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Vins de Provence: Top of the rosés

Promotional Feature
Published:  27 June, 2024

With its unique combination of history, terroir and expertise, Provence rosé is still very much on the ascendency. Our panel took a deep dive into this hugely popular category...

With the different styles of rosé produced in the three AOPS of the Vins de Provence vineyards being so enduringly popular, Harpers convened a tasting and talk with a cross-trade panel to explore its appeal. Some 30 wines were tasted, arranged in flights that highlighted the three main appellations of Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, Coteaux Varois en Provence and Côtes de Provence, with two examples of the 5 DGCs (complementary geographical designation), Côtes de Provence Fréjus and Côtes de Provence Pierrefeu, for good measure. The brief was to get an idea of the variations in style and then examine both what it is about these wines that unquestionably excites UK consumers, along with how best to approach the listing and selling of such wines.

On the wines tasted, the panel agreed that there was far more variety than expected on show, albeit within recognisable parameters of expectation for the classic aromatic profiles.

It was also clear that the differing appellations offered subtly differing styles, too, yet while all fitting within that general pale, fresh, light, uplifting framework that speaks of southern climes.

“My expectation was that [the wines] would all be fairly similar and it was going to be difficult to differentiate, but I was pleasantly surprised. There was variation, a number of differences, but still all very good, with no poor wine,” said Patrick Mallinson.

“I thought a lot of them were pretty delicious, pleasant, classic, with some more food-oriented wines there and some great value.”

Jonathan Kleeman concurred, adding that “there were some nicely textured wines”, also noting, to general agreement, that the healthy number of organic and/or bio wines “tended to be that bit more expressive, led by the vineyard rather than the winemaker”.

There was some agreement that “price point makes a difference”, as Kleeman suggested, with “more interest, more complexity, more expression of place” as the rrp climbed.

This sparked an interesting discussion on higher-priced Provence rosés, with Giovanni Andriulo introducing a conundrum rooted in customer expectation. If the wines are generally good value and representative at lower price points, why would customers spend more?

“If you are recommending a rosé for £120 and a customer asks why you are recommending that instead of one around £70, you have to be able to justify it, you have to be able to sell it. But can you say ‘I like this one because it’s different from normal?’,” he asked.


Nonetheless, Andriulo has broken with the seeming status quo of only having a small number of rosés on a typical list, devoting an entire page to rosé at The Ritz, while also currently offering Whispering Angel by the glass at the bar.

“We want to try to educate people about Provence rosé and yes, I’m leading with a ‘brand’, like the way Cloudy Bay did for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but not all Sauvignon Blanc is Cloudy Bay, so we’re doing this with Provence.”

Kleeman observed that Provence rosé has in fact done very well with its higher priced labels vs entry level, saying that “Provence jumped the gun on that far earlier” than any other rosé-pro­ducing region.

All agreed that the success of rosé, and Provence rosé in particular, was down to what Ophelia Hirst described as “wanting to replicate or live a certain type of lifestyle that you see people live”.

She expanded: “You associate the first sunny day with a glass of rosé, especially Provence rosé, and I think initially it was more habitual than thinking about the wine. Most people just chuck ice cubes in and it signifies summer, rather than worry about what it truly tastes like, which is a real shame because there is quality winemaking present there.”

Mallinson picked up the theme, adding: “The quality has improved immeasurably since 10-15 years ago, I think that’s one of the main reasons for its popularity.

“But also men have got over drinking rosé – for many years it just wasn’t cool, but we’ve moved on from that now and a lot of men have come into the rosé market, because it’s a lovely drink and we don’t mind being seen to have a glass of rosé.”

 This, said Mallinson, has captured new customers, helping drive yet more sales, while at the same time, as popularity has grown, rosé has also become less of a seasonal choice, being a good option as an aperitif year-round.

Hirst also highlighted another aspect of rosé’s appeal, as understanding has grown that it’s not just to be confined as fresh, drink-alone wine, but should be considered in the same way that whites and reds are in terms of occasion and food.

“[Rosé is] also a stylistic middle ground. If you’re looking to order a wine to go with any food, rosé will usually fit the bill with almost anything,” she said of its versatility.

Kleeman agreed, adding: “If you look at whites, I have customers that want a Sauvignon Blanc and customers that want a Chardonnay, both popular, but massively contrasting styles. And if you have a group of four, that can be a problem, but with rosé, they can all experience and enjoy the same style with their food.”

He went on to acknowledge that there is still a big education piece to be done with Provence rosé, to help customers understand those “made in a more serious way, in different styles, and wines with age”, suggesting that such diversity is a big opportunity for Provence rosé, and for those selling it to further grow the category.

In terms of encouraging customers to explore more and spend up, Mallinson believed that part of the solution was being provided by the evolution of restaurant wine lists and merchants’ shelves from traditional geographical wine categories towards organisation by style. He felt that having a ‘Provence and other rosés’ section, as you might have with ‘Bordeaux-style blends’, incorporating rosé wines from other appellation and around the world, would actually help boost customer understanding of the rosé category as a whole, and thus Provence as the undisputed champion in that category.

As all could agree, the story of Provence rosé still has much to be told, with the variety and complexity offered increasingly coming to the fore as lovers of the style are encouraged to be more adventurous and find out more.