It’s Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, which for wine writers means one thing: an inundation of Rosé samples and PR pitches. So I am here to remind you about the Southern Rhône’s answer to Rosé Spring Fever: Tavel.
You remember Tavel. It’s near Avignon. Wine has been produced there for centuries as a light-ish red. It’s one of the first Rhône crus, having become an AOC in the 1930s. It’s 100% rosé – 60% GSM, with a bunch of other (in typically Rhône-ish fashion, seemingly one billion) varieties allowed. It usually clocks in at 14% abv, and sports some of the deepest, darkest, sexiest shades of off-red in the wine world. It’s rosé with seriousness, versatility, and personality. It’s rosé that embraces its butch side. It’s f*cking great. And it’s a potentially endangered species: while there are currently 900 ha of vines in the region, that number is eroding slowly as (according to appellation co-president Thomas Giubbi) successive generations fail to take up the vine and wine work of their retiring parents. So you need to drink more of this stuff.
The key to understanding Tavel (at least, as I saw it when I I visited last year via media jaunt), is to realize that the region’s three soil types probably have the greatest impact on its realization of kick-ass rosé. As Domaine la Rocalière’s Sèverine Lemoine explained to me, “Other [Rhône] appellations have three colors, and one type of soil; we have one color, but three types of soil.”
Those (in)famous Rhône galets, brought from the Alps via the Rhône river, provide grapes with structure and power. Clay-rich limestone promotes freshness and spice notes. Finally, the oldest soils – Pliocene sand – offer fruit with finesse and fruitiness. Combined with a Mediterranean climate, you’ve got a compelling environmental mix for crafting a seemingly paradoxical ballsy rosé.
Here are a few examples from compelling Tavel producers that I visited. Assuming that you’re man or woman enough to handle the Sergio Oliva of pink wine, that is…Read the rest of this stuff »