Provence wine of the month – Chateau du Clapier, Cuvee Soprano
Well it’s summer, it’s provence, so it’s got to be a rosé.
The trend these days is for dry and very pale pinks. Wines sell on colour, shape of the bottle, and gastronomic pretensions. Price ranges for a basic pink start around 5 euros a bottle rising to near 15 euros, at the more renowned vineyards. A good introductory pink is Domaine Sainte Philomene, Cuvee Capucine at 6 euros a bottle. A more expensive pale pink to grace a table would be Chateau Vignelaure.
However, once in a while it’s nice to try something different. Years ago researching my first book Extremely Pale Rosé, I tasted a flight of pinks dating back over a decade from Domaine Reverdy in Sancerre. As the wines aged they became noticeably more complex, full in body and long in the mouth. The colour of the aged wine was the only disappointment, with the vibrant pink of a young rosé, turning to sunset orange over time.
I was reminded of the ageing potential of rosé by the visit of our good friend Lynne Raimbault of Domaine Raimbault also in Sancerre. Lynne brought with her several bottles of 2011 pink Sancerre. The colour was deep, almost off putting, hovering as it did between orange and an oxidized yellow. On tasting though, the wine showed the same, ability to develop over time as the Reverdy wine, with layers of complexity usually lacking in a rosé. Sancerre pinks are of course made from the pinot noir grape, which the local vignerons proudly claim gives them their unique ageing ability.
Provence just doesn’t do this sort of complex ageable rosé. Or so I thought, until days after Lynne’s visit I dropped in at Chateau du Clapier in Mirabeau. Here the Cuvee Soprano pink is made from syrah and grenache noir, which is then aged in oak for nearly a year, before being brought to the market. This is a truly unique approach for an area of France where the new season rosé can be in the shops a couple of months after harvest. By the end of the following summer when the Cuvee Soprano is still sitting in its oak barrels, most Provencal rosé is nearing its best before date.
Like the Sancerres the Soprano does not have the pleasing baby-pink, wink-in-the-sun, colour that is so popular. What it does have though is a wonderful depth of flavour with a pleasing smokiness. It’s definitely a wine to drink with a meal rather than as an aperitif. And a complete refreshing change from all the pale pinks that are populating other tables in Provence this summer.
The price for a bottle of Cuvee Soprano is 10 euros a bottle. It’s available to order online or at the Chateau, or in good Provence wine shops.
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