Summer is finally here, so it is time to talk of that quintessential wine of summer, rosé. No rosé better captures the spirit of the season than the sun-blushed rosés of Provence.
Recall that feeling of hot sand between your toes as you sit down to lunch in the cool shade of an awning at some beach-front café just steps from the Mediterranean? That's the image these rose-hued beauties conjure up for me.
I have never figured out if there is a definite causal relationship between the pale pink/orange color of these wines and their delicate, elegant flavor, or whether it just seems that the two must to be linked, but in my mind they certainly are.
And the Domaine Houchart Côtes de Provence Rosé 2009 ($13) is just what I look for because it displays both characteristics with élan. It's a superb example of a Provençal rosé: delicate, soft, and subtle, quite dry, but with enough ripe fruit flavors—strawberries, of course, the calling card of this sort of wine—to ensure its quaffability, another essential requirement of rosé.
This alone describes many rosés, most of them decidedly ordinary, boring wines good only for drinking ice cold in the swimming pool, as long as one isn't too demanding. No, what I also want in a rosé, and what the Houchart decidedly delivers, is a distinctive flinty minerality that provides depth and complexity—not an insignificant achievement in a wine at this price—and that incidentally makes it far more interesting with food.
Speaking of food back at the beachfront café: Please pass that plate of delicious black olives—and the crusty baguette.
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary
Food Pairing: Meaty fish, salads, cold meat, pasta, pizza
Grapes: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Côtes de Provence