Without a doubt, our move to Texas almost five years ago (holy cow, five years already?) was the ability to purchase wine from several locations within just a few mile radius. While that might not seem like a big deal to most, those people have never lived in Pennsylvania. After living in the Keystone State for the better part of two decades, I had become nearly immune to how badly the Commonwealth treats its residents when it comes to access to wine, beer, and spirits.
It really is horrendous.
Even though it has now been nearly five years (yes, really?), I still get a little giddy when I peruse the wine section at my H-E-B. Granted, our store is considered by many to be the flagship location when it comes to wine, I still have a conscious thought about how lucky I am not to be under the thumb of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the Pennsylvania legislature.
This time of year, the wine section of my H-E-B (I love my H-E-B) is overpopulated with rosés and while we drink rosé year-round (particularly in Houston), I thought I would review some of the more widely available rosés from France.
2020 Domaine la Colombette Notorious Pink, France: Retail $16. 100% Grenache. Glass closure. Very light in the glass, in the true traditional Provençal style, that has a lovely perfumed, fruity nose, that even comes off as a bit sweet. It does come off just a tad sweet on the palate, however, and that is not just due to the oodles of red fruit (which creates a bit of an optical illusion since there is virtually no color), peach, pear, fantastic acidity, and an intense (albeit fairly short) finish. I am not a big fan of the frosted bottle (why?), but that is nitpicking at this point. And, well, that kiss of sweetness kinda works. Excellent. 90 Points.
2020 Gérard Bertrand Vin de Pays d’Oc Gris Blanc, France: Retail $16. 100% Grenache. Under screw cap. I have tried this wine several times over the course of the last few years and it has always been solid. Never have I thought that it was unbalanced or over-the-top fruity. Nor have I ever thought that it made me want to do cartwheels down Main Street. Decent fruit, good acidity. Very Good. 88 Points.
2020 Gérard Bertrand Languedoc Côte des Roses, France: Retail $18 (Costco $13). Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah. Glass stopper. While this wine actually comes from the Languedoc, it really screams “Provence” on all fronts from its blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah to its pale pink color, to its fruity (almost cotton candy) and mineral aromas. This time of year, this wine is everywhere, from Costco (where I bought it) to your local supermarket, to your big box style wine merchant. And there is much to appreciate here. Good fruit flavors (strawberry, cherry), rhubarb, minerality, a hint of white pepper, and plenty of tartness. While I usually lean into Whispering Angel and Miraval, This certainly deserves to be in the discussion for “Best Summer Rosé from France” and you can’t beat the 13 bucks from Costco. Excellent. 91 Points.
As with the Miraval, both the 2019 and 2020 vintages of Whispering Angel from Château d’Esclans are on the shelves this time of year. No need to shy away from the 2019s (they are still drinking well), but in each case, I found the 2020s slightly better.
2019 Cave d’Esclans Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence, France: Retail $25. “Consisting primarily of Grenache, Cinsault and Rolle.” Similar to the Miraval (below), I have been waiting for the new vintage of this benchmark Provençal rosé to show up on the shelves. Also like the Miraval, the 2020 vintage of Whispering Angel is now available (the Angel is available at my H-E-B while Miraval is at Costco, at least here in Houston). Since I still had a few bottles of this 2019 in my personal cellar, I figured I could start here. There are two items that I find hard to believe and another that I do not. First, I find it hard to believe that I have only written one tasting note for this vintage since I have bought at least a case of it and I have just a couple bottles left. Second, it is rather astounding (at least to me) that the last (and only) tasting note I wrote for this wine was nearly a year ago. I am certainly some kind of slacker. What does not surprise me (other than the fact I am a slacker)? That this wine, nearly two years out from vintage, is still stellar. Sure, the fruit (strawberry and cherry) might not be quite as bright as it was 12 months ago, but that (slightly) diminished fruit reveals an intense acidity, minerality, and several layers of complexity. How can that be? As with most Provençal rosé, this is a True Rosé, meaning it is an intentional rosé–not a saignée. As this warms slightly, it might be getting even better. Excellent. 92 Points.
