While recent fashion dictates that rosé is a wine that is only salmon pink and to be enjoyed al fresco, served from an ice bucket, the Tavel rosé wines are an altogether different beast. These are not for those looking for delicate aperitif rosés, but are more serious wines, preserving their heritage and just as happily paired with winter food as a summer salad. With skin contact ranging from 12 to a more traditional 72 hours, Tavel rosés have more colour, weight, structure, firm minerality and hint of tannin, compared to their Provencal counterparts. World rosé expert, Elizabeth Gabay MW, tastes a range of 30 Tavel rosé to highlight their different styles.
“Tavels with a high percentage of Grenache and shorter, cold skin contact of 12 to 24 hours, more closely resemble fuller-bodied Provence rosés,” writes Gabay.
Although Tavel rosé is technically a southern French rosé, it has a very clear identity of its own. In style it is a clairet, an historic style which was once more common throughout Europe, with the wines of Tavel singled out early on as a wine of repute, served at the nearby papal court in Avignon.
Like neighbouring Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Tavel, located across the Rhône on the west bank, traditionally includes many varieties, including red and white grapes. Grenache Noir has to be present in every wine, and usually makes up half of the blend, but other principal varieties include Bourboulenc, Cinsault, Clairette Blanc, Clairette Rose, Grenache Noir/Blanc/Gris, Mourvèdre, Piquepoul Noir/Blanc/Gris, and Syrah.
The grapes are harvested earlier than comparable red wines and undergo extended skin contact, ranging from the traditional 72 hours to a more modern 12 hours (compared to Provence rosé which has minimal skin contact for a couple of hours).
It is not just the colour which is extracted, but also greater weight, structure, firm minerality and a hint of tannin. Following this tasting of 30 Tavel wines, the conclusion was that these are rosés that you can buy now and easily age a few years, allowing them to develop more complex flavours and integrate their structure. Overall, the alcohol levels tend to be higher and are balanced by greater weight and intensity of fruit.
Superb gastronomic rosés, not just for salad and light summery food, but to pair with seriously weighty and robust food such as barbecues, autumn game, tomato sauces and heavier meals throughout the winter. These are serious wines, preserving their heritage, and are not for those looking for delicate aperitif rosés.
So how were the 30 Tavel rosés?
The oldest vintage shown was Château deTrinquevedel’s Cuvée Les Vignes d’Eugène 2018, one-third aged in barrique. The combination of barrel and maturity showed in the wine’s complex flavours of cinnamon, mulled spice, redcurrants and cassis. Gorgeously full-bodied with creamy, intense weight with a tight mineral core and finish. Elegant, delicate, serious.
La Dame Rousse 2019, Domaine de la Mordorée juicy, ripe redcurrants with savoury notes, dried apricots, spice and torrefaction. Notably crisp and vibrant, with well-integrated balance of weighty fruit structure and finesse with fresh, chalky tannins, fine acidity and really pure fruit coming through on the finish.
Domaine des Carabiniers 2019 silky smooth fresh fruit, oodles of freshly picked sun-ripened red fruit, cherries and redcurrants, floral notes and a long crunchy freshness. Balanced lightness and concentration with a pippy tannic finish beautifully integrated into the whole.
La Reine des Bois 2019, Domaine de la Mordorée has ripe silky redcurrant, cassis and candied red fruit countered by bitter garrigue notes. Fresh acidity very well integrated and in balance with fine saline notes. The very supple, textural chalky tannins are still slightly grippy and youthful.
Château d’Aquéria 2019 cranberries, cherries and exotic fruit, with hints of baked fruit and mineral notes and almonds with cream and butter-smooth richness. Acidity extremely well integrated and well balanced against the soft tannins and steely mineral edge on the finish.
E Guigal 2019 floral, vanilla, cloudberries, cranberries and bitter orange notes. Firm tannic structure with pippiness and good grip-giving length. The fruit and flavours seamlessly integrate from start to finish. A confident wine which combines prettiness and structure.
Trésor des Sables 2019, Les Vignerons de Tavel and Lirac juicy ripe berries and cherries with attractive fresh, leafiness, attractive minerality and long fresh, creamy acidity.
The second oaked Tavel was Libiamo 2019, Domaine Maby fresh dark cherries, vibrant, juicy, floral, white fruit acidity. Integrated oaky toast, vanilla, spice and pepper, excellent structure and weight balancing the tannic finale. Outstanding example of what Tavel can be. A year of age plus time in barrel really helps integrate the fruit and structure elements of the wine.
More modern, younger Tavel rose
Market forces mean Tavel, which used to be released with more ageing, are these days released younger and some made in a more modern, accessible style.
