"...Taste the charred landing strips across smelting vegetables, peeled from the hot bars amidst a spritzy shower of voluptuous blood orange puree made by being forced through the nearby sun-baked terrain of gravel, sand and equal parts dirt; sediment momentarily brushed by the cool tide running back to it's pool before being wafted away, pregnant with unctuous dreams and what lay beyond the horizon..."
Like everyone else when the sun rises high and the temperatures start to climb, I start reaching for rosé before any white wines because rose season has sort of become a holiday or celebration in itself: the notes of our favorite reds blended and bled into at times with bubbles, whites, or done in a natural way that gives way to a plethora of possibilities and new experiences. I'm going to attempt to not go on a tirade of trying to convince anyone to drink rosé, that base has been beaten into us extensively by every other blogger or writer out there: those who've found it will enjoy it and keep on demanding better and more of it. What I will say (and hopefully this doesn't come off as a rambling tirade...) that with almost every country producing wine, they're most certainly making rose and in this day and age it seems like the market is awash with in a sea of them since I first started working in wine.
For the average buyer it feels at times like a guessing game of figuring out which one isn't sweet, while for others more of a scavenger hunt to find not only a bargain but something a bit more distinctive, new and just plain good as this style of wine starts to fill it's britches along with the natural and organic trends in the market today. But even more so to the point, it seems that there is still a bias against spending more than ten or fifteen dollars on a rosé. It seems that the bar in justifying this price for pink -along with the confidence to say that we did while tossing aside all familial glares for having put the pink above the red- is the stronger consideration rather than where it's being made, by whom, and the process that produced this unique experience. Perhaps the trend is changing, I mean a lot more rosé is selling these days than before, summer calls forth the masses of drinkers as early as January or February because they have to secure their purchase pre-season of their favorite rose (MIP anyone?). All-in-all I'm glad to see rosé gaining in popularity and churning out traditional styles alongside new and old world "natural" styles where an almost newfound craftsmanship seems to be burgeoning in this once slighted category a generation ago.
I give rosé such praise because... well... I think I've been more addicted to them this year than prior years. I've had a number of so-so ones, a few memorable ones that I've not had the chance to revisit, and then let a few to hibernate for the moment when I can get back to enjoying the vino I now find myself overwhelmed with because, well, I'm a hoarder and began working at Savio Soares Selections recently (it's a good problem to have!).
In the realm of rose, Provence is unquestionably the dominant force in what we have come to think of as "classic" rose: it's saline minerality, clean finish and ephemeral strawberry fruit is everywhere, dare I say ubiquitous to any wine drinker's senses and thusly a fitting summer sipper. I think in my previous post I mentioned that the rose "style" was once the way wines in Provence were made and much the preference of ancient times since they preferred the lighter fruitier tastes over the harsher more tannic flavors of darker red wines, besides the technologies of the time weren't as streamlined for the maceration periods required of darker wines.
What brings me to this point is the little appellation of Tavel. Few and far between, I don't often feel like they're at the forefront of a store's selection, maybe I'm just not seeing them on shelves, maybe I'm not visiting the right stores, or maybe they're just not in demand or on anyone's radar; I know, that's a lot of maybes... So when I found this one on sale for $15.99, after some hesitation, already pushing the budget over the edge, I grabbed it and finally got around to opening it in the past week.
Now I want another...
Tavel's history with rose stretches back to the times of the Romans and has enjoyed the praise of French kings, the Popes of Avignon, and Ernest Hemingway... I mean, come on that's pretty good cred for the "rose capital". It lies tucked between Lirac and surrounded by the Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages in the Southern Rhone just north of Avignon. Prieure de Montezargues is apart of the former Grammont Abbey, founded by monks in the twelfth century, and is shaded from the Mistral wind by the Black Mountains. The more important factoids about roses from this appellation is that they often co-ferment red and white grapes and then utilize the saignee and skin-contact method (this just means that they bleed off a portion of the juice from the must -the skins/stems/etc- in order to concentrate the flavors in the leftover juice before letting it rejoin with the lighter juice) to produce some very racy and darker roses. Specifically for this vintage and wine -as their website seems to only have the current 2011 & 2012 vintages for sale- I'm going to assume that the practices for the 2006 vintage are about the same since I can't seem to track down any reviews or notes having to do with its vinification. It undergoes twelve hours of maceration in stainless steel vats, the juice is then bled gently into a vat to filter out all the sediment where upon fermentation is kick-started in concrete vats only to sit for five months of aging. In return we get a cranberry dark rose that can no doubt stand up to a few years in the cellar (it has been seven years...) because it was fantastic, though probably about near the end of its life as there were hints of volatile acidity sneaking into the background on the nose at first sniff...
...And in that first ...second...third sniff, as I let it breath a bit, it began to remind me of sherry -a little oxidized with nutty extracts before it finally melded into a tertiary player only to notice how the minerality remained on the cusp like something almost ghostly, but more like an ever present force only made noticeable by the shear weight and unctuousness that this wine exuded as it pressed into this field. The interaction forcing a filling bounce back of gritty, dark and sultry flavors: grilled vegetables and greens, aged peach beside dark cranberries rolled in warm spices, a tamed subtly spiced smokiness on the rim tossed up like debris only to be brought back in by the self-contained savoriness of those green grilled flavors; a wisp of menthol peeking out from behind the weight and tannins. Perhaps those initial notes hinting at sherry and it's saline/bitterness is a nod to the end of it's drinkability, but this wine kept it together and can stand up to the hardiest of meals. I can't stress the centrality of this unctuousness (not like dessert wine unctuous at all... maybe that's the wrong word?) and the depth of this wine enough, it's sultry, delicate yet forceful. All of these qualities brought me to wonder about the soil because all I could picture was gravel, sand and dirt under a hot sun, maybe even muddy after a brief shower only to be warmed up again, and when I finally began my search it seems that's exactly the type of earth these grapes are grown in; making that connection is always amazing.
As I am want to do, I have a tendency of keeping bottles around for four or five days because of three main factors that I think could apply to all of us: if I'm in the mood to drink more than a passing taste with dinner, if I'm too busy to analyze it at that moment, or if I simply want to experiment to see if it breaks out of an awkward phase or not. But this bottle kept delivering, even grew a bit more savory and smooth with each day. I guess it's no surprise since the major grapes are Grenache and Cinsault, two very hardy full-bodied varietals but I feel like if I opened this alongside a lighter Provence, Beaujolais and Malbec roses perhaps there would be no contest to which might handle the days better.... hmmm.... this gives me an idea....!
Grape Varieties: 55% Grenache Noir & Blanc, 30% Cinsault, 13% Clairette, and 2% of a mixture of Syrah, Mouvedre, Carignan, and BourboulencSoil: Astian fluviatile sands (fine) and safre sands (hard) - basically this means deposits created by rivers and streams... and you can taste it!
Winemaker: Guillaume Dugas (since 2003); www.prieuredemontezargues.fr/
Distributor/Importer: Henriot Inc, NYC, NY
PoP: Warehouse Wines & Spirits; $15.99 (marked down from $25.99) -13.5%