In search of Provencal perfection
Seeking Rosé from Paris to Provence. Provence rosé isn’t just for summer. To be fair, it never has been in my household. Rosé has always been a superb food matching w...
Provence Rosé Guide
Enjoy drinking Provence Rosé, but don't know a Côtes de Provence from a Côte De Boeuf? Consumer Buyer Jack Green sets you straight. Provence Rosé - A Beginner's Guide Provence, the spiritual home of rosé, has become a summer staple throughout the gardens of Britain and beyond. Famous today for its characteristically pale, delicate rosé from Cotes de Provence, historically, it was the first region in France to be planted under vine and as the Roman empire made its way north, other wine regions developed into the appellations we know today. The region of Provence extends over nearly 200 km, from Marseille in the west all the way to Nice in the east. The sun-soaked, picture-perfect landscape offers ideal terroir for growing grapes. While the days are long and hot, the Mistral wind that blows down from the Rhône keeps the vineyards cool at night, an integral part of the region’s climate. Tourism has also played a very important part in the rise of Provence; the long summers spent cycling through the rolling vineyards of the Cotes de Provence have bought a thirst for the region's delicate, pale pink rosé back to the UK. Luckily, there is plenty of supply in these parts. The three main appellations, which include Cotes de Provence, have a total of 26,948 hectares under vine - about the same size as Burgundy. These vineyards can make a staggering 155 million bottles per year, 89% of which is rosé. Given this equates to roughly 5% of the world’s entire rosé production, they certainly know a thing or two about making it. Provence Rosé Production Method There are two ways to make rosé. The common misconception is that they blend red wine with white wine to make the rosé, yet the only region this is allowed in France in Champagne, and it is not permitted anywhere else. The two methods used are: Traditional Method, or pre-fermentation cold skin maceration – this is where red grapes are allowed to macerate between 2-20 hours, like a teabag in cold water, gently extracting colour before fermentation. It’s a delicate balancing act, since macerating for too long will result in too much colour and extract, yet most high-quality Provence rosé will be made using this method as it results in a more characterful wine. The ‘Saignee’ method or direct press. This is where red grapes are pressed until they start releasing colour. A small amount of lightly-coloured juice is then ‘bled’ off and fermented, creating a second rosé product and concentrating the colour and tannins of the remaining red wine. Provence Rosé Food Matching For me the beauty of Provence rosé has to be the diversity of ways in which it can be enjoyed and the different food flavours it can stand up to. The laid back seafood restaurants that line the cobbled streets of St-Tropez provide ample inspiration for cooking back home. Roberson’s house favourite M de Minuty Rosé is a perfect match for a creamy shellfish pasta, or ripe melon served with cured ham. Yet don’t discount spicy food, as some of the top rosés with a bit of power to them, like the Château Minuty Rose Et Or, will pair remarkably well with medium spiced curries. The acidity will even cut through the fat of grilled or roasted meats - think BBQs with plenty of fresh tomato salads and Provençal herbs. Bring on summer!
Zero to Hero
Introducing Pierre Zero Alcohol-Free Wine It’s that time of year again. Veganuary, Dry January, or whatever you want to call it. It's the occasion to dig out the running shoes and dust off the spiralizer. What’s becoming clear is, unlike many of those hitting the gym this month, alcohol-free is becoming a drinks choice that is here to stay. I never thought I would be writing this blog post. For so long, low alcohol wines were considered a dark art that only German wine mega-factories could conjure up. You would find the wines lurking on the bottom shelf of a supermarket covered in dust. However, ‘healthification’ has swept the nation, with many people choosing to lower their alcohol consumption and be more aware of what they are drinking. The industry has reacted, and now we have an amazing choice of de-alcoholised beer, booze-free gin and now, expertly made non-alcoholic wines. When looking to bring on a new range of alcohol-free wine to Roberson, we had to taste a lot of non-alcoholic wines, and what became clear was that the variation in quality is enormous. We never list wines we wouldn't drink ourselves, and I wasn’t willing to compromise on quality just to fill a gap. Domaines Pierre Chavin are the market leaders in producing alcohol free wine. They stay completely true to the varietals and take every care to produce the best possible wine they can. They start by growing grapes in the Languedoc using artisanal techniques and take every care to preserve the delicate eco-system within the vineyards. After making wines in the traditional way, alcohol is gently filtered out before bottling. So, if you’re looking to cut back on alcohol consumption, yet miss the satisfaction of a nice cold rosé after work, a warming red with your Sunday lunch, or a crisp white with your midweek fish, look no further.