Beaurevoir 2020, M Chapoutier has lush fruit, cooked candied raspberries, some flintiness, wild herby garrigue, fresh leafiness, balancing sweet and sour. Weighty, rounded, supple structure with crisp acidity, mineral core and light tannins, lifted by a good proportion of Cinsault, Bourboulenc and Clairette.
Cuvée des Lys 2020, Château de Manissy Juicy cherries, raspberries, confected bonbon anglaise, roses and green apple freshness. Good weight and structure with some creamy custard and butter pastry richness, crisp, crunchy acidity and gentle tannins. A fresh modern style done well, 12 to 24 hours skin contact and, unusually Grenache Gris as the major variety.
Tavel rosé that is closer to the Provence style
Tavels with a high percentage of Grenache and shorter, cold skin contact of 12 to 24 hours, more closely resembling a fuller-bodied Provence rosé.
Réserve des Chastelles 2020, Vignobles & Compagnie wild raspberries, dark forest fruit, enticing hints of compote and whisps of smokiness and herbal notes with fresh crisp acidity. Not weighty but good grip and the classic Tavel piquancy and some tannic notes on the finish. An attractive modern version with 70% Grenache.
Respelido 2020, Les Vignerons du Castelas mineral and mint freshness with restrained herbal sourness, juicy crushed raspberry, wild red berry fruit and fresh acidity. Plenty of weight, a hint of round tannins. More juicy, modern style with 90% Grenache.
Most of the 2020s still need time.
La Forcadiere 2020, Domaine Maby has juicy, crushed strawberries, berry jam, floral notes, a whisper of smoky, savoury, garrigue and fantastically crisp acidity cutting through the almost overripe raspberries. Beautiful balance of fruit, vibrant acidity and the typical Tavel mineral piquancy on the finish.
Les Amandines 2020, Domaine Amido gentle blossom, soft jammy raspberries and strawberries, orchard fruit and perfumed quince. Good round weight, structure and lovely fresh redcurrant acidity. Despite long maceration, the wine is fruit-driven, less steely minerality, with the typical tannic finish.
Domaine Chantepierre 2020, Les Vignerons de Tavel and Lirac layers of vibrant red cherries, crunchy cranberries, perfumed roses, scented violets, garrigue, oranges and bitter almonds. Leafy, minty freshness, blue black minerality, gentle tannins and long fresh acidity. Long maceration but lifted with a third of the grapes being the lighter Cinsault, Clairette, Picpoul and Bourboulenc.
Château de Trinquevedel 2020 full-bodied smoothness with violets, dark, crunchy, forest fruit, black pepper, and a touch of strawberry jam. Blue-black minerality and tight tannic finish. Added freshness from the sandy soils.
Prima Donna 2020, Domaine Maby a single vineyard based on rounded river rock soil. Bursting with opulent rich, ripe silky cherries and redcurrants with spice, restrained minerality, firm weight and textural chalky tannins.
Château d’Aqueria 2020 lovely sun-ripened lush strawberries, raspberries and loganberries and sweet jammy fruit, with floral hints. Garrigue notes, good fruit intensity and long acidity to balance the delicately powdery tannins and grip on the finish.
Langoustière 2020, Château de Manissy floral, violets, sous bois, a hint of sweet vanilla, intense red berries and blue stone fruit. Added depth with minerality, textural structure, some chalky tannins and piquant bite.
Domaine les Hautes Roches 2020, Cellier des Chartreux full of raspberry fruit, red fruit compote, lavender, fresh leafy floral notes, dried plums, a twist of orange zest with garrigue and smoky hints, reflecting a higher percentage of Syrah. Rich, intense fruit, fresh acidity and a gentle tannic finish.
Singuliers Pluriels 2020, Ogier almost sweet, ripe extracted dark red fruit, perfumed rose water counterbalanced by sour bitter orange, herb and sweet spice reflecting higher Syrah and Mourvedre in the blend. Supple tannins, and a saline and mineral grip to the finish.
Le Classique 2020, Domaine la Rocalière red berries, gentle creamy stone fruit, herbal garrigue and spice notes. Fresh, chalky acidity, steely and minerality with a bitter, dry tannic finish.
Château la Genestière 2020 dark, intense liquorice, black cherries, blackberries, hints of coffee, herbs and smoky vegetal notes. Nice weight with sweet and sour complexity. Fresh chalky acidity and piquant minerality on the finish.
Cuvée Royale 2020, Les Vignerons de Tavel and Lirac cherry compote, rosehip syrup and violets and intense blueberries, redcurrants, and some ripe rosehip syrup sweetness with blossom and bruised apple notes and balanced by savoury garrigue. Very fresh, but the strident tannins need some age to mellow.