2020 Cave d’Esclans Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence, France: Retail $25. “Consisting primarily of Grenache, Cinsault and Rolle.” While some may disagree, this has become the standard bearer in Provençal rosé. Sure, some might cling to Domaines Ott or even the Bradgelina Miraval (below), but for my dollar, this is it. Classic Provençal color of faint pinkish salmon with a floral nose dominated by strawberry and rhubarb. The palate is classic Esclans: rich but reserved fruit (strawberry reigns supreme), laser-like acidity (tart from start to finish) and a minerality that connects the two. Whoa. While I have had a ton of Whispering Angel over the years, this might just be the best thus far. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 Château Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé, France: Retail $25. Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Rolle. With just about every trip to the H-E-B (I love my H-E-B), I check to see if they have the 2020 vintage of this wine in stock yet. Nope. I guess since they still have plenty the 2019 on hand, they are waiting to sell out of this one. Another fantastic vintage of Miraval: quite light in the glass with a pinkish-peach hue and aromas of delicate red berries and white flowers. The palate is pure Provence with great fruit, fantastic acidity, and quite a bit of depth.” All of that remains true nine months later, underscoring, perhaps, that True Rosé can age gracefully, at least in the short-term. Excellent. 91 Points.
2020 Château Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé, France: Retail $25. Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Rolle. Under cork. Simply put, this is yet another stellar vintage from the once powerhouse couple of Bradgelina (or is it BrAngelina?). But this vintage is perhaps truly noteworthy. Yes, this is another fine rosé from the Perrin family (who make this wine in conjunction with, well, *them*), but it is more than that–as expected, this is one of the standard-bearers for any discussion of Provençal rosé (along with Whispering Angel for those playing along at home) but this might be the best vintage since that first star-crossed year of 2010. Pale orange, with a pinkish hue, this wine is awash (wait, did I use that word twice in the same note?) with lovely fruit (strawberry, watermelon, cherry) and balanced by a tart minerality (which is not a word, but probably should be). Yes, I am loathe to recognize how wonderful this wine is year after year (never a fan of Bra or Dgelina), but even over (?) a decade in now, it might just be time to relent and admit that this is a wonderful wine. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Château de Trinquevedel Tavel, Rhône Valley, France: Retail $20. Under cork. 45% Grenache, 24% Cinsault, 15% Clairette, 10% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah. This is the first bottle that I have seen “Imported by KERMIT LYNCH” displayed prominently right above the *front* label. I would think that those who know that Kermit Lynch is an importer of fantastic wines would know enough to check the back label, but maybe some wine people are just as lazy as the rest of us. I would guess that this is on the lighter side for a Tavel, but that still means that this is darker than 90% (or more) of the other pink wines out there. Still luscious fruit on the nose: strawberry and other red berries, considerable minerality, and plenty of floral notes. The palate has evolved into a more vinous state with the fruit, while present, more reserved and integrated into a velvety, yet still mineral and acidity driven, core. Still, this is a red wine, disguising itself as a rosé. With every Tavel I drink, I swear I should drink more. Excellent. 90 Points.
2020 Ultimate Provence, Côtes de Provence, France: Retail $24. 30% Grenache Noir, 30% Cinsault, 30% Syrah, 10% Rolle. Nomacorc closure (ugh). Heavy bottle. It seems as though the fancy bottle has become more than a trend these days in Provence, particularly for those wines in this approximate price range. I get it, you want your wine to stand out on a shelf full of pink wines, but this is a bit much (and yes, I know it worked with me). Classic pale, really light pink in the glass with faint aromas of melon, strawberry, and peach. The palate is also rather austere—not overly fruity at all (in fact, it might be a bit lacking in the fruit dept.)—but fantastic minerality, weight, and even depth. Spend a little less time on the bottle and a little more on capturing some more fruit. Very Good. 88 Points.