of legendary wine writer and vintner Alexis Lichine. Sacha bought d’Esclans in 2006, a few years after he sold his family’s Château Prieuré-Lichine in Bordeaux. Sacha refurbished the 19th-century manor house, began replanting the vineyards and set out to create the world’s most expensive rosé, using the estate’s Grenache, along with some Rolle (Vermentino) and Syrah.
Patrick Léon, formerly of Mouton-Rothschild, was hired as winemaker, and Lichine provided him with a cellar full of Burgundy barrels to be used for the extended fermentations of free-run juice that Leon favors.
The single-vineyard release called Garrus did indeed turn out to be the world’s priciest rose, instantly achieving cult status among the wealthy elite of the French Riviera. Here are my notes on Garrus and the other releases from a project that has turned out to be a triumph for Sacha Lichine—one that would have made his father proud.
Chateau d’Esclans 2007 Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence
($21) Deep pink color, silky texture; complex, bright and floral with racy acidity and lovely structure.
Chateau d’Esclans 2007 Esclans, Côtes de Provence ($37)
Light salmon color; smooth and silky with crisp strawberry fruit and subtle acidity; lovely, graceful and balanced with lengthy flavors.
Chateau d’Esclans 2007 Les Clans, Côtes de Provence ($75)
Light salmon color; smooth and lush with dry but rich flavors of raspberry and spice with a fresh, juicy underpinning; intense but elegant with length, balance and skillful finesse.
Chateau d’Esclans 2007 Garrus, Côtes de Provence ($105)
Light salmon color; smooth and opulent with lovely raspberry fruit and notes of fraises des bois; silky, long and complex while always pure, elegant and focused. IN