19 June 2018

as var as I know: 25 years of the côteaux varois en provence AOC

My first move, upon being freed from my recent restaurant work somewhat sooner than anticipated, was to belatedly accept a lot of press junket invitations. This is how at the end of May I found myself spending two days shuttling around the Var with a gaggle of other journalists and bloggers, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Côteaux Varois en Provence AOC

The Côteaux Varois en Provence, a predominantly red wine appellation at its ascension to AOC in 1993, now devotes a whopping 91% of its production to rosé. I had mentally prepared myself for two days of industry doublespeak intended to pass off the effects of highly invasive vinification as the result of unique terroir and know-how. Perversely, this the reason rosé production holds such fascination for me: in no other wine category is there such a vast, irreconcilable gulf between what the mass wine market wants and what can feasibly be produced via natural vinification methods.

Natural rosé is one thing. The Provençal rosé currently soaring in popularity - salmon-coloured, dewdrop-clear, fruit-basket-flavored - is a different product entirely. In a surprisingly double-edged speech he gave at the AOC’s anniversary party in Saint-Julien, Gilles Masson, director of the Center of Research and Experimentation on Rosé Wine, called the “Provençal rosé idéotype” - a wine that is “transparent, fruity, round” - “almost an invention.” He went further than his prepared slides, saying it was “a type of wine that never existed in history.”