Mind over Malbec
Our European Buyer Jack Green spots the beginnings of a quality revolution in Cahors Malbec. Love Malbec? Of Cahors we do. On my recent visit to Cahors, a sleepy wine region in Southern France, I visited a new winery named Prieuré de Cénac, which has just been taken over by the renowned ‘Fabre’ family from Argentina. The place is picture perfect; as owner Hervé explained, when he first visited the Château ‘we stood quite still and were both struck by its beauty and overwhelmed with an incredibly good and peaceful feeling’. The principal variety in Cahors is Malbec, which is why this family, pioneers of Argentine Malbec, were so interested in making wine here. You can trace winemaking in Cahors back to the era of Ancient Rome, with some documents showing vineyards being planted around 50BC. That’s an awfully long time to perfect winemaking, and when Malbec vines from Cahors were taken over to Argentina, they discovered its terroir was perfectly suited to this Southern French grape. Argentinian Malbec has since become one of the most recognised wines in the UK and is poured, I imagine, in pretty much any restaurant in the country that has steak on its menu. So, what makes Malbec so popular? That story could start right here at Roberson Wine. Our founder Cliff Roberson cut his teeth in the wine trade many years ago by seeking out wines that supermarkets didn’t list but had huge potential. One of those was Argentinian Malbec. It became so popular for its favourable price and rich, exuberant, velvety palate that soon every wine shop in the country wanted it. For Hervé, having established one of the most successful Argentinian wineries after making his name as a respected wine merchant in Bordeaux, it’s a return to his roots. Cahors is the true birthplace of this magical varietal and it didn’t take him long to decide he had to invest in it. The vines of Prieuré de Cénac are grown on a plateau some 350 meters above sea level. Our favourite from this estate is the Mission de Picpus, recently awarded the Trophy and 95 points at the IWC awards. The wine is beautiful – bursting with dark fruit and soft, earthy flavours. This is a wine destined to be drunk with roasted meats, cassoulets or a lovely wedge of Comté.
Pale and Interesting
Our European buyer Jack Green reflects on the rise of Provence rosé to conquer the world's summer-drinking pleasure. St-Tropez State of Mind In this business we always have one eye on drinking trends, to see if we can spot what the next big thing will be. If you had told me ten years ago that pale rosé from Provence, or indeed anywhere, would be the wine in everyone’s glass, I’d have been surprised and intrigued. I’m sure anyone who has been to the south of France in the summer will say ‘come on, we’ve been drinking it for years’. What’s changing though, is countries outside of France are now cleverly producing rosé wines in the lighter, zippy style commonly associated with Provence. Even our winery London Cru made a rosé last year, which ended up being poured all summer at the Oxo Tower Brasserie in central London. What could be better? For me though, you have to start at the beginning: St Tropez, Provence. It was only when I visited the region for the first time last year, that I realised why Provence and rosé go hand in hand. Those long, hot summers that seem to go on forever, spent wandering the cobbled streets of St Tropez. Those lunches that start at midday and inevitably end up lasting until the evening, watching the sun setting over the Mediterranean. And, if you’re that way inclined, relaxing on your yacht on the calmest, crystal clear water you’ve ever seen. There is only one drink that seems to encapsulate all of this in one glass… a cold, crisp, pale rosé from Provence. Our absolute favourite Château in Provence is Château Minuty, which just happens to be a 20-minute drive from the centre of St Tropez, and one of the first of the 14 Châteaux be crowned Cru Classé along with its rivals Domaine Ott and Chateau Roubine. Our favourite location to enjoy a glass of Château Minuty is at the legendary Club 55. Famous for its fresh, seasonal produce, it’s hard to miss in St Tropez, right on the beach. But what if you can’t make it to St Tropez? Well, we have invited Sebastien Nore of Minuty to join us on the 17th July for a day of everything Provençal. First up, we’ll be enjoying a delicious, typical Provençal lunch, accompanied by our most popular rosé wines, M de Minuty and Rose et Or. Then, in the evening, we’ll be enjoying l’apero - Sebastien from Minuty will be pouring Château Minuty’s entire range, matched with typical snacks from Provence. As well as M de Minuty and Rose et Or, we'll also be tasting Minuty's white Blanc et Or and their exquisite super-cuvée 281. Tickets for both events are on sale now – don’t miss them.
