What is up in Provence? By John R. Dunham
“Coleratura singers bringing weeds and social clingers. Hangers-on and fancy flingers. To the dress ball. Mushrooms and bowling pins, stove pipe hats and other things I can’t recall – from Juvenile hall. We’re so unlucky and stuff. Woodrow Wilson never had it so tough.”
I always love listening to the lyrics of the song Royal Jelly, by John C. Reilly.
This was a spoof of a Bob Dylanesque folk song from the 2007 film Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story. This song reminds me of how important it is to be real in writing reviews, something that the AdviceSisters takes very seriously. Every review presented on this site is based on a real product, really tested, tasted and examined by one of our editors.
When writing wine reviews this is particularly important. Wine, just like any natural product has distinctive features that one really cannot examine or understand from a press release or a photo. This is why we take our time to review, examine and take notes on the color, the nose and the flavor of every wine that we sample.
Simply put, a chardonnay is not a Chardonnay, and a wine from a particular region is not always what one might expect.
5 Fab Wines
Take the 5 wines from the Provence region of southern France that we just sampled. Generally when we think of this region, we think almost exclusively of the Rose wines produced from Grenache, and Mourvédre varietals. These wines account for almost 90 percent of all of the production in the 10 appelations that make up Provence. As a rule they tend to have distinct strawberry and salt notes and are fabulous food wines.
Excuse the pun, but a rose by any other name, as “The Bard” mentions in his famous play about the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, doesn’t really hold true when it comes to wines from Provence. Rose is really pronounced Rose-A and there are actually over 30 varietals allowed in the wines from the Provence region, home to about 1,000 different wines from across the spectrum from dry reds to sweet whites.
Similar, Not Same
One thing to note is that these wines have a distinct similarity that likely comes the location of the region alongside the Mediterranean Sea.
That is that they all had a distinct mineral character that we would describe as salty. Its less a marine note than a distinct saline character. This is a key feature of the famous Rose wines and it adds a certain something to other varietals. We tasted three reds and two whites which are all reviewed below.
Château Paradis, Red (AOP Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence 2012:$19.98): This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Syrah (30%) and Grenache (20%) has a ruby red color and a spicy peppery nose with cherry notes. The wine was more tannic than the other two we tasted.
We think it’s likely reflective of the amount of Cabernet Sauvignon used in the blend. However, the Syrah and Grenache gave it more roundness and fruit forward character than one might find in a Bordeaux blend.
This is a wine that could stand some age but could be paired now with stronger meats like roast beef, steak or stew.
The wine is named after a piano (apparently the most famous in Italy). It has a dark red color and the unfortunate syrah nose that I personally just don’t find appealing. On the palate this wine is fantastic.
Soft, smooth tannins, nice red fruits with notes of cherry and blackberry and again the distinct saltiness, though in this case it was more reminiscent of black olives lingering on the finish. The winemaker recommends pairing with prime rib which would be nice. We think it would also be great with lamb or particularly roast duck.
Rose Infinie White (AOP Côtes de Provence 2014:$14.94) is a blend dominated by the Vermentino varietal. This was a fresh, fruity wine. Pale yellow with a nose of stone fruit and citrus pith, the wine has a herbaceous citrusy palate with that same minerality that we found in the reds. This is a great fish wine and would be good just by itself on a summer day.
Domaine Houchard, Tradition, White (AOP Côtes de Provence 2015:$12.59) is made from Vermentino and Clairette, this is a pale yellow wine with a fruity citrusy nose.
The wine is fresh and balanced with stone fruits and citrus notes as well as the omnipresent mineral flavors. The winemaker called this a flinty hint, but it really is more a saltiness. This was a wonderful wine which would work well with all sorts of seafoods and light meats – I would love it with Bouillabaisse, which is of course also from Provence.
As a whole we were very pleasantly surprised by the high quality (reasonable price) of these Provencal red and white blends. We know now that Provence is more than just Rose and look forward to finding more of these blends in our local wine shop.
For more on these and other wines from Provence visit: http://www.provencewineusa.com/