Bank holiday rosé: Provence and beyond

He may not suit a pink shirt, but Peter Ranscombe has some rosé wine suggestions to brighten the weekend.

IT’LL be a bank holiday like no other – no lazy picnics in the park, no boozy brunches with friends, and definitely no making a break for that secluded hideaway in the country.

It was already going to be a weird one – today’s “May Day” bank holiday is about as far away from May Day as you can imagine, to allow for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of victory in Europe.

Then along came the coronavirus lockdown and took away the options for meeting up with friends and family.

While our bank holiday barbecues may be limited to our #stayathome buddies, that shouldn’t stop us from exploring some uplifting vinous treats.

And nothing screams spring bank holiday like rosé – no matter whether the weather will play ball or not.

One style of rosé stands out above all others; no one does pink quite like Provence.

Maybe it’s because the region is home to St-Tropez and the Côte d’Azur?

Or maybe it’s because of the wave after wave of brands that emerge from the area, from Bordeaux baron Bernard Magrez’s Château des Muraires and Dutch marketing guru Eric Kurver’s magnum-powerhouse Aix through to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Château Miraval.

Whatever the reason, we Scots seem to sup Provence as if it’s a pink version of pinot grigio or prosecco.

I love the style; it’s dryness really appeals to me and it’s hard to match when it comes to food and wine pairing, especially with oily Mediterranean dishes that need its fresh acidity.

Yet there’s a whole world of rosé lying beyond Provence’s sun-kissed shore.

While this may well form more of a cut-out-and-keep list for bank holidays to come, at least here are some ideas to get you started…

Provence rosé

Aix Rose 2018 (£13.99, North & South Wines)
For me, this is how I always remember Provence pink – a more savoury style of nose, with raspberry, a touch of smoke and a bit of wet leaf. Crisp acidity, but well balanced by strawberry flavour and that metallic note you get from charcuterie. A classic, whether it’s in a standard bottle or in the magnums for which it’s become famous.

Château Léoube Love by Léoube 2019 (£15.99, Daylesford)
Don’t let its pale, almost candy floss-like ethereal colour deceive you – this organic wine packs a punch on the nose with strawberry, raspberry and lemon sherbet, and then an even bigger punch on the palate, with plenty of well-defined concentrated fruit flavours to balance its crisp acidity.

Domaine des Diables MiP Made in Provence Classic Rosé (£14.95, Lea & Sandeman)
Such an attractive nose, full of deeper lemon and raspberry notes. There’s an impressive level of concentration to the fruit on the palate too, with more raspberry and strawberry to balance its refreshing acidity. I seldom fall for a label’s branding, but this one is very smart.

Château des Muraires L’Excellence des Muraires 2019 (£24.80, Hedonism Wines)
There’s a bit of heat from the 14.5% alcohol – which perhaps lends itself more to matching food than sipping on its own – but it’s the balance between the acidity and the strawberry, raspberry and lemon flavours that wins the day. A fruiter style of Provence, but still really precise.

Domaine Le Grand Cros Esprit de Provence Rosé 2018 (equivalent to £19.08, Drinks & Co)
A pretty and delicate example, with dainty raspberry and strawberry on the nose, and lots of teeth-cleaning acidity on the palate. That acidity harmonises with raspberry jam notes in amongst the fresh red fruit flavours, with a savoury twist of lemon rind too.

Beyond Provence

Bruno Andreu Elixir Rosé 2019 (€10.75, Les Grappes)
Head further along the southern French coast from Provence and you’ll hit the Languedoc, where you can find similar styles of wine at a fraction of the price. Bruno Andreu’s Elixir is made with syrah, renowned for producing full-bodied reds, but here kept under control and instead delivering intense blackcurrant and leafy notes on the nose and juicy blackberry and blackcurrant on the palate to balance its fresh acidity. This’d be one of my foody choices.

Champagne Bruno Paillard Brut Premiere Cuvee Rosé (equivalent to £43.17, The Fine Wine Company; £45.80, Hedonism Wines)
Sticking with the Brunos but this time swapping the Languedoc for Champagne, and some bubbles, courtesy of Bruno Paillard. What I love most about this house’s wines are their freshness – oodles of crisp acidity but enough concentrated red apple, strawberry and raspberry fruit flavours to provide balance. It’s poised, it’s elegant and it’s worth the price tag for a special occasion.

Finest Pinot Grigio Blush 2019 (£7, Tesco)
Swapping France for Italy brings us to the ever-reliable Cavit co-operative, which makes pinot grigio in the cooler Dolomite region. Pinot grigio’s skin has a tinge of colour to it, allowing winemakers to create rosé wines if they leave the juice in contact with its casing for a short while. This example has the palest hue of pink, yet lots of attractive floral aromas on the nose, along with a sweeter note, like those tiny wee strawberry hundreds and thousands. The northern acidity is fresh and balanced by more red fruit flavours, with a tiny trickle of cream on the finish. Superb value.

La Calcinara Mun Rosato Marche 2018 (£15.95, Swig)
If you’re looking for a meatier style of rosé then go no further – this pink wine blew me away when I sampled it as part of Amelia Singer’s pop-up online wine tasting with Princess & The Pinot and awesome drinks merchant Swig. Strawberries and cream mingled with deeper red cherry and a whiff of light woodsmoke on the nose, yet the palate was much more savoury than those aromas suggested, with a textured lemon rind and hairy raspberry skin mouthfeel. Crisp acidity and then a charcuterie-like metallic tang on the finish. Very foody, and very nice.

Kayra Beyaz Kalecik Karasi 2018 (£14.99, Novel Wines)
It may share the pale pink appearance of Provence rosé, but this is something far more exotic. Made by Diageo’s forgotten Turkish wine outpost, Kayra, this rosé is formed from the local kalecik karası grape and was one of my highlights when I visited one of the company’s winery two years ago. There’s a dollop of strawberry jam in amongst the fresh strawberry and raspberry on the nose, and then lots of crisp acidity balanced by red fruit and a touch of tangerine, ending in a fresh redcurrant twist.

Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about whisky, wine and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at