Wine Time: Chateau d’Esclans Rock Angel 2015, Provence

Chateau d’Esclans Rock Angel. SPECIAL

Cost: $28-$32

 

What: Some people think of rosé as only a summer wine, but I love it all year long. A wine this good should not be pigeon-holed and certainly deserves to be enjoyed any time.

Rosé is especially good during the holidays when it can be difficult to pair a great meal with a great wine. A well-made dry rosé is versatile, and the pairings are limited only by your imagination.

The Chateau d’Esclans Rock Angel is one of the better rosés I have come across. It’s crisp and refreshing with intense flavors and a long finish.

It starts as a pale pink in the glass with strong floral and citrus aromas. It really is such a pretty pale pink that you need to hold the glass up to the light to see the color. The intense strawberry and raspberry flavors are unexpected from such a pale wine. There also are hints of peach and lemon with a creamy mouthfeel. This complex wine has a wonderful depth and refreshing acidity, making it outstanding with food.

Rosé has been soaring in popularity in the United States, especially rosé from Provence, a region in southeast France near Italy. Outside of France our country is the leading consumer of rosé. This popularity has made it difficult to find Provence rosé at times.

Rosé is not the white zinfandel that made pink wine so popular in this country 50 years ago. The typical rosé from France is dry, crisp and full of fruit flavors. This dry rosé is now made throughout the world. Any grape that makes red wine can be made as a rosé and winemakers are experimenting with many different varietals.

The wine gets its color – which can range from pale pink or salmon to almost violet – by one of three methods: skin contact, blending or saignée. Juice from wine grapes is clear and wines only become red through extended contact with the skins of the grapes in the vat. The color deepens the longer you leave the skins in the juice. This is the most common method of making rosé.

The saignée method involves removing pink juice from the must of a red wine at an early stage. The remaining red wine is intensified as a result of bleeding off the lighter pink juice, which can then be fermented separately to produce rosé.

Rosé wines also are often called blush wines.

The grapes for Rock Angel consist primarily of grenache and vermentino grown in Chateau d’Esclans’ vineyard in the Côtes de Provence.

In Provence, 13 varieties are permitted in a rosé, but grenache is considered the best. Côtes de Provence, where about 80 percent of the production is the typical style rosé, is the most important sub appellation. Most of the wine is made to be drunk young. Rock Angel might get better with a year or two in the bottle, but it is drinking so well now, it will be hard to save for aging.

This vintage features a new label for Rock Angel, with prominence given to stylized angels featuring a drawing by artist Hello Von of two women with wings on their heads and arms.

Winery: Chateau d’Esclans is on a site that can be traced back 2,500 years to Gaul before the area was conquered by the Romans. The hilltop site was used as a lookout to spot intruders coming by boat into the Gulf of Frejus.

There are ruins from a 13th century chateau in the chateau’s cellar. The current chateau was built in the mid 19th century.

After a series of sales through the centuries, Sacha Lichine acquired the property in 2006. Lichine was born in Bordeaux and educated in the United States. He worked at his family’s business, Chateau Prieuré Lichine, in the summers. Later he worked at various jobs in and around the wine business until he started running Chateau Prieuré Lichine at the age of 27.

In 1990, he started a negociant business, Borvin, which he still operates, focusing on selecting the best wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Sacha developed a line of new world wines from France, Sacha Lichine – Vins Sans Frontieres, which today consists of a selection of growers and wines crafted throughout France.

Patrick Leon joined Lichine as consulting oenologist and has been instrumental in overseeing wine making for Chateau d’Esclans. He brings extensive experience with some of the best wines in the world including Alexis Lichine & Company, Chateau Lasombes Crus Classé, Baron Phillipe de Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Clerc Milon, Opus One and Almaviva.

Today, the estate consists of 659 acres, including 108 acres of vineyards. The château is known for its old Grenache vines that produce grapes that offer greater concentration of flavor than do the younger vines. At the highest elevation, vines are as old as 90 years.

Rock Angel is part of a portfolio that includes Whispering Angel, as well as prestige cuvées Les Clans and Garrus. The winery expects to produce 415,000 cases this year, with about 200,000 coming to the United States.

Goes With: We had this with chicken pot pie during one of those busy pre-holiday days. My wife, Teri, bought the pie at the Dutch bakery, and all we had to do was pop it in the oven.

The pairing was wonderful with the flavors in the wine slicing through the herbal flavors in the pot pie, which was filled with chunks of chicken, vegetables and a tasty sauce.

Rock Angel also would pair well with Mediterranean dishes, pizza, roast chicken, grilled game hens, ham, pasta with a cream sauce, grilled salmon, fried shrimp, tuna steaks and all kinds of cheeses. If you are serving two kinds of meat at a large gathering, such as ham and turkey or chicken, this rosé would go well with either meat. Serve it chilled.

WINE EVENTS

Wine tasting. 5-7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, Kroger, 435 Lewiston Road, Grovetown; free; (706) 619-3420

Wine and beer tasting. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, 3-6 p.m Saturday, Dec. 10, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

Wine tasting. 5-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road; $5; (762) 333-0260

Wine dinner. 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, Vineyard Wine Market; six courses, wine from Far Niente, EnRoute and Nickel & Nickel; $165; (706) 922-9463

Wine tasting. 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; $5; (803) 279-9522

 

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