Drinking rose wineProvence is the place to drink vin rosé so think pink and sample our ten fun facts. And if you want to plunge in more deeply (and who wouldn't?), read our introduction to Southern France's favourite wine.

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1. In the beginning was rosé. It's believed it was produced as early as 7000 BC, but only from around 2500 BC was red wine introduced and white wine probably came even later.

The reason: vin rosé is the easiest to make and the sturdy wine presses and more complex techniques used for today's darker, more tannic reds were not widely available in ancient winemaking.

2. The classic provençal rosé bottle is clear and curvy, a little like a bowling skittle - or a corset (locals sometimes refer to it as a flûte à corset). However the corset, pictured below, is becoming increasingly hard to find in Provence.

Unlike Bordeaux, Burgundy or Alsace wine, where traditional shapes still dominate, provençal rosés come in all shapes and sizes and producers are free to indulge their (and your) fantasies. One maker, Sand (sic) Tropez, inscribes its bottles with real sand, for instance.

3.Traditional rose de Provence wine bottle On the other hand you don't need to go for fancy packaging. Many Provence rosé bottles have screw caps - no longer a warning of rubbish wine, but a sign that this is an easy-drinking beverage to be opened and enjoyed on the spot, without ceremony.

When choosing a rosé wine, don't turn up your nose at the bags-in-boxes, often referred to locally as "BIBs", or the wine en vrac (from the pump) sold by local wine co-operatives (bring your own container or buy one on site). You won't be alone: over half of Coteaux d'Aix en Provence wine is bought en vrac.

Both the screw-cap bottles and the "bulk" wines can be easily as good as gimmicky and more expensive bottled varieties.

And don't make a fetish of buying an appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) wine. An AOC wine carries with it all sorts of restrictions, such as the requirement to use only certain grape types. Wine-makers wanting greater freedom are often prepared to settle for a less prestigious vin de pays label, even though the wine may be of equal or superior quality.

4. The most favoured way to make rosé wine is to crush red grapes and let the skins stay in contact with the juice for a very short time, from a few hours to three days. It's this that turns the juice pink.

Another way, less popular in Provence, is called saignée (pronounced, roughly,"sen-yay"), meaning "bleeding", whereby some juice is bled off from a red wine fermentation tank to improve the red wine and make it more intense: the rosé produced via this process is a bit of a by-product.

A third option is to mix red wine with white. However this is illegal in France, (except in Champagne for historical reasons).

5. Like it pink and bubbly? Several Provence wine producers already make a sparkling brut rosé using the "Charmat Method" and there is a current campaign to launch a dedicated label or AOC to promote the concept.

This technique carries out the secondary fermentation (which creates the bubbles) in a pressurised tank rather than in the bottles, as is the case with the "Champagne Method". The "Charmat Method" comes originally from Italy where it is used to make Asti Spumante and Prosecco.

Wine wall at the Centre du Rose in Vidauban Provence6. A scientific research centre, the Centre du Rosé, has been set up in Vidauban, in the Var. Among its activities are tastings, training courses and the creation of a 3 metre / 10 foot square Wall of Rosé, pictured.

Its shelves of bottles display the many different shades of pink available to embellish your glass. A more conventional colour chart is also produced by the research centre.

For serious enthusiasts, Le Vin rosé is an authoritative guide that won an award for the Best Wine Book of 2009.

 

7. Pelure d'oignon (onion skin) wines contain no onions, fortunately! They are slightly orange in colour. Mindful of the negative connotations, the Centre du Rosé has now suggested renaming the "onion skin" colour as "mango". Vin gris is not gris (grey) either: it is a term used for very pale rosés.

As a general rule of thumb, the darker the rosé wine, the longer the grape skins will have been in contact with the juice - and the more tannic and red wine-like the taste. It seems paler rosés are currently on the rise with consumers.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt8. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, two of Provence's most famous vineyard owners, pictured (apparently after enjoying a bottle or two of their own tipple), have launched a rosé wine created by the Perrin wine-making family.

Named Miraval, it went on sale in March 2013, when most of the stock was sold out within five hours at 15-16 €uros a bottle.

Already well-received by critics, the wine received a huge boost in November 2013 when it was included on a list of the top 100 wines in the world compiled by Wine Spectator magazine (reportedly the tasting was carried out blind).

Though Miraval only came in at no. 84, it was the sole rosé on the list, making it (Jolie-Pitt's people were quick to claim) the best rosé wine in the world. It was also apparently the first time ever a rosé had appeared on the list. Not just a vanity project, then.

