I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you, I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you. So let’s make the most of this beautiful day. Since we’re together, we might as well say, would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?
Who can forget the lyrics from the theme song from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Written in 1967 by Fred Rogers, the song was the opening theme for the show.
Two wonderful neighbors in wine country are the French regions of Provence and the Rhone Valley. Located next to each other in the southeastern corner of the country, Provence and the Rhone are separated from each other by the narrow Durance River Valley. This narrow separation was mirrored in two wine events held in June in New York City.
The Rhone of Art event was held on June 5, at the Muriel Guépin Gallery, and the Vins De Provence Stop and Smell the Rosés dinner was at a lovely west side loft on the 21st. The two dinners together presented an amazing selection of the wines that these two regions have to offer, with a particular focus on their famously shared varietal – Grenache.
Rhone Wine Production:
The Rhone region is divided into two distinct parts – the northern Rhone and southern Rhone. In the north, the Syrah and Viognier grapes predominate. It contains 6 distinct sub-regions each with their own distinct characteristics and production rules.
In the northern Rhone, the only red wine grape allowed in AOC wines is Syrah, which is often blended with white grapes like Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.
7% of Rhone wine production comes from the northern Rhone which is located along a long narrow river valley with a Continental climate. Vineyards are terraced on the steep hillsides and rocky soils. The summers are hot, but the area experiences a mistral wind, which brings colder air from the Massif Central, making the actual temperatures cooler than those in the more coastal areas in the south.
The southern Rhone is geographically much larger and more diverse. Its 14 AOCs and villages account for over 90% of all wine produced in the Rhône Valley. These wines are generally red wine blends, with Grenache predominating but also Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault as well as a wide variety of other varietals.
Rosés wines are also being produced in higher volumes in the Southern Rhone. The climate is more Mediterranean with long warm summers and mild winters. It’s dryer than in the north, and the cool mistral winds help keep the grapes from cooking or being subject to fungus.
The grapes often take on the flavors of the Garrigue which is a name for the herbs that predominate in both this region and in Provence further to the south.
The Most Famous AOC
Probably the most famous AOC in the southern Rhone is Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a large region with nearly 8,000 acres of vineyards. Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first designated AOC in France, with rules that were first promulgated in 1923. Both red and white wines are produced but Grenache is the principal variety in the red blends.
Rhone Work Of Art Event
All this aside, many consumers are not aware of its diversity. The Rhone work of Art event, which was hosted by Sommelier Laura Maniec, (the country’s youngest female Master Sommelier) suggested that value, diversity and history were the hallmarks of the Rhone, and the 12 wines highlighted at the event proved this.
There were 9 wines from the northern Rhone and only one featured Syrah (6 were white wines and the other 3 rosé.) Viognier dominated the whites, with a large helping of Marsanne and Roussanne, while the rosé wines stemmed from Grenache. A couple of the standouts were:
Domaine Grand Veneur, Blanc De Viognier (2016: $23): A light yellow wine with a nose featuring tropical fruits and light florals, On the palate there were notes of jackfruit with peach and floral notes on the finish.
Cave de Tain, Grand Classique: (2015: $30). This Marsanne varietal from the Hermitage AOC was light yellow in color with light spicy notes on the nose. On the palate, there were notes of cucumber, stone fruits, pepper, and cardamom. There were distinct flavors of the Garrigue to this wine.
Domaine les Grands Bois, Les 3 Soeurs (2017: $13): This Rose made from a blend of Carignan and Grenache was a value choice. Light salmon in color, with a nose of raspberry and strawberry, the wine had cherry notes on the palate along with the herbal notes of the Garrigue on the finish.
From the southern Rhone, the selection consisted of two Rose wines and a Muscat Natural Sweet wine. This was surprisingly good and would actually make a great food wine.
Domaine Des Bernardins Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (2016: $26): This sweet wine had a coppery color with grapefruit and cassis on the nose. The palate was super fresh with pear, and floral notes up front and a spicy finish.
Prieure de Montezargues, Tavel Rose (2017: $23): Fuchsia in color with a candy apple nose. The fine was very fresh with nice acid and a cherry, red berry palate.
Rose Wine Event in NYC
Now, traveling south to Provence, we were fortunate to be able to attend a dinner sponsored by the Counseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence. Held on a rooftop overlooking the new Hudson Yards development, the evening in New York was probably as hot as any in Provence itself. The event focused on the Rosé wines of this spectacular region, with nine wines featured alongside a marvelous dinner prepared by personal chef Tessa Liebman.
