Vintners have been making dry, pink wine in Provence since 600 B.C., and they have gotten pretty good at it.
In fact, the region’s winemakers would say that Cotes de Provence makes the best rosé in the world, and I agree that the crisp, bright wines are awfully good.
One outstanding, undisputed feature about the wines from Cotes de Provence is the elegant, personalized bottles — often tall and curvy, with long, thin necks. They can be quite lovely.
The wineries in the Cotes de Provence region in southeastern France are mostly family owned, and the Ravel family, producers of Chateau Montaud rosé, has built a reputation over three generations for making high-quality wines.
Frederic Ravel, who is 42, is running things now at Chateau Montaud, 840 acres on the site of an old Roman villa and winery in the Cotes de Provence Pierrefeu subregion. He took over the business a few years ago from his parents, Beatrice and Francois Ravel, after sharpening his winemaking skills in Burgundy and northern Spain.
Francois Ravel, whose father started the winery in 1964, built up the business and developed export sales into about 60 percent of his production, the estate’s website says. Frederic has continued to expand on what his parents and grandparents started, investing in equipment and acquiring additional vineyards.
Chateau Montaud rosé is a blend of four red grapes: Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and 5 percent Tibouren, a grape that may have a Greek origin and that adds a light mineral aroma to the wine. The origin of Tibouren is interesting because ancient Greek traders founded the Provencal city of Marseille and brought with them the art of winemaking, including pale, pink wine.
Frederic Ravel practices the principles of low yields, no irrigation and harvesting at the point of perfect ripeness. In addition, he uses modern technology along with traditional winemaker methods, the website says.
His rosé also benefits from the use of sustainable farming where the vines are grown in rocky soils of schist and sandstone on terraces against the Maures Mountains, cooled by breezes off the Mediterranean and dried by the cold, strong mistral winds.
Ravel produces 500,000 bottles of Chateau Montaud rosé, so it’s easy to find throughout New England. A relatively low-alcohol wine at 12.5 percent, it is an exceptional bargain at the full price of $14.99, but I see it frequently on sale for $9.99, which is a steal.
It’s a good thing that Ravel produces so much Chateau Montaud rosé, because American wine drinkers have finally figured out that rosé is not the sickly sweet, pink blush wine, often called white Zinfandel. Sales of dry rosé have risen as much as 125 percent in the last year in some price categories, according to an April study.
I’ve also noticed that the number of choices of rosé in area stores has grown tremendously in the last couple of years. Rosé has become so popular that even Justin Bieber — say, is he 21? — is pushing it. His wine is far out of my price range, however.
Chateau Montaud rosé has well-defined flavors of dried cherries, herbs and minerals with hints of white pepper in the crisp finish, Ravel says in the tasting notes.
The wine is an excellent match with Mediterranean fare, food prescribed in the healthful diet plan. My wife, Sandy, and I had it with grilled scallops and asparagus with a lemon beurre blanc sauce. It was a perfect fit.
Chateau Montaud is our go-to rosé because it’s always fresh, crisp and consistent, but if you want to try some other excellent, inexpensive and widely available dry Cotes de Provence rosés, here are some suggestions:
Le Charmel, 2016, is an estate wine produced near the village of Sanary Sur Mer along the Mediterranean coast. It has aromas of raspberry and wild flowers and flavors or strawberries and pears. It sells for around $9.
GM par Gabriel Meffre, 2015, is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. The company, which dates to 1936, produces a wide range of wines. This wine is priced from $9 to $15 and is dry and crisp with lots of layers of flavor.
Fleur de Mer, 2016, is just hitting some parts of the New England market, and you may have to ask for it. The wine has flavors and aromas of fresh watermelon, cherry, peach and lavender. It ranges in price from $9 to $17.
There are great rosés on the market now from California, Spain and Italy, as well, and they are distinctly different in flavor. But for a light, refreshing rosé, it’s hard to beat the Cotes de Provence.
Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.