And there's more. Another respected wine magazine, Decanter, is equally enthusiastic about the second, 2013 vintage of Miraval. It describes the wine as "charmingly pretty in colour" with a "mouthwatering finish". You can buy the 2013 Miraval Rosé here and the 2012 Miraval Rosé here.

The couple first leased Château Miraval, in the village of Correns in the Var, in 2008 before purchasing the estate in 2012 (and finally getting married there, in an exclusive and very private ceremony, in August 2014).

Just two years later Jolie filed for divorce, but it seems that the Perrin family will continue to make Miraval at the estate even after the couple's separation.

By the way, the rosé wine previously produced here by the Perrins was named Pink Floyd, after the iconic band who recorded part of The Wall album there.

9. Rosé wine is increasingly drunk in Provence as an apéritif (and it's perfectly acceptable to serve it with ice), as well as with meals. In fact it is even overtaking pastis in popularity, especially with younger female drinkers.

Pink pastis Pernod roseAs a counter-attack, Pastis 51 launched a "pink pastis", pictured, flavoured with raspberry, in the summer of 2013. The Insider has tried it - once - and can attest that it tastes awful.

In 2014 rosé wine was given yet another twist: Alain Martinez, a master ice-cream maker in the Var, invented a pink wine flavoured sorbet. Called, rather strangely, LichBitSun, it's low in alcohol (5%) and available at a couple of local supermarkets and restaurants.

Coincidentally Goéland, a glacier in Avignon, simultaneously developed its own version of the sorbet, blending rosé wine with strawberries and other fruit.

10. Vin aromatisé, wine diluted and mixed with other flavours, dates right back to Roman times. And indeed rosé wine can (sometimes) make a fine base for a cocktail, mixed with sparkling water, lemonade and fresh fruit.

A recent trend in Provence is the rosé pamplemousse: rosé wine blended with grapefruit extract and sugar. You can buy this (relatively) low-alcohol drink in ready-mixed bottles in French supermarkets. It's very sweet but not unpleasant. And, if you think it sounds unappealing, check out another new cocktail launched in 2013 - red wine and Coca Cola.

 

... Plunge Deeper Into Vin Rosé de Provence

Vin rosé now accounts for 87% of all wine made in the region. Aside from basic vin de table and slightly higher quality vin de pays, over 141 million bottles of AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) rosé are made here each year.

Consumption, too, is growing, fast. The French may have cut down hard on drinking wine in recent years. But rosé doesn't seem to count somehow: its sales went up by almost 12% between 2007 and 2012.

It has overtaken white wine in popularity in France. Internationally rosé is also gaining ground, especially in Britain and North America. The US and Belgium are by far the biggest export markets.

Experts put this success story down to several factors. Rosé's overall image has improved dramatically since the 1980s when, thanks to wines such as Lambrusco or Mateus Rosé from Europe or White Zinfandel from the US, rosé counted as sugary plonk. And provençal wines in particular have become much more sophisticated too.

Rose wine with boulesA massive publicity push has branded rosé as a key part of the Provence lifestyle. Images right and top left courtesy of the official Vins de Provence website.

The author Peter Mayle has, as ever, summed it up elegantly. "Rosé is a wine that should ideally be drunk within two or three years of being made; it is not for keeping," he wrote in Provence A-Z. "But memories of drinking rosé tend to last much longer.

"On a shady terrace; around a herb-scented barbecue; outside a café on market day; before lunch by the pool - it accompanies some of life's most pleasant moments. Perhaps that should be marked on every bottle."

Although there are great variations between vineyards and from year to year, vin rosé de Provence is, generally speaking, crisp, dry and refreshing. Unlike sweeter "blush" wines from the United States or elsewhere in Europe, it's ideally suited to the light but intense flavours of Mediterranean cuisine - but also versatile enough to adapt to Mexican or Asian flavours, as well as classic American food.

Christmas Day rose de ProvenceWhile at its best in summer, rosé has become a year-round drink, not just a summer holiday indulgence - it has even become a regular item on the menu at ski resorts. Pictured: a glass of sparkling rosé in the Insider's garden just before Christmas Day lunch.

Rosé de Provence should be drunk chilled and as young as possible (the wine, not the drinker, that is!) Drinkers have embraced its casual simplicity and refusal to take itself too seriously.

It's a welcome alternative to old-school wine snobbery and the obsession with tasting notes and vintages. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, a rosé is a rosé is a rosé - and everyone can enjoy it.

Click here for more information about vin rosé and the other wines of Provence, and here for news and some suggested wine routes.

And click here for a general introduction to the wines of Southern Provence and here for top wine drives through the region. Northern Provence and Bandol are mainly famed for their red wines and Cassis for its whites, but all three areas produce some fine rosés too.

 

 

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