National Rosé Day may have passed (it was June 10th, in case you missed it—and if you did, shame on you!), but my Summer of Rosé continues! Last fall, I spent a week in Provence, hosted by the CIVP (Le Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence), which I started to recount three weeks ago, continued two weeks ago, as well as last week, my Tour of Provence continued with visits to two of perhaps my favorite wineries of the week later that day and into the evening.
The first stop was Château Malherbe, where we were met by the Domaine’s Land Rover. Our gaggle of wine writers and “influencers” pilled into the iron beast and we were off on to a dusty dirt path that skirted shallow cliffs abutting the Mediterranean. The estate can only be described as a picturesque postcard—a portrait of the seaside region that most only experience in a Pagnol novel or its cinematic recreations.
On one side, the expansive sea with its hilltop châteaux, on the other the idyllic vineyards, planted in clay dominated red soil that abut the majestic craggy hills that define the Maritime Alps.
A 16th Century farm that supplied the local garrisons for generations, the family of the current owners of the estate purchased the land in 1935. Thirty years later, they transformed the estate into a winery, and in 2004, Sébastien Ferrari assumed control of the winery from his mother, Mireille. Today, the winery is dedicated to producing wines of unparalleled quality emphasizing both the proximity to the sea and the character of Provence.
While the annual production is modest (currently at 7.5k cases, hoping to eventually make it to 10k), the wines are available in the U.S., imported by Ma Provence of Miami Beach and are carried by Total Wine.
Some of the Malherbe wines that stood out for me:
2015 Pointe du Diable Rosé: Retail 15 €. 50% Grenache, 50% Cinsault. Saignée, taken from the first run of juice after a day or so of maceration. Easily the darkest rosé of the week. Heavy and rich, just short of a Whoa. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Château Malherbe Rosé: Retail 18€. 90% Grenache, 10% Rolle. Saignée. More herbal and minty rather than fruity. One of the more interesting rosés I have tried. Lingering finish. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2012 Château Malherbe Rosé: Retail 18€. 90% Grenache, 10% Rolle. Saignée. This is proof you can and should age a good rosé. Really a sherries nose with plenty of body and character. Whoa. Perhaps an acquired taste so if you don’t like it get the heck out of the way. I really dig it. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2013 Pointe de Diable Rouge: Retail 19€. Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon. A bit funky and meaty on the nose. With the same on the palate. Really reminds me of a Rich Chinon despite no Cabernet Franc to be found. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2104 Château Malherbe Rouge: Retail 22€. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre. Richer still than the Diable. Cherry, plum, and spices. Tons of spice. Finishes with hints of caramel and mint. This is no joke. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
Interestingly, we tasted the whites last….
2014 Château Malherbe Blanc: Retail 18€. 65% Semillon, 35% Rolle. Quite vegetal with creamed corn and spice. On the palate? Plenty of weight balanced with acidity. Whoa. I use this world sparingly: unique. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2011 Château Malherbe Blanc d’Octobre: Retail: 40€. Rolle et Semillon 50-50. They pick the grapes a full month after the regular harvest and leave it for two years in oak. Rich and ridiculous. Mandarin orange and buttered popcorn. Holy cow. Whoa^2. Outstanding Plus. 95-97 Points.
After Malherbe, we had one more stop that evening, Clos Cibonne, which will have to wait until next time….