~ by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits ~
While relaxing aprés beach and winding down from the day (or getting ready for the annual clambake), nothing is quite as refreshing on Nantucket than a chilled glass of rosé wine. While some people are still skeptical that any wine in a shade of pink still tastes like the sweet ‘blush’ that used to dominate this wine category, this is far from the truth these days.
Rosé is like the chameleon of the wine world. You can drink it on its own or as an aperitif to open your senses and relax your mind before any mealtime. It is versatile enough to pair with a summer picnic on Nobadeer Beach or drink over the winter as you reminisce about your time here on the island. The perfect partner for salmon, pork, or any grilled meat, it could even pass for a dessert pairing with a bowl of fresh fruit and tiramisu.
Nantucket embraces Rosé almost as much as they do in St. Barth’s in the Caribbean or St. Tropez in the South of France, where rosé is a part of daily life. You see rosé everywhere here on island in the restaurants and bottle shops. Fortunately, there is a large selection of choices that will be sure to please any finicky palate.
For those of you who are new to the #yeswayrose campaign, you might be wondering what to expect when you get your bottle home or it is poured in your glass at the bar. Typically speaking, the paler the pink hue, the lighter in weight the rosé wine will be. If the wine has an orange or salmon like color, it will have more earthy tones on the palate. Rosés that have a bit darker hue (more similar to a rose flower) are made from darker skin grape varieties, such as cabernet sauvignon, and will have more dark red fruit characteristics with perhaps a small touch of tannin.
If you are looking for a classic French example, look no further than the bar at Le Languedoc Bistro. They pour Minuty Rosé from the well-known Côtes de Provence region in Southern France. The pale honeysuckle pink color comes from a traditional blend of grapes in the area of Grenache, Cinsault, and a small amount of Syrah. This wine is aromatic, light and elegant with crisp acidity, which is key to a quality rose.
Château de Minuty is located on the St Tropez Peninsular, with its vineyards virtually overlooking the Mediterranean. The estate was built under Napoleon III in the mid-1800s. In 1936, the grandfather of current owner François Matton (along with his brother Jean-Etienne) replanted the entire estate and returned Château Minuty to its former glory. In 1955, Château Minuty was one of 23 estates to be consecrated as a classed growth of the Côtes de Provence, the highest ranking of the region.
This wine is bottled in the traditional (and distinctive) curvy shaped bottle that gives it away that it is a classic Provence rosé. In 1931, the ‘Syndicat de Defense des Côtes de Provence’ was created in order to regulate wines produced from this region. As more Provençal domaines who produced quality wines were bottling their own wines (versus being bottled by a negociant who purchased grapes from several growers and then blended a wine to sell), the Syndicat decided to design and copyright its own bottle. The “flute a corset Provençal” is only allowed to be used for domaine bottled wines and only appellation Côtes de Provence wines are permitted to use this bottle.
It is important to note that a wine from this region does not have to be bottled in this bowling pin shaped bottle. Some producers choose to select a traditional Burgundy or Bordeaux shaped bottle instead as these typically fit better in wine racks and refrigerators. Such is the case for the our feature.
Enjoying a glass of wine beachside while watching the sun go down is a Nantucket pastime that should be on everyone’s island bucket list. At The Galley, they serve a rosé by the glass that is also from the Côtes de Provence region, but, it’s from the Hyéres Islands (also known as the Golden Isles) off the coast of Provence, not the mainland. Domaine d’Ile hails from Porquerolles Island, which happens to be the biggest of the 3 outlying islands. ‘Ile’ translates to island in French, hence the apropos name of the winery.
But how did a winery end up on this remote island? The current owner is Sébastien Le Ber, whose grandfather bought the island in 1911 and planted vines in order to create fire shields. Sébastian took over the family business from his mother in 1980. The wines are completely organic (no weed killers or other chemical insecticides). The taste of the wines are unique based on the quality of the soils, the location of the islands and the mix of grapes used to make the rosé, which is Grenache, Cinsault, Tibouren (intensely aromatic with an earthy bouquet) and Mourvèdre. Perhaps you have seen Sébastien at the Nantucket Wine Festival where he is an annual luminary!
The second option is Château d’Esclans ‘Garrus’ Côtes de Provence 2013. What is unique about the presentation of this wine is that the bottle is not uncorked when poured for a guest. Rather the wine is extracted from the bottle using the Coravin Wine Access System. A thin, hollow needle is inserted through the cork to access the wine. While argon (an inert gas with no effect on the wine) is being pressurized into the bottle, the wine flows through the needle and pours into the glass. The needle is removed from the cork and the cork reseals itself so that you can enjoy the rest of the bottle at a later time.
The wines of Château d’Esclans are the brainchild of Sasha Lichine, who purchased the mid-1900s century estate in 2006. The château is known for its old Grenache vines, which produce grapes that offer greater concentration of flavor than do younger vines. Garrus is the premiere rosé from the estate. It is produced from vines that are over 80 years old from selected parcels of superior quality. Unlike most other Provençal rosé, this one is aged in oak for almost a year and produced more like a fine White Burgundy than your every day pour. Hence, the current vintage is released more than a year after is it harvested and can be aged for 5-7 years. The bottle is shaped more like an oversized bottle of Burgundy with a larger bottom and thick glass like you would find for a Champagne bottle. Owner Sacha Lichine is another Wine Luminary in recent years to be found around the island during Nantucket Wine Festival.
The #yeswayrosé wine tour doesn’t stop just here. There are numerous other features from varying countries and grape varieties that can be found at different restaurants on island. It can be part of your end of summer project to make your way around the island to do some of your own market research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and consider this continuing education. Best part is that rosé is a perfect pairing for an Indian Summer as well. Cheers!