Five key phrases for the wine tasting room to have you transform from a novice to an expert in no time!
Rosé, especially rosé from Provence, is having its moment in the sun and if you’ve visited the South of France in summer you’ll understand why. A glass of the salmon-hued pink drink served chilled with a view of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea as an accompaniment, is the perfect match to a Côte d’Azur afternoon.
So if you’re on the French Riviera and in the mood to learn more about the local drop, we can’t recommend highly enough the vineyards around Saint-Tropez, such as the stunning Château Minuty and Château de Pampelonne, where row after row of vines cascade into the dazzling azure sea. And, to cap off a fantastic day wine tasting, why not book a return helicopter flight from Saint-Tropez to Monaco with us at Monacair for a panoramic view of this incredible wine region?
In preparation, here’s a handy guide to using five sometimes tricky wine terms you’ll come across in the tasting room:
The vintage refers to the age of a wine, the year it was made. For many wines – especially fine red Bordeaux and red Burgundy – it is usually a case of the older the vintage the better (but not too old, there’s that magic tipping point where a wine takes on a vinegar aspect) but for Provence rosé, you generally want to be drinking as young a wine as possible.
As a general rule, rosé is best enjoyed young, fresh and overflowing with luscious red fruits the year after it was made, so that means this summer you should be uncorking a bottle of the 2017 vintage.
Of course, there are exceptions – producers such as Château Gassier have realized the value of using oak in their rosé (see below), which means these quality wines are not only released later but can be cellared – and enjoyed – for many years.
Although oak is a type of wood, the latter is a term used only to describe a wine where the use of a low-quality material is evident – think of the cheap Australian wines that flooded the UK market more than a decade ago.
Oak barrels are an integral part of the ageing process of good wine, imparting flavours and making the wine smoother and more textured and also allowing it to be cellared for longer. Wineries often chose between French or American oak – the former is more subtle and spicy, and the latter gives stronger hints of flavours such as vanilla and coconut!
Oak isn’t cheap and presents a significant investment for a vineyard. Barrels also start to lose flavour after first use, which is why you’ll find many wines highlight the fact they were aged in a certain percentage of new oak (Château d’Esclans’ top cuvée Garrus for example). But many winemakers are looking for a more subtle oak influence, so that’s why they are happy to use barrels for a good few years.
As with any wine tasting, the temptation is to bring a case or two home to ‘cellar’ or store. As with all wines, it is best to keep rosé in cool conditions away from sunlight. Heat is the natural enemy of a bottle of wine and will prematurely age it. It’s also best to store your wine lying on its side, rather than standing up. This will allow a certain amount of liquid to remain in contact with the cork so it doesn’t dry out.
As mentioned above, rosé is best drunk young, so it should be a case of cellaring most bottles of rosé for months, rather than years.
Rather than saying “this wine smells great”, wine lovers prefer to describe the ‘nose’ of a wine, or the aromas they pick up when they swirl and smell a glass of wine. As you heli-tour around the local vineyards and discover Provence’s best rosés, you’ll pick up everything from floral hints, fresh and exotic fruits, and citrus aromas on your nose.
Another tricky term, palate refers to how a wine tastes when you drink it. The typical flavour profile of rosé is fruity and mineral while you can also expect to come across terms such as light – to describe how the wine feels in your mouth – and fresh and crisp – to describe the refreshing acidity of Provence rosé.
We’ll say cheers to that!