When it comes to rose wine, the pink of wines of Tavel are a voyage to the unknown and mystical. A single appellation in the world can produce so many heterogeneous styles ranging from the light to the deeply structured.
The rosés from this pretty region in the southern Rhone Valley are remarkably different to the better knowns roses of Provence, located just a bit further east along the Mediterranean coast. This is a truly proof that the concept of terroir really exist.
In researching thia article, I found a beautiful reference in literature of Tavel roses. Balzac, the french novelist and playwriter named the wines of Tavel as ” king of roses.The vineyards of Tavel are located on the right bank of the Rhône on a plateau at the south-west of Orange. The appellation can be grouped into three different terroirs: sand and clay in the south-east; alluvial terraces and pebbles in the north-west and limestone to the west. These warm soils (stones mirror the sun) and the very windy Mediterranean climate make this rosé wine intense, with fleshy fruit, structured and ample.
The grapes involved in the production of Tavel are the usual suspects of the Southern Rhone.Grenache and Cinsault are the key protagonists in Tavel, while Syrah, Mourvedre, Picpoul, Calitor, Carignan, Bourboulenc and Clairette are also permitted.
Tavel wine is a Rhône Valley Cru, and according to many Epicureans, considered to be the best rosé wine in the world. It is the only appellation in the Rhone that produces exclusively rose wines. If you want to taste the magic of Tavel, you have to come to France. According to InterRhone figures, only 35% of Tavel’s production is exported while the rest is consumed in the domestic market. ( 47% is sold in supermarkets while 18% in specialized trade stores. Source: Inter Rhone research.
I recently spent a few days in the Rhone Valley to assist in the Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône 2017. During the second day of the fair, Tuesday april 11th, I had the once in a lifetime chance to get well acquainted with the spirit of Tavel Roses. Most of the wines tasted were from exceptional 2016 which was a vintage with optimal weather conditions.
Here are my picks of the Tavels tasted at the Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône. Only 12 producers participated in the fair, while the appellation list more than 30. These are sketchy notes, so bear with me.
Domaine La Rocalière Tavel Classique Rosé 2016.
Quite a gourmand nose. Ripe strawberry and raspberry. On the mouth, fruit with intricate notes of smoke, cracked black pepper and garrique Structured with a good tension.
Domaine Florence Mejan Tavel 2016 Canto Perdrix 2016
Fresh nose. Quite mineral and floral. On the mouth, not very accentuated by the fruit but more along earthy lines.
Chateau de Segries Tavel 2016
Lots of fruit depth in this tavel. Red oranges, citrus fruit. On the mouth, fine and very perfumed. Spicy finale.
Domaine des Carabiniers Tavel 2016
Lovely interplay of fruit and flower. On the mouth, lots of depth and complexity. Very precise with lots of tension. My favorite of the tavels tasted in the fair.
Domaine Amido Les Amandines Tavel 2016
Lovely red berry fruit. Crisp, medium body and very elegant.
Domaine Amido Les Gourmandines 2016
Similar red berry fruit profile than thes Amandines but striking depth in minerality.
Chateau Trinquevedel 2016
Cool red berry fruit with citrus nuances. Vibrant and quite digest with a lemon verbena finish.
What to eat with Tavel Rose:
Tavel is one of the few roses that can stand to the flavors of roasted meats such as rabbit or guinea pig. It is also a killer with mediterranean style foods such as Nicoise salad, oily fish or charcoal chicken or beef kebabs. It is because of the wine structure, minerality and crispness that provides a bridge to the bolder meat flavours. These are like the French call them, vins de gastronomie. They should be great companions for the BBQ season to come.
If meat is not your not cup of tea, Tavel should also appeal to those wine lovers that are looking to eat healthier. The wines should pair wonderfully specially with seafood cous cous dishes and grilled fish with salads.
As much of the consumption of Tavel is consumed in France, it is difficult to find it listed in the Canadian monopolies. For instance, the SAQ lists only 4 references as specialties while the LCBO only 2. It is the same situation with the BC liqour board. if you live in north america, your best alternative for a wide selection can be found in the United States.