Rosé is rocking the Languedoc

 

It’s no great secret that I adore rosé wines in all their many incarnations, so when I was asked if I’d like to participate in this year’s #Languedoc Day by reflecting on a few samples, it only took a moment for me to accept.

Rosé has become somewhat synonymous with the region of Provence and understandably so – they have been producing softly hued pink wines for well over 2000 years.  However their neighbor, the Languedoc, is making delicious and overt advances on their territory and the wine-loving public, are the beneficiaries.

Located in the south-western part of France, the Languedoc is the largest wine-producing region in the country. Bordered by the Mediterranean and stretching from the Rhône Valley in the north-east to the Roussillon region in the south, it’s wild, windy, mountainous terrain hosts a wide range of soil types and climates, equating to a patchwork of distinctive terroirs.

Most of the output is red, with a focus on Carignan, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Mourvèdre but Rosé production is on the rise, both in numbers and in quality.

 

chateau_de_lascaux_-_garrigue_rose_-_site_web2016 Château Lascaux ‘Garrigue’ Rosé, AOC Languedoc  (SRP $17.00)

The region of Pic St, Loup is found north of the city of Montpellier, sheltered from the, often ferocious, Tramontane and Mistral winds by the Cévennes mountains.  The 45 acres of organic vineyards belonging to Château Lascaux, are located in the northerly reaches of the AOC, nestled between pine forests and swaths of wild ‘garrigue’ – the scrubby resinous herbs that flourish on the inhospitable limestone soils.

The Chateau’s name, Lascaux, is derived from a type of limestone found on the property which has been in the Cavalier family for thirteen generations.

Lascaux 2

photo courtesy Château Lascaux

A blend of 40% Cinsault and 30% each Syrah and Grenache, the wine has an appealing pale melon hue, but with the first sniff, it’s all red fruits – strawberry, red currant and mellow cherry.  Juicy melon, peach, and raspberry round out the palate with wafts of aromatic thyme and bay leaf. ‘Garrigue’ is a fitting name.

 

 

2016 Domaine de Fontsainte ‘Gris de Gris’ Rose, AOC Corbières (SRP $14.95)

Corbières is the largest appellation in the Languedoc and the fourth largest in France. Named after the rugged limestone hills that overlook the ancient terrain (rock specimens over 500 million years old have been found), this is a dynamic and diverse region.

Fontsaintemap_000

image courtesy of http://www.fontsainte.com

On the road from Narbonne to Carcassonne, near the town of Boutenac, you’ll find the vineyards of Domaine de Fontsainte.  This sunny area, now known as the ‘Golden Crescent’, was highly favored by the Romans and it’s not unusual for vineyard workers to come across ancient coins and other artifacts. The original Domaine evolved around a thermal spring which was, in the 12th century, named after a saint – hence the name Fontsainte or Saint’s Fount.  The vines, which are sustainably grown on soils of silica, clay, and limestone, are protected from the winds by a vast, 500 ha/1,235 acre pine forest that, according to the proprietor Bruno Laboucari, contribute to the special character of the wines:

“Early morning, in the summer, there is an aroma in the humid air, warming the vineyard, of pine resin and pollen, citrus in flower, rosemary, thyme, spicy garriuge heath and woodland undergrowth. That’s the indescribable flavor that makes our wines special.”

 

 

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Garrigue refers to the many wild, resinous herbs (thyme, rosemary, bay, fennel and more) that grow on limesone.

 

Another discerning factor is the dominant grape variety used in the ‘Gris de Gris’ – Grenache Gris, which makes up 50% of the blend A cousin to Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc, the less familiar ‘Gris’ or ‘grey’ shares the same DNA. It produces wines with distinctive minerality and flavors of honey, almonds, and stone fruits

The blend is rounded out with 20% each Grenache Noir and Carignan plus 5% of both Cinsault and Mourvèdre.

gris-de-gris-2009

photo courtesy www,fontsainte.com

This rosé is produced using a technique known as ‘saignée’ in which the grapes are crushed and left to macerate for anywhere from 6 to 24 hours.  Once the desired color is achieved, they ‘bleed’ (the English definition of ‘saignée) or remove some of the juice to a separate tank where fermentation will take place.  One of the virtues of this method is that you can produce both a rosé and, from the juice and skins left in the original vat, a red wine as well.

Rosé appears in a multitude of shades and this 2016 vintage shows peachy melon hues with intriguing tinges of lavender mauve on the rim.  The aromas evoke summer memories of fleshy strawberries and ripe peach, with exotic notes of tangerine and pineapple.  Berries dominate the finish, especially red raspberry, with sensual touches of orange oil. This is a ‘tricksy’ little wine, offering up both refreshment and lushness, making it altogether seductive and delicious.

 

The Languedoc is a region to watch. Full of creativity and the desire to prove its worth, it continues to surprise and delight, tempting with undiscovered treasures at beguiling prices.

The writer was provided with wine samples for review but the descriptions and are her own.

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Putting the ‘rose’ into Rosé wine.

What is the secret of creating a gorgeous, rosy Rosé?

First, we need to begin with a short lesson in grape anatomy.

The anatomy of a grape

The anatomy of a grape

Inside each berry, is a mixture of juice, pulp and seeds. Except for a very few varieties, (known as teinturier) the juice is colorless.  What makes a ‘red’ wine ‘red’ is the juice’s contact with the skins.  And what makes a Rosé pink is limited contact with those skins.

Rose Champagne Bubbles

Rose Champagne Bubbles

Myth: Rosé wines are just red and white mixed together. In truth, the only region where this is done is in Champagne.  Here they are allowed to blend red and white, but nowhere else!