Over 139 million bottles of Grenache-based Rosé wine were produced in the region in 2017, accounting for 42% of French Rosé production and about 5% of production worldwide. In fact, Rosé is so important in Provence that a dedicated scientific research center was created in the region to help improve the quality and production of the wine.
Provence is an extremely old wine producing area with production beginning in about 600 BC when the ancient Greeks founded the city of Marseille. Viticulture was further developed by the Romans who made this region their first territory outside what is now Italy. Read more about the wine regions of Provence. and Read about more wines from Provence.
The Most Common Grape:
While Grenache is the driving force behind Rosé wines, the most commonly produced grape in the region is Mourvèdre. Cinsault, Garignan, and Ugni Blanc are also widely produced as are dozens of other varietals.
The wine dinner consisted of four courses each tied to a specific quality of Rose wine: Summer fruits, florals, herbs and salt, and spice. After introductions by Alain Baccino, President of Wines of Provence, We began with pairings that provided some great opportunities to bring out these notes in the wines. A particularly nice wine that we had up on the roof was:
Chateau Thuerry, Les Abeillons( 2017: $22). This wine was 84 percent Grenache and 16 percent Cinsault. Very pale pink in color the wine had excellent minerality, with strawberry and the herbal notes of the Garrigue. This was a classic Provence Rosé, and made a great wine to enjoy in the warm evening sun.
Components of Provence Rose Wines
Moving on, Sommelier Arthur Hon, lead us through the components of Provence Rosé wines, starting with color and then to florals. The floral aspects of the wine were shared among participants who sampled smells of essential oils featuring lavender, violet, rose, and other characteristics of Rosé noses. All this was paired with a Purple flower Pissaladiere, a kind of pizza from Nice, traditional topping consists of usually caramelized onions and olives, but also with pickled watermelon rind. This was paired with:
Maitres Vigerons de la Presquile de Saint-Tropes, Fleur de Mer (2017: $20). Coral pink in color the wine had notes of lavender and herbs, with some watermelon notes in the palate that paired with the Pissaladiere. This wine was from the Cotes de Provence AOC and was a blend of a number of varietals.
Herbs and Wine
Provence is famous for herbs used in both cooking and perfume. It’s known for salt production (or as the French would call it – flowers from the sea). We dined on radishes served with salt, grapefruit and herb infused butters, followed with a chicken brochette marinated in provincial herbs and an amazing bouillabaisse (Provence is the home to Bouillabaisse).
Dinner was paired with a number of wines. Some standouts were:
Chateau Saint-Mauer, L’Excellence (2017: $35). A wine made with 40% Grenache and 25% Syrah, Very light pink in color with a distinctly herbal nose, the wine (which was from the Cote De Provence AOC) had citrus notes up front, followed by the standard salty strawberries, but also with some peach and apricot notes.
Chateau Henri Bonnaud, Terre Promise (2017: $20). A blend of 85 percent Grenache, with the remainder Cinsault, the wine was a crisp pink color, with a floral (violet) nose. More peach notes than the expected strawberry, the wine also had great peppery and herbal notes on the finish.
Miraval, Miraval Provence (2017: $25). A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Rolle grapes, the wine was pale pink in color, with super light florals on the nose. This was a classic Provence Rose (minerals, strawberry) and paired beautifully with the Bouillabaisse.
Ode To Spices
Dinner ended with an ode to spices. Macaroons featuring eggplant buttercreme and a bitter salted chocolate truffle were paired with:
Estandon Vignerons, Estandon (2017: $15). This rose was pale pink in color and is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. I have to admit that by now our note taking abilities were not strong. The winemaker says Pale in appearance with lychee-colored shades, this vintage develops delicate,fresh aromas of peaches and pears. Delicious, soft and well-balanced on the palate.
Provence Rose wines are an excellent addition to any cellar. They range in style and price, and pair well with a wide range of summer foods, lighter foods and seafoods. In addition, their beautiful color, interesting bottle designs and generally solid reputation for quality and consistency make them wonderful house gifts or wines for friends, parties, and nights on the roof.
For more information on the Rhone Region visit: www.rhone-wines.com
And for more on the Rose wines of Provence go to: www.vinsdeprovence.com