THE VARIED COLORS OF PROVENCE
by JOE CZERWINSKI
Cha?teau d’Esclans 2006 Les Clans (Co?tes de Provence); $80.
A distinctive style of rose?, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Chardonnay in its barrel-fer- mented and lees-stirred character. Plump strawberry and raspberry fruit is marked by vanilla, smoke and spice on the palate. Imported by Shaw-Ross.
CÔTES DE PROVENCE
By far the largest appellation in Provence and the most diverse, this region extends from the outskirts of Marseille in the west all the way to Fréjus-St-Raphaël in the east, and from the shore of the Mediterranean well up into the hills. Two distinct subregions are recognized and may appear on labels: Sainte Victoire (just south of the mountain of the same name) and Fréjus. The zone around Fréjus is distinguished by its volcanic soils, whereas most of the rest of Provence is, as the French say, argillocalcaire (clay and limestone).
Rosé accounts for approximately 80 percent of the appellation’s pro- duction, with the remainder split between red and white. “The Côtes de Provence has some fantastic terroir; it has great potential,” says Sacha Lichine, the son of American importer and chateau-owner Alexis Lichine. Lichine has staked his inheritance on it, purchasing the vast Château d’Esclans with the express goal of making great rosé.
“I was looking for an area, an appellation where I could make a differ- ence,” explains Lichine. “Provence needed to have a bit of seriousness to it, not just a rosé to drink on the beach with ice in the glass.” Patrick Léon—recently retired from Château Mouton-Rothschild—is a wine- making consultant, and has brought some new (for the region) ideas to the winemaking: picking extremely ripe, cooling the grapes with dry ice in the vineyards, three sorting tables, barrel fermentation and battonage during maturation. “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” exults Lichine, and there’s no doubt the wines are well made, although stylistically worlds apart from the rest of the appellation’s wines.