We’re so besotted with the charms of posh Provence rosé that sales have more than doubled in the past three years
Star-struck rosé drinkers who lapped up Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s frankly dull 2012 Château Miraval last year are not alone. British drinkers have become so besotted with the pale, dry, delicate, herby, salmon pink charms of posh Provence rosé that sales have more than doubled in the past three years. In 2011 we tucked into just £1.5 million worth annually, yet by the end of 2013 we were drinking almost £3.5 million worth in a year. Look further back, to 2001, and all we could sip was £125,000 worth.
The increase is partly to do with the rosé boom creating a year-round thirst for pink wines — though this has certainly slowed — but I think it’s got more to do with grown-up drinkers deciding that in the summer pale, dry and interesting is in and dark, sweet and clumsy is out. Certainly, I have tasted more posh pink Provence rosé in the past two summers than ever before and 2014 is already going the same way.
What separates the new era of pricey, Provence pinks from the old is their high quality. Wishy-washy rosé from the south of France — albeit with a pretty range of colours from palest ballet-slipper pink, through salmon pink, tawny onion-skin pink and finally to partridge-eye pink — are all very well served cool at Le Club 55 on St Tropez’s Pampelonne beach but lack the persistence and personality to shine in cold old Blighty. Many also wilt when served with traditional British summer fare such as coronation chicken, spicy barbecued ribs and the like. Matching the typical south of France garlic, saffron and Herbes de Provence-perfumed dishes to the region’s rosés is a doddle by comparison.
The shift to top rosé production in Provence took off in 2006 with the former Bordeaux wine proprietor Sacha Lichine’s purchase of Château d’Esclans. Courageously, some would say stupidly, Lichine decided he wanted to make the world’s greatest, no-expense-spared rosé and began by producing just a few barrels of oaked pink wine from 80-year-old hill-top vines. The first few vintages of Whispering Angel, priced around £18-£23, made from bought-in grapes, passed me by —and still do. Ditto Lichine’s top dog, Garrus, at £50-£100 a pop, but the oak-aged and fermented 2010 Chateau d’Esclans, Les Clans, a Côtes de Provence pink that actually improves with age, is a lovely, lively, oaky charmer with delicious herby, zesty grenache and vermentino fruit (£39.25, Jeroboams, 0207 235 1612).
With Lichine’s lead, other properties followed and, as two top rosé tastings proved recently, we are awash with gorgeous, dry, fresh 2013 Provence pinks. Even the Brad Pitt 2013 Château Miraval is a tasty, tangy, herby, multi-layered onion-skin hue’d pink and worth its price tag (Majestic, £17.99; Berry Bros, 0800 280 2440 £19.95).