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16 June 2008

Côtes de Provence: Domaine du Grand Cros

Difficult to resist an email worded like this: "Sturdy young British winemaker, Julian Faulkner, is not afraid to show his feminine side with his 2006 rosé release. In fact this year he is pinker than ever with 6 different rosés on offer. You might think his feminine side (or his big ego) got the better of him, but he wants to take you on a journey of exploration of different styles and tastes for this hot and growing wine colour..." Julian's estate can be found in Carnoules located in the Var 'département' (that's the curved, sticking out bit between Marseille and the French Riviera), which is Côtes de Provence country wine-wise. Check out their site for more info: www.grandcros.fr (which even allows you to choose a Flash - which I find very irritating ("loading... loading...") - or non-Flash experience).
 When I examined the samples they sent more closely (2 of each one), there was something odd about the shades of rosé colour. So I asked the question: "Is it my eyesight or are the two different bottles of Jules and L'Esprit a slightly different shade of pink (one of each appears a little deeper)? But I can't see any difference on the labels - an alternative approach perhaps for those who prefer lighter or richer coloured rosé?!" And their reply was: "That’s exactly it! There’s more Syrah & Grenache, less Cinsault in the deeper colored rosé, whereas there’s more Cinsault and Grenache and less Syrah in the paler rosé. We distinguish them by the Lot Number, which you can spot on the neck of the bottle: LF for the paler and LM for the richer. We reckon the lighter is more aperitif and the other one more food rosé. Locally our clients tend to prefer a lighter rosé." So now you know: commendably quirky if not a tad confusing winemaking ideas... Tasted March/April 07:
 La Maîtresse Brut, sparkling rosé (traditional method 12%) - attractively red-fruity with light almond undertones, appley plus a touch of biscuit; refreshing off-dry finish. 87+
 2006 Jules, Côtes de Provence rosé (