Favoured by France’s ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV, and praised by Balzac and Mistral, Tavel is France's most famous rosé although, it must be said, not its best. As you would expect, such heritage is rightly flaunted in the town of Tavel, and often adds a euro or so onto the price of a bottle. Nevertheless, in the hands of the top estates, it does remain worthy of its lofty reputation, combining a lovely vitality with complexity and concentration.
Lying across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this most southerly of the true Rhône appellations only permits dry rosé wines to be made under its name. The wines are full-bodied and dominated by Grenache and Cinsault, which gives them an appearance of slight sweetness – even though they are bone dry. Tavel should be aromatic and fresh with fine fruit, and is at its best when enjoyed young and chilled with food. Sadly, in the hands of too many ‘traditional’ producers, it can taste tired and past-it before it is even sold.
Unlike many other appellations in the Rhône, this is no hotbed of innovation or fantastic value, but happily there remain a few genuinely quality-minded estates that do the appellation proud.