I’ve seen too many Thanksgiving dinners ruined by….how shall I put this? A poor choice of wine, is perhaps the kindest turn of phrase. Sometimes it’s a big, heavy California red, in the past too often Zinfandel when that was thought to be a native American varietal, and more recently Cab or Merlot. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon? No thank you.
Similar disasters have been proceeded by the proud presentation of a just-released Beaujolais Nouveau – the less said about that the better. Then there’s always the California Chardonnay mistake. White wine with white meat is a rule meant to be broken, especially when it comes to turkey, so this year I am taking an unconventional approach, and serving a rosé, specifically the delightful Hecht & Bannier Rosé, Côtes de Provence 2012 ($20)
Pale, and unusual in a Provence rosé, more orange than pink in color. I have tried, but never been able to detect, a correlation in taste profiles between pink-tinged Provence rosé and their orange-tinged siblings, but the research does provide an excellent opportunity to taste a wide range of these lovely wines.
This version just glows with the exuberance of summer fruits – think raspberries, fraise du bois, cherries, tangerines – yet it also boasts enough substance, enough intensity, enough weight to stand up to rich flavor of turkey. This is not your anemic, swimming pool Provence rosé of old.
Now, I know why I would be drawn to make rosé in Provence, but I was curious as to why Hecht & Bannier had recently shifted the focus of their winemaking efforts from Languedoc to Aix-en-Provence, so I talked to Gregory Hecht.
“We wanted to make a rosé in Provence completely different, based on Grenache and Cinsault, quite clear with a very elegant approach, something with a nice acidity, very fresh, very delicate. That was the direction we chose.”
I remarked that this wine was very different from the inferior rosés that gave the region such a poor reputation in the past.
“Absolutely, absolutely! You have to get it very cold.”
“You need to pick the grapes in the night to get cold fruit into your cellar. It requires a lot of investment that has been done recently that was not done for a long time in the region because most of the production was in the hands of the caves coopératives with no resources to invest, and no will to do so either.”
But there’s more to it than that. Many of the vineyards are at 1,000 feet, which means cool nights, especially in September, which in turn helps preserve this freshness and intensity.
It also means a longer growing season with fully ripe grapes, which gives the wine its pleasing mouth-filling, roundness.
“What I am happy about is that you are enjoying this wine in November and that’s very important to me because it was bottled in February. It lasts, it’s still there which is very unusual for rosé in this region.”
H&B are not alone in this – it is part of a trend in Provence to make more serious, quality-driven wine, rosé that will last through the following winter. And, I might add, rosé that is more than an adequate accompaniment to the Thanksgiving bird.
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