Wednesday Wines – Episode 52

Episode 52 – 24th March 2021

Three sensational, newly-released Provence Rosés

Exactly one year ago, I started my weekly Wednesday Wines column, deciding that it should be free to view for all.  I have written up hundreds of amazing wines (and well over 40000 words!). I have decided that this initiative will continue ad infinitum so I am able to inform my readers, with no print lead times whatsoever, about the finest wines that I discover each week.

There is an ever-expanding ocean of Provence rosé on the market and the vast majority of bottles are dreary, insipid and confected.  Sadly, most consumers are all too forgiving when they drink these lacklustre wines and this is a shame because there is a gulf of quality between the pretenders and the genuine superstars.  There is a hard core of epic estates making sensational wines and they deserve all of the credit for making this the most important region in the world for rosé wines.  Please allow me to be your guide, both in Wednesday Wines, MoneyWeek and also in my Daily Mail column where I write up more widely available, often less expensive, but equally worthy wines.  I will never feature a bottle that is anything but accurate, delicious and rewarding.  As you would expect, this Wednesday Wines column allows me to alert you to the super-elite wines which are made in smaller quantities and also sold by select merchants.  This week’s trio is absolutely sensational and I cannot recommend these wines enough.

2020 Château Saint Baillon, Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France (£143.00, for a case of 12 bottles (£11.92 each), reduced to £132.00 for a case of 12 bottles (£11.00 each) until 1 April; £75.00 for a case of 3 magnums (£25.00 each); £65.00 for 1 double-magnum,

2019 Saint Baillon Rosé was the very first wine written up in Wednesday Wines exactly one year ago and so it is fitting that, on the anniversary of this column, I review the 2020 vintage of the very same wine.  A frightening number of bottles have been tasted and consumed in the last twelve months, but I remember the 2019 vintage of this delightful rosé as if it were yesterday.  It is, therefore, all the more exciting to announce that the 2020 vintage builds on the precision and impact of the 2019 by adding even more gloss to the mid-palate.  In spite of the vast number of rosés that appear on our shelves each year, there are only a handful of Provençal properties that I truly rate and Saint Baillon is one.  Not only does this wine taste absolutely stunning in 2020 but it also keeps its price keenly competitive and this is great news for us all.  And there is more.  This year I tasted two wines from this elegant property.

My featured Estate rosé and also 2020 Château Saint Baillon, Opale Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France (£93.00 for a case of 6 bottles (£15.50 each), is also confession time from this particular wine writer.  My wife, Amelia, pulled the bottle of the Estate rosé out of the fridge and she poured me a glass.  I was convinced that it was Opale, given that I have never tasted this cuvée before but I was certain that the perfume and glossiness on the palate of the wine in my glass had to belong to the ‘special cuvée’!  I was happy to be proved wrong and it just goes to show how much of a step up in both quality and texture has occurred in this stunning new vintage.  This is a wonderful release and it is worth noting that Opale is itself a thrilling wine with an even more expressive nose, a more ornate palate and a foodier disposition.  The lip-smacking acidity on the finish is worthy of particular note.  This is a cracking pair of rosés and if you compare the pricing to the rest of the competition out there they romp home as some of the finest value wines of the year.  Oh, and Mrs Jukes had a go at guessing the price of the Opale when we eventually tasted it together.  She said £25!  I rather think that this underlines my point.

2020 Château La Mascaronne Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France (approx. £22.50, Selfridges tel. 0800 123 400).

Selfridges has not quite managed to upload this wine to its website in time for this write-up (I have been assured that they have stock in store), so I would advise that you give the wine department a ring on the number above to secure your order.  This is another stellar 2020 rosé and this time the mood is one of innate sophistication coupled with breath-taking restraint.  La Mascaronne is a grand wine and one with exquisite presence on both the nose and palate.  There are few properties in the South of France as breathtakingly beautiful as this one and it is farmed entirely organically.  Michel Reybier, owner of Château Cos d’Estournel 2ème Cru Saint-Estèphe, Domaine Impérial Tokaj-Hétszölö, Jeeper Champagne and the groups of La Réserve hotels in Paris, Geneva, Zurich and Ramatuelle, bought this estate in 2020.  It is hard to think of a better vintage in which to take control of this property because this wine is certainly the finest release to date.  There is a graceful persistence of English rhubarb and pomegranate arils balanced by stern, unwavering acidity from the nose to the finish, marking it as wine with considerable attitude and intent and this means that it is more of a gastronomic creation than many.  I was intrigued to see that it blossomed over time, too (I tasted it over three days) and this signals that the Grenache involved is of the very highest quality.  This is a property which I have tracked for nearly a decade having written up the 2011 vintage way back in 2012 in my Daily Mail column, but more recently, Berry Bros & Rudd have teamed up with La Mascaronne to make their own label Provence Rosé and it has been a delightful wine.  Having said this, nothing compares to this spectacular 2020 Estate release with its slender lines, resonant palate and devastatingly dramatic finish.