New Yorkers Discover French Roses
Picture this: It is a late on a summer afternoon; you are relaxing with friends on the terrace of your Manhattan penthouse. The weather is hot, humid, damp, rainy, definitely undesirable. What wine is the perfect selection for improving the mood? A French Rose!
Not any French Rose… but the French Rose from Chateau de Berne (Provence) that currently spans 1,250 acres of countryside in the heart of Provence. Surrounded by garrigue and olive groves, the 290 acres of wine-producing plots are planted with Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan, Viognier, Merlot, Semillon, Ugni Blanc and Rolle grape varieties.
It may be difficult be comprehend, but some people continue to believe that Rose is a blend of red and white wines; others think that Rose is made from a single grape variety called “Rose.”
Most Roses are made from the red grapes such as Grenache, with a small percentage of white grapes added to the blend. It should be noted that the Rose’s color comes from the skins of the grapes as the juice of most grapes is almost colorless.
Main grapes: Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre and Tibouren with a growing use of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. There is an AOC requirement that at least 20 percent of the Rose must be blended from wine produced by the saignee method of maceration. Saignee (bleeding – in French), involves making Rose as a by-product of red wine fermentation where a portion of the pink juice from the grape must is removed at an early stage and fermented separately to produce Rose. They are normally dry with the zest derived from the acidity.
Newer winemakers have introduced the use of oak barrels for aging and fermentation. Some winemakers are using temperature-controlled tanks that allow a cooler fermentation process and better for white wine production.
Home of Rose
Rose wine production in Provence (Provencal) dates back to the Romans (Provincial Nostra – Our Province). Located south of the Alps, it was the first Roman “province” outside Italy. The region is west of Monaco and Languedoc-Roussillon in Southern France, along the border with Spain. St. Tropez and Nice are principal towns.
We can thank the Greeks who started the city of Marseille in 600 BC. We can also thank the Romans, Gaul’s, Catalans, Savoyards, Spaniards, and Italians for their contributions to the region as they are responsible for the grape viticulture and winemaking techniques.
Provence contains nine wine appellations with AOC status. Cotes (coast) de Provence is the largest with 85 communes in the eastern region which accounts for nearly 75 percent of all the wine production in Provence with Rose accounting for approximately 80 percent of production.
Provence enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with the sea on its southern border. The winters are mild and the summers are warm, with little rainfall. The happy grapes receive 3000+ hours of sunshine each year, twice the amount needed to fully ripen grapes.
The strong mistral wind from the north delivers a mix of influences: It can cool the grapes from the heat and dry the grapes after the rain, providing some protection against rot and grapes diseases; however, it can also damage vines that are not securely trained and protected. Because of possible severe winds, the ideal vineyard locations are on hillsides facing south toward the sea, as the hill provides some shelter from the mistral’s strength.
The Provence soil varies: the land near the Mediterranean coastline experiences deposits of limestone and shale and is usually planted with white grapes. Some coastal areas have soils with more schist and quartz while inland soils have clay and sandstone.
Chateau de Berne
The Domaine du Chateau de Berne is near the Via Aurelia, the route that formerly linked Italy to Spain. In the 12th century the Count of Toulouse, Raymond V, gave the domain to Bernard de Clervaux, founder of the Order of Cistercians, who based their practices on rules set by Saint Benedict.
At the beginning of the 14th century the lands were confiscated by the King of France, Philippe Le Bel, and given to noble families. For almost five centuries the property was owned by the Marquis of Villeneuve. In the 19th century, Marius Estellon, a frigate captain in the imperial army, extended the domain, divided the land into plots and modernized the vineyard.
In the 20th century it has changed ownership a number of times. In 1985 it was purchased by British-born pharmaceuticals millionaire Bill Muddyman, who, at one point, was vice-chair of the Fulham Football Club…he spent approximately 15 million pounds sterling to improve and expand the Chateau and pioneered Australian winemaking methods to his own vineyard.
In 2007, business executive, Mark Leslie James Dixon (founder of serviced office business- Regus) bought the domain and currently owns/managers the entire enterprise. The vineyard is currently being converted to all-organic production.
Roses of Chateau de Berne
1. Inspiration AOP Cotes de Provence 2018. Grapes: Grenache – 50 percent; Cinsault- 30 percent; Syrah – 20 percent. Terroir: Mainly chalky terroir. Practices sustainable farming techniques.
Notes: A beautiful pale-yellow leads to a translucent pink hue in the glass, and, with an emphasis on fruit, delivers cherry, cranberry, pomegranate and crushed stone fruit to the nose. The palate is rewarded with hints of strawberries, peaches, limes, and grapefruit. The mix of acidity and texture leads to a slow, dry finish.
Pair with light salads, raw or lightly cooked shellfish of grilled fish.
2. Romance Cotes de Provence 2018. Noir– 45 percent, Cinsault – 25 percent, Syrah -15 percent, and Merlot – 15 percent. Classified as an IGP because of the addition of Merlot.
Notes: Very light pink (think young pink budding roses) to the eye. The nose detects peaches, peach candy, and a sweet fruit salad mixed with florals. The palate discovers flavors that are fresh and very fruity. Perfect for engagement parties and spring/summer picnics.
Pair with spicy food, i.e., Mexican cuisine.
3. Ultimate Provence (UP) 2018. Grapes: Grenache Noir – 30% percent, Cinsault – 30 percent, Syrah – 30%, Rolle – 10%. The terroir is composed of shallow soil, laid on a waterproof subsoil of sandstone slabs that are nourished by a natural compost of oak leaves and vine stalks. The plots are marked with grassy areas.
Notes: Pale pink to the eye. Look for raspberries and strawberry jam to the nose and a spicy palate (from the Syrah) experience that includes citrus and spice that leads to a warm and full finish.
Pair with grilled chicken and vegetables, roasted meats and classic Mediterranean cuisine such as Greek Souvlaki or charcuterie.
4. Chateau de Berne AOP Cotes de Provence 2018. Grapes: Grenache Noir – 70 percent, Carignan Noir – 14 percent, Syrah – 8 percent, Cinsault, 8 percent. Aged in vats on fine lees.
Notes: This hand-crafted wine is made from grapes specifically selected from a unique vineyard block in the center of the Berne estate. The wine is spicy from the Grenache and partial wood aging. Of note is the minerality that adds to the complexity.
The eye is rewarded with a beautiful pink hue. The nose discovers spices, and lavender, strawberry jams and dark ripe black cherries. The palate is rewarded with berries, watermelon and citrus. Works well as an aperitif.
Pair with Oriental and Asian cuisine.
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.