Jamie Ivey visits Mas de Cadenet vineyard near Aix en Provence
I’d always viewed the trend for vineyards to produce gastronomic rosés as a bit of a fad. A marketing ploy to capitalise on the popularity of pink wine. After all rosé was a wine traditionally made from the worst grapes on a vineyard. It was an afterthought at harvest time. A good way of using up the unwanted crop, with the added bonus of its popularity with tourists – the only people foolish enough to want to drink it.
Now that 88% of Provence’s wine production is accounted for by rosé, the quality of the wine cannot so easily be dismissed. But a gastronomic rosé? Surely vignerons would have been making such wines for generations if there really was any credibility to the proposition.
My mind was changed by Guy Negrel, owner of Mas de Cadenet, just outside Aix en Provence. It’s a vineyard that has been in the same family since 1812, and was one of the first in the area to adopt organic farming. Mas de Cadenet produces three different sorts of rosés, which can perhaps clumsily be classified as follows: something to serve at a party, something to enjoy as an apero with your wife, and a gastronomic wine to accompany food. The price rises from my first example to the last (€8 to €20).
Monsieur Negrel insists that in the modern world there is a demand for three different types of rosé for three different types of occasion. Together we tasted his gastronomic rosé, which like a fine white or red is aged in oak. The tannins are feather light, the wine has a pleasing length on the palate with a final peppery note. It’s delicious stuff, and in a blind tasting I would imagine very difficult to distinguish from a white or light red.
As well as its speciality rosés Mas de Cadenet makes three different classes of red and white wine. The red in particular is good value at around 10 euros a bottle. Wine tours are offered in the summer months for parties of 4 or more. The vineyard has stunning views of Mont Saint Victoire, and is a wonderful place to listen to a family story of two centuries of wine making, including innovations such as oak-aged rosé. Well worth a visit and a tasting if you are in the area.