Elizabeth Gabay MW
Jan 2014

Winter Blues, Provençal Reds

Even in Provence winter. Days, weeks, even months of cold weather. Admittedly the sky is also often a bright blue, making the bitter chill more bearable. But, on days like today, when the clouds are low and heavy, the rain incessant and the mountain peaks of northern Provence are tipped with snow, we are more likely to think of a roaring fire and a glass of full bodied red wine than the swimming pool and a glass of chilled rosé. So I thought I would made a quick review of my favourite Provençal red wines over the past year. The four dominant varieties in the red wines of Provence are Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Good examples are full of fruit ranging from red berries (when there is a high percentage of Grenache) through to black fruit, cassis and plums. For winter drinking I thought of those wines which also have big fruit and tannic structure, so I have not included some of the fresher, more floral wines here. In Bellet red wines with a high percentage of Folle Noir tend to be more tannic and structural, while those with a higher percentage of Braquet are lighter and aromatic. Here is part 1 of my favourite reds: Chateau Dalmeran, Les Baux. This estate lies on the western edge of the Alpilles hills at the centre of Les Baux and its vineyards overlook the Rhone Valley. Two vintages of their red Chateau wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon). 'MMVI' (2006) Rich black fruit with notes of black chocolate backed with a strong tannic structure. and 'MMVII' (2007) Inky, mineral supple tannins with intense juicy black fruit were both delightfully rich and benefitting from a few years of extra maturity. Chateau la Curnière, Coteaux Varois. From the centre of the Provence region, two red wines, both from the 2010 vintage : Chateau 2010 (Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon) has lovely Syrah character with spicy mineral tannins and a good depth of ripe black fruit while their 'Red Montagne 3 Croix' 2010 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah) Has a firmer tannic structure with notes of spice, cassis and mineral flavours. Also from Coteaux Varois, Domaine du Deffend's range of red wines are excellent. Their Champs de la Truffiere 2011, made with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon is rich and full of black fruit Chateau Malherbe, La Londes-Cotes de Provence - one of the hottest and most southerly regions in France, the vineyards, which lie right next to the sea are cooled by sea breezes. The 2011 vintage is Mourvedre dominant, benefitting from the long hours of hot sun, with some Syrah and Grenache is very round, rich and fruity with fresh plums, berry and black fruit, fine, chalky tannins, long acidity. Notes of coffee, liquorice and savoury flavours and a touch of salty minerality from the vineyards proxmity to the sea. Clos St Vincent 2010, Bellet, from the hills above Nice is cooled by breezes which sweep down the Var valley from the alps. Largely made with Folle Noir, with a small amount of Grenache, this wine has a unique character (Folle Noir is found nowhere else) and this estate makes a particularly weighty red Bellet with fresh chewy acidity and ripe black fruit.