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2015 Côtes de Provence Rosé, Domaine du Grand Cros
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.
Reputedly the source of Louis XIV’s favourite wines, Côtes de Provence lies in the south-east of Provence and overlaps with the Var department. Coteaux Varois is sandwiched between two parts of the Côtes de Provence appellation; the enclaves of Cassis, Bandol and Palette are also nestled between pockets of land to the south and east of Côtes de Provence.
Eighty percent of the appellation’s production is dry rosé wine, distinguished by an inimitable pale-pink colour and elegant flavours. Cinsault and Grenache dominate in the region’s rosés, augmented with the occasional dash of the local, intensely aromatic Tibouren. The AOC regulations stipulate that at least 20 percent of a rosé blend must come from wine made using the saignée (literally, ‘bleeding’) method.
The remaining 20 percent of the region’s production is dedicated 15 percent to red and five percent to white wines. Following the Phylloxera epidemic known as the Great French Wine Blight in the late 1800s, much of Côtes de Provence was replanted with the high-yielding Carignan vine.
Since the late 1990s, a host of new, small, dynamic estates has started to focus on a new-wave style of red wines, characterised by full-fruit ripeness, concentration, and soft tannins and using ameliorateur varieties such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are gradually replacing the once ubiquitous Carignan.
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