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Pale pink perfection

Rosés make their mark way beyond Provence



You know a wine market is on the final path to maturity when you see folks drinking rosé everywhere. The growth of the category has been steady if slow over the past decade across British Columbia but the last couple of years have been especially rewarding for producers, retailers and consumers. No one is ready to declare it a year round success but there would appear to be few barriers standing in the way of rosé becoming a regular part of the B.C. wine milieu.

Gone are the sweet days of rosé, not that sweet doesn't sell, but it is a style on the wane and it won't be long before sweet rosés are a flavour of the past. What we do know is that the fresher, brighter, lighter style in myriad colours of onionskin is where the rosé market is heading.

Earlier this month, I caught up with one of the leading producers of pink wine and a global champion of the style. Sacha Lichine of Chateau d'Esclans, has managed to produce the world's first $100 rosé in an almost maniacal pursuit of pink perfection.

Lichine and partners purchased Chateau d'Esclans in Provence in 2006 and after enticing retired Mouton Rothschild/Opus One winemaker Patrick Leon to be their consulting oenologist, they set out to make "real wine with a rosé colour."

There is a certain magic to the Provençal-style rosé, beginning with its enticing colour or, should I say, the lack of it, which doesn't come easily. As Lichine would say, "Quality is all about the details."

It's something Leon has reiterated to him many times: "It is easy to make average rosé, but to make great rosé would be as hard as making a great red or white wine."

Personally, I love the tension in Provençal-style rosé, its lemon underbelly, the pale strawberry/watermelon fruit flavours and the clean, dry finish. Yes, I said dry. I don't mind a bit of sugar, especially if I know it's there so I can temper it with the right level of spice in the food, but most bottles fail to tell you they are sweet.

All that aside, you still have to sell it.

This is where women come into the picture for Lichine is a fan of women wine buyers. Getting women to buy pale, almost colourless rosé from Provence isn't all that hard, especially when much of the packaging looks as if it should be for sale in perfume stores on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. But the sale of rosé goes deeper. Lichine suggests that "...the category is driven by women and, well, women still have an influence on men and, little by little, they get us to drink it, too." Now that's marketing.

This month we share some of our current rosé favourites. All have crossed the tasting bench this year in anticipation of warm weather and patio dining, including Lichine's entry-level pink Château d'Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2012 $34 from Côtes de Provence. Whispering Angel is the introductory label, made to be consumed quickly. It's a delicate, delicious drinking style of rosé with a strawberry/watermelon aroma and light juicy citrus red fruit flavours on the palate. Any number of summer-style pâtés would make a fine match.

Grenache and syrah are behind the delicious GM Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013 $20 from Côtes de Provence. Expect a delicate, lightly coloured rosé with a savoury mix of red fruits, oranges and citrus. Serve all summer on the patio or with classic summer salads or grilled chicken dishes.

Rosé is a technical wine as opposed to something you make with leftover grapes. That's why Mission Hill seems to nail it every year. The Mission Hill Rosé Five Vineyards 2013 $15 from the Okanagan Valley is juicy and fresh with watermelon, floral, strawberries aromas and flavours with just a hint of sweetness. Try this with spicy tuna.

A newcomer on the B.C. scene is Bench 1775 Glow 2013 $20 a pale, copper/bronze St.Tropez pink from the Naramata Bench. Traditional wine making has yielded an impressive 11-per-cent rosé that's fun to drink. Look for a zesty palate with strawberries, watermelon, pink grapefruit flecked with dried herbs, and a touch of resiny bitterness in the finish. Pasta, chicken and seafood salads all work here.

Farther north up the valley in East Kelowna is where the CedarCreek Rosé Pinot Noir 2013 $18 resides. This wine is now very consistent under winemaker Darryl Brooker, pale pink with a slightly candied strawberry nose. The attack is soft and just off-dry at nine grams per litre of sugar but with freshness and purity. The winery call it "pinot unplugged" and it's getting lighter and brighter every year. Like last year the food pairing is a big summer charcuterie platter.

If you are looking for classic Côtes de Provence-style check out Château la Mascaronne Quat'Saisons 2013 $25. The first sip will get you salivating, always a clue to the wine's freshness and minerality. Enjoy its nose of wild berries and freshly sliced watermelon with citrus and sea salt. A delicate juicy, quaffable style you won't be able to resist. Delicate sushi rolls are the perfect partner.

The Provençal style has also come to the Quails' Gate Rosé 2013 $16 from West Kelowna. You'll love this delicate, dry, refreshing fruity rosé. Floral strawberry and sliced watermelon aromas mark the nose with dry but bright strawberry fruit flavours. The mix is 60/30/10 gamay noir, pinot noir and pinot gris, all kept separate until bottling. Grilled chicken salad or just about any summer salad will work here.

We end with another stylish Côtes de Provence, the Chateau Miraval Cote de Provence Rosé 2013 $29 owned by movie moguls Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Miraval comes from an excellent piece of earth in Provence and a first rate winemaking partner in the Perrin family of Chateau Beaucastel / Châteauneuf du Pape fame. The colour is pale Provençal perfection; the nose mixes fresh red fruits and yellow watermelon. The palate is an intriguing mix of savoury (garrigue) notes with electric, stony, citrus minerality. Salad Niçoise is the classic match here.

If you made it this far there's only one more step to your conversion. Buy a bottle of rosé and let the summer begin.

Anthony Gismondi is a globetrotting wine writer who makes his home in West Vancouver, British Columbia. For more of his thoughts on wine log onto