“I can’t help but wish I was sitting in a village café in the South of France with a bottle of glorious salmon pink wine, a bowl of bouillabaisse, the mistral rustling through the trees, and Marion Cotillard sat just…” Well we can all but dream and thankfully for us Mike Turner has put his wishful thinking about all things South of France and most of all Provence rosé to paper, with this open love letter to a style of wine that, well, he simply can’t do without. Which is a sentiment shared not just by him, but the customers in his north London restaurant and millions of others around the country.
There are only three variations of still wine – white, red and rosé – yet we still seem to be surprised when customer after customer goes for rosé morning noon and night. Mike Turner isn’t. For him rosé, and in particular Provence rosé, is a wine that launches a 1,000 memories every time he takes a sip.
Have you lot ever seen A Good Year? It’s a Ridley Scott film that’s on Film 4 nearly every other week. It’s all about a London based banker, played by Russell Crowe, who heads back to his uncle’s house in Provence when he’s left it in the will. It’s all about the struggle between living your life in a fiery atmosphere in grey London, or moving to the beautiful Provence countryside with beautiful food, wine…oh and Marion Cotillard. Just saying.
Let’s have it right, it’s a twee, feel good film that I really don’t mind admitting I absolutely love. And sitting here in grey Camden Town with a brief to write my thoughts on the upsides of Provence rosé, I can’t help but wish I was sitting in a village café in the South of France with a bottle of glorious salmon pink wine, a bowl of bouillabaisse, the mistral rustling through the trees, and Marion Cotillard sat just…alright Mike, chill out, they get the point!
From a purely entertainment point of view, I think few wines can match the feeling that a glass of Provence rosé can evoke. The immortal words “it’s good fun” are as true as they are infuriating to describe in knobby, and more professional wine writing diction. If you’ve been to Provence before, it makes you want to be back there. If you’ve never been it makes you want to go. It evokes memories and good feeling that few wines in the world can consistently match. And that’s before you’ve started to dig into the depths of the seriously premium wines that are being made down there.
Provence: Rosé HQ
Provence is undeniably the world’s capital of rosé wine. It makes about 8% of all the rosé produced in the world, and even has the world’s only rosé wine research centre opened in 1999. They are serious about this, and it’s reflected in the wines.
The 150 mile wide strip of land, from the foot hills of the alps on the Italian border, all the way to Marseille and the edge of the Rhone Valley, is hot and dry and ginger boys like me need to be very careful with the factor 50. Importantly though, you’ve got high inland hills giving fantastic diurnal range (massive help to retain acidity), and you’ve got the blessed Mistral wind which cools the grapes and protects from pests and diseases. Great for vineyards, not so good if you’re trying to rock a new haircut.
The best wines of the world reflect where they’re from. Dare I say it, they reflect the terroir. The limestone base in the north west of Provence, in particular, gives that lovely white pepper minerality kick and the shrubs and wild herbs like lavender, rosemary, and thyme shine through in the garrigue flavours.
But these wines are far from a samey one-hit-wonder. There are hills, mountains, coastlines, and valleys throughout giving different aspects for the vines. Modern thinking and experimental winemakers are testing out oak fermentation and ageing, or cooler temperature ferments in modern stainless steel wineries. Sub appelations like Fréjus, La Londe, and Pierrefeu offer distinct alternatives. Do taste around to find your favourites.
The people’s choice
The joys of summer are on us. My restaurant in North London (La Ferme) is currently flooded with punters after rosé. As much as I’m always on the look out for the next and greatest one I can find, I’m always pretty happy with whatever Côte De Provence is on the list as I know that the AOC rules are serious about rosé. It’s not an afterthought, and it’s not a by-product from wanting to make your reds more structured. It’s 80% of the production of Côte De Provence AOC. They intentionally set out to make dry, fresh, fruity wines that go great with the food that we serve.
My chef, funnily enough, is from Marseille, and has big Asian influences in the way he constructs a French food menu. Well this is a no-brainer isn’t it? Provence Rosé is perfect with meat, fish, veggies, fruit, herbs, spices, and as much garlic as you want to throw at it. You just cannot go wrong with this stuff on a wine list no matter what food you’re serving up.
Few of you will have lumped Provence rosé in the same bracket as the sweet, and often sickly white Zinfandels and almost luminous 1970s marketing behemoths from Portugal. But have you really taken the time to try out the range on offer? With premium standard wines from £10 retail upwards, it’s great for you as a wine lover, and as a business owner or top sommelier or whatever you are.
Provence rosé manages to be fun and serious at the same time, a trick I’ve unfortunately not quite mastered myself.
Maybe if I just have another glass? Where’s Marion gone with that bottle?
- You can read more about Mike Turner’s loves and passions on his award-winning blog and website, Please Bring Me My Wine.