Rudolf Trossen - Natural Legend
Man of Mystery The legend of Rudolf Trossen is a treasure chest of mystery. One minute I’m listening to an hour long SoundCloud recording of his fermenting Riesling, the next I’m reading about his formative years as a young punk in the Mosel being almost driven out of Kinheim for blasting AC/DC too loud in the winery. He’s a character who everyone has an anecdote about, so finally getting the chance to spend some time with him quickly became the date in our diary everyone was talking about. The enormity of his visit was nicely summed up by Sandia Chang, owner of Bubbledogs, who said over our lunch with Rudolf ‘I’ve been waiting 10 years to meet you, it’s a dream come true’. Sandia first discovered Rudolf’s wines when she was working at the world-renowned Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen in 2008. His wines were the first natural wines to make their way onto this coveted wine list and remain there to this day. He became a staunch believer in Biodynamics after reading the works of Rudolf Steiner as a young winemaker. He quickly transformed his family’s domain into farming organically and employing all of Steiner’s principles; think dung in the cow horn, harvesting when the moon is in a certain place and only working on fruit days as determined by the biodynamic calendar. But for Rudolf, it’s so much more than just these practices. It’s a way of life. It’s your mood when you wake up. It’s when you get inspired by a piece of music. It’s sharing the fruit of hard labour with your friends at the end of the vintage. All these things help to build a culture in which the best natural wines are made. His outlook on wine is so simple: to make wine just from grapes. Many in the industry call this the natural wine movement. But Rudolf questions the entire concept of natural wines: “nature does not harvest any grapes - it’s always human beings who are at work.” At Kiln restaurant in Soho, he made it clear that he believes wine is just part of life. Some choose to obliterate it with chemicals to stabilise the wine, others choose to listen to the natural cycles of Mother Earth and produce wine with minimal intervention. What I took away from my time with Rudolf was far more than just his superb expressions of German Riesling. It was his simple, down to earth outlook on life. And wine just happens to make planet earth a much better place.
Remembering Bruno Giacosa
Off-Trade Sales Manager Jack Green reflects on the life and influence of Bruno Giacosa, who passed away this week. How Bruno Giacosa quietly revolutionised Piedmont Giacosa… this name will make the hairs on the back of any Italian wine lover’s neck stand up. It’s a name that stands tall, proud and as a beacon for all winemakers dealing with Nebbiolo around the world today. I was saddened to hear of Bruno Giacosa’s passing this week. Quite simply one of the greatest winemakers in Italy, let alone Piedmont. Over my seven years at Roberson, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to taste his wines on a few occasions. Most memorably, his daughter Bruna visited our old shop on Kensington High Street, importer in tow, to show her father’s latest offerings. That was the one shift everyone wanted to work. He had been making wine since the 60’s, buying fruit and bottling his own wines until one day in 1982, he was able to purchase his own vineyard and take his winemaking to the next level. This indeed catapulted him into winemaking stardom, his small Falletto vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba (pictured above) becoming one of the most famed vineyards in the Langhe and one where you’ll always find a troop of tourists taking pictures, rain or shine. Bruno suffered a stroke in 2006, which made him reluctant to release the wines from that vintage since he felt unable to properly judge the wines and did not want mediocre wines being released. This showed just how high his standards remained, even through difficult times. Today, his two daughters Bruna and Marina are running the estate, aided by oenologist Giorgio Lavagna. Hopefully one day soon I’ll get to taste his spellbinding wines again and, when I do, I shall raise a glass to the great Bruno Giacosa.
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