We’ve been testing out rosés for the summer.
Last week we opened a bottle of Miraval, a surprisingly high quality, yet drinkable offering from Provence’s Château Miraval (now owned by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt) and the Perrin winemaking family (known primarily for their work in Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the mourvedre grape).
This week, we hop over to Languedoc for a rosé made from malbec grapes and then back to Provence’s smallest and most isolated appellation, Bandol, for a rosé from one of France’s most storied wineries, Domaine Tempier.
More on that in a moment. But first... what does “terroir” really mean? This week, resident wine expert Julien Miquel explains the intricacies of terroir… its “human component”... and how it relates to the wines we drink today…
The only place on earth with true savoir faire for the malbec grape is Argentina. Yes, the grape is originally French (it is sometimes referred to as one of Bordeaux’s “lost grapes”), but the knowledge disappeared from France in the late 1800s with the phylloxera blight.
For that reason, whether you’re drinking a vin de Cahors (one of malbec’s historic homes and the site of malbec’s revival in France) or sipping a malbec rosé from the Pays d’Oc, the style of French malbec varies considerably. The old rules are long forgotten. French winemakers must invent their own.
The name “Mal.bek” on this 2020 vintage is likely a nod to M. Malbeck, the possibly apocryphal vigneron who brought malbec vines to Bordeaux in the 1700s. Yet, from the shape of the bottle (which looks more like a vessel for luxury vodka) and the label (targeting millennial women), the makers of the Mal.bek 2020 vintage were not looking to the past for strictures.
Long time Partnership members may remember the Domaine Ollier-Taillefer rosé from Languedoc that we included in our French Collection from 2019. The Mal.bek 2020 is also from the Languedoc and has a similar sun-bleached look.
But there the similarities end. The Ollier-Taillefer was all about bringing out the essence of Faugères, schist-rock “land of exiles” and the highest and most remote of Languedoc’s appellations.
Mal.bek’s appellation is the general Pays d’Oc, which means the grapes could have come from anywhere within Languedoc Roussillon. That sort of general appellation is typical where the wine is more about the varietal than the place.
Fair play to the winemakers for using malbec in a rosé. Sadly we couldn’t get much nose off this wine, although our wife, C., did detect some grapefruit and cherry. What was more surprising, especially after the soft Miraval, was the mouthfeel. It had the full body of a Chablis with a tannin kick (from the malbec). That type of body lingers on the palate – unfortunately here, what lingered was mostly alcohol, not flavor.
The third, and final, rosé we tasted was a true classic: a Bandol rosé from Domaine Tempier.
On the Mediterranean coast in the region of Provence, inland from the Bay of Bandol, vines and pines grow side-by-side on terraced plots that slope down towards the sea.
Bandol is at once the most admired and most isolated of Provence’s appellations. A long growing season ensures mature, flavorful grapes – typically mourvedre, the grape in the Domaine Tempier 2020 we tried.
Immediately we were struck by the nose. It was like stepping into a wild strawberry patch, with a cherry tree in full bloom hanging overhead. On the palate, it had a full body with a slight spice from the mourvedre.
Remember that mourvedre is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape grape. Those tanniny wines can age for long periods of time. In the same way, Bandol is one of those rare rosés that can age and age... for decades even.
If you need a rosé to truly enjoy, not just quaff, then this is your best bet of all three we sampled.
Yet, though we loved the feral, fragrant 2020, we couldn’t help but wonder what it would become after a few years in the cellar. A slight note of alcohol, a product of its youth, still lingered in the mix. Cellar one and see what happens.
Until next week,
The Wine Explorer
P.S. Speaking of wines for the summer... we've put together 3 great wines for all your summer activities. Click here to stock up on these easy-drinking wines.