In essence, any red skinned grape may be used and in some regions, a small amount of white may be added.

As I mentioned in a previous post, “Fifty (Plus!) Shades of Pink – the Many Hues of Rosé Wine”, there are two standard means of producing a Rosé wine: Direct Press and Saignée.  Lets take a look in a bit more detail.

Direct Press

As soon as the grapes arrive at the winery, they will be placed into the press, either still in their natural clusters or with the individual berries removed from the stems. Once inside the press, the winemaker will keep a watchful eye on the juice, checking the color.

The most popular style of press is called a bladder,or pneumonic, press.  An inflatable bag or bladder, can be programmed to slowly expand inside the machine, gently pressing the grapes and releasing their juice. As the fluid comes into contact with the skins, the color, tannins, and flavors from the skins will leach into the liquid.  This process can take anywhere from three to four hours.

When the pressing is complete, the light pink juice will be pumped to a tank where it’s allowed to rest and any bits of skin or other matter can settle down to the bottom; a self filtering, if you will.

Fermentation will take place either spontaneously or with the addition of yeast and production will continue as for a regular white wine.

Rosés made in this method are traditional in Provence as well as  many other regions, and produce a finished wine that is extremely aromatic and delicate in color.

Saignée

Direct Press results in a Rosé wine. Period. Finite!

Saignée, on the other had, will yield two wines in one.

The grapes are destemmed and crushed then left to macerate just as if a red was being produced.

Maceration: when the grape skins release their magic

Maceration: when the grape skins release their magic

After anywhere from two to twenty hours, the winemaker will ‘bleed’, or remove, some of the juice and use that to make a Rosé that is often darker and less ‘perfumey’ than the Direct Press method.  The remainder of the must (mixture of crushed grape skins and juice) will become a red; most likely a really full-bodied and concentrated red.

Did you know?  Another name for this process is ‘Rosé de Nuit’ (Rosé of the Night), stemming from the fact that the juice and skins were often left overnight before the juice for rosé was removed.

These are the two traditional techniques, but like everything, there are always alternatives and variations.

Many ‘New World’ winemakers will crush the grapes and then let the must sit in the press until the perfect color is achieved, at which time they start the press and separate the juice from the skins. This is called “Cuvaison Rapide’ or rapid soak.

So, how does the winemaker decide which ‘modus operandi’ to use?

Some winemaking regions, such as those in France, Italy, Spain and other ‘Old World’ countries, have laws that dictate what type of production is to be used.

In other areas, factors like grape variety, ripeness and wine style are more likely to influence the decision.

And sometimes, both methods will be employed.  A winemaker may use one technique for some of the grape varieties in a blend and alternate process for others, resulting in a rose that reflects the best of both styles.

photo credit: F. Millo/CIVP

photo credit: F. Millo/CIVP

Did you know?  In Provence, there are two styles of Rosé.  ‘Vins de soif’ or thirst quenching wines are the style most often associated with ‘Apero’ or Apèritifs: light, refreshing and crisp with no oak and lots of bright fruit.  ‘Gastronomic‘ are more full-bodied Rosés, that may have seen some time in oak barrels.  These are more ‘food-friendly’ versions and great with your meal.

 

 

 

Fifty (Plus!) Shades of Pink – the Many Hues of Rosé Wines

Rosé comes in a wide array of shades. Why is this and does the color of the wine give any indication of its quality?

Rose shelf 2

A dizzying array of Rosé!

 

Rosé wines can range in color from delicate shades of ‘onion skin’ or ‘salmon’ through pinky/orange ‘mango’ all the way to rosy pink. In fact here is a chart produced by The Center for Rosé Research, located in Provence, that shows approximately 139 different hues!

 

Shade of Provene Rose

Rosé comes in a wide variety of shades.

 

There are a variety of factors that can affect the final shade of a rosé wine:

Different grape varieties will render a different shade to the wine. For example Grenache Noir will be a salmon shade, while a thicker skinned Syrah will be more pink.

Temperature of the fruit is also a factor. Warmer grapes will exude more pigment resulting in a darker shade of wine. For this reason, cooler night harvesting is now practiced by 60-70% of the wineries in Provence in order to produce a paler shade of wine. And that dedication to ‘cool’ continues in the cellar. By ensuring that the wine, through all phases of production, is kept at a lower temperature, the resulting wine will be full of big, beautiful fruit and floral aromas.

There are two basic ways to make rosé and the winemaker’s choice will influence the final shade of the wine.

The traditional and most frequent method of production of Provence Rose is knows as Direct Press where the fruit is pressed very soon after harvest with minimal skin contact. This method produces a wine of paler shade than other production methods such as ‘Saignee’. This term means ‘to bleed’ and in the process, the winemaker will crush the fruit as for the production of red wine, then ‘bleed off’ or remove some of the juice after a period of hours or days. This juice, which is lighter in color and tannin than a red wine, will be used for rose wine and the must left in tank will become a full-bodied red.

Here’s a short video, courtesy of the Wines of Provence, about the two methods:

Other influence such as the grapes exposure to oxygen, the altitude and climate of the vineyard, and indeed the soil on which the grapes are grown, will all influence the finished wine. As an example, some of the grapes from the Cote de Provence Frejus AOC in eastern Provence are grown on volcanic soil, which will lend a slight copper tinge to the wine.

The depth of color of the rosé, however, is not an indication of quality or intensity. A pale, salmon color rose may have intense, explosive fruity aromas and flavors, while a more intensely pigmented wine may have more subdued aromas.   Perhaps, not what you might guess from just looking at the bottle!

Roses are a pink ‘rainbow’ of color – each wonderful in it’s own, distinctive way.