In France’s Southern Rhone Valley, not far from the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is a small commune dedicated to making rosé wine. Only pink wine is made under the Tavel AOP, predominately from the Granache grape, and it typically comes in a deeper, ripe strawberry blush when compared to the pale, airy pink wines of the Côtes de Provence, Tavel’s southern neighbor. Similarly, the flavors are more rich and spicy, with a medley of fresh red fruits to please the palate, and a backbone of limestone minerality to give the wine balance.
Due to this extra oomph, Tavel rosé is able to age and mature in a way that other pink wines can’t. And if your notion of rosé is of a light refresher intended for the hot heat of summer, Tavel wines can introduce you to another side of rosé, one that’s appropriate for all seasons, and that pairs well with a wide variety of dishes.
Tavel Wines To Try
If you’re interested in trying one of the regions benchmark wines, look for Prieuré de Montézargues. The estate has a history dating back to 1199, when monks from the Abbey of Grammont established a monastery here on the right bank of the Rhone. Vineyards were planted not long after, and the site proved highly suitable to the region’s conditions. The vines are protected from the Southern Rhone’s famous and devastating Mistral winds by the Montagne Noir mountain range, and the vineyards poor sandy soils encourage low-yields that result in concentrated fruit.
Today, the estate is owned and operated by Château La Nerthe, a famous and equally historic house in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The 33 hectares (84 acres) are grown organically, with eight grape varieties flourishing on the site: Granache Noir, Granache Blanc, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Clairette, and Bourboulenc. The resulting wines exude flavors of red berries and pink grapefruit, with a kick of dried herbs filling up the back-palette. The wines will pair well with lighter fare and cheeses, but have enough structure and depth to accommodate richer items such as roasted lamb with chimichurri.
Affordable Tavel Wines
While most Tavel wines classify as affordable, a more everyday alternative to the celebrated Prieuré de Montézargues is Domain Amido’s Les Amandines bottling. A much younger operation, founded by winemaker Christian Amido, the domain has recently passed on to Christian’s daughter Nathalie, with her son-in-law, Antoine Berthaud, serving as winemaker. The duo continues to uphold Christian’s legacy of quality, benefiting greatly from recently updated facilities; many renovations were made in the winery by Christian Amido near the end of his life. The domain makes fresh rosé wines that bristle with flavors of cherries and raspberries, with a more savory note of almond flowers supporting the fruit. It’s the perfect wine to enjoy with a picnic lunch.
Tavel isn’t the only hidden gem living in the shadow of the Southern Rhone’s most noble and well-known AOP: Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In our next article, we’ll take a look at Gigondas, a region remaking itself in the image of CDP, and offering a great-value alternative to the more pricey selections of the latter.
About the author - Ryan Kraemer is a Los Angeles-based certified sommelier working a 71 Above, Chef Vartan Abgaryan's downtown seasonal fine-dining restaurant. When he's not at work, or studying wine, he enjoys cooking, travel, and strolls around Echo Park Lake with his girlfriend and their pup. He's never been able to answer the question, 'So what's your favorite wine?' because it feels too much like picking a favorite child.