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Monaco Yacht Show Live Coverage - In the Pink on the Côte d'Azur

Refreshing rosés hit the spot

International Yacht Vacations & Charters Magazine - News  Coverage

EXCLUSIVE GOOGLE NEWS by YV&C

Some of the best wines in Provence come from vineyards that are a stone's throw from the sea.

As far as I'm concerned the beaches in Saint-Tropez are overrated, crammed with roasting German and Russian bodies with scarcely space to stretch your limbs. When I'm in Saint-Tropez I turn my back to the sand and head for the glorious, sprawling market that is the heart and core of this sun-baked city on the French Riviera.

After filling my lungs with all the aromas of Provence, sniffing the lavender, breathing in the perfume of roasting meats, and perhaps succumbing to the fried squash blossoms or olive-filled braided bread called fougasse, I retire to one of the many cafés that line the market and order a bottle of rosé. Simple Provençal rosé, cool, crisp and delicious in the heat of mid-afternoon, filling the glass with the subtle perfume of ripe summer berries contrasted by that slightest touch of bitterness that makes it all the more refreshing. This is not wine for the wine-obsessed. But the pleasures of the Riviera sun (to say nothing of the heat) are not too amenable to the likes of heady, complicated Bordeaux.

 In Provence, wine growing goes back to the days when ancient Greek sailors colonized this stretch of the Mediterranean coast. However the popularity of rosé wine is of more recent vintage. It was apparently a great favorite of the 15th-century King René of Aix-en-Provence and he promoted its production throughout his realm. Whatever the truth of the story may be, to most visitors today, Provence is synonymous with rosé. It isn't that other wines are not produced here, some quite commendable, but about half the region's considerable production is in the form of pink-tinted wine.

The local grapes that go into it vary considerably but Grenache and Carignan are usually part of the mix. The wine is generally made by pressing red wine grapes, which results in white grape, juice or "must." The skins, which hold the pigment, are then macerated in the must just long enough to impart a delicate pink color and then the result is drained and vinified. Most of these wines are best consumed within a year or two of production when their fruit is at its liveliest. A few can be aged for three or four years, resulting in wines that can evoke cooked fruit and almonds. The best way to really understand rosé is to head up from Saint-Tropez about 20 miles to Les Arcs-sur-Argens. The town itself, a little medieval jewel, is worth a visit but the real draw here is the Maison des Vins Côtes de Provence, a modern temple to rosé. While the building and the promotional drive behind it are as much California as the South of France, the shelves are pure Provence. Among the 650 or so wines on offer at least a third are pink. Here are wines redolent of jasmine and strawberries, bright acidic wines with the aroma of raspberries and ripe peaches, others with deeper apricot and toasty tones. You can taste about a dozen or so in the tasting room. But the most sensible thing to do is to buy a mixed case or two and compare and contrast back on board as you watch the sun set behind the looming hills of the Massif des Maures.

If you tire of the gridlock that can sometimes paralyze the harbor in Saint-Tropez, you could do worse than sail west to the comparatively sleepy moorings at Cassis and Bandol. Both towns produce some of the best wines in Provence with vineyards a stone's throw from the sea. Some 50 producers grow wine on the terraced vineyards of Bandol alone and most will be happy to have you visit their cellars, though it's best to call ahead. While Cassis is known for its bracing, almost acidic whites, Bandol's renown rests in its complex reds and delightful rosés. Both are made predominantly of Mourvèdre, with Cinsault and other varietals blended in. The reds emanate spice with flavors of cherries and plums. The rosés can hint at peaches, white chocolate, vanilla, strawberries, even minty sorbet.

Rosé wine doesn't get better than Bandol. Reclining on deck with the twinkling lights of the Cote d'Azur in the distance... where better to contemplate this glass of rose-tinted pleasure?

More Stories By Michael Krondl

Michael Krondl is a food and wine writer based in New
York. He is the author of several books and has written
for both national and international publications. Michael
is currently working on a book about the ports-of-call that
launched the spice trade.

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International Yacht Vacations & Charters Magazine 09/21/05 10:57:24 AM EDT

Monaco Yacht Show Live Coverage - In the Pink on the Côte d'Azur. Some of the best wines in Provence come from vineyards that are a stone's throw from the sea. As far as I'm concerned the beaches in Saint-Tropez are overrated, crammed with roasting German and Russian bodies with scarcely space to stretch your limbs. When I'm in Saint-Tropez I turn my back to the sand and head for the glorious, sprawling market that is the heart and core of this sun-baked city on the French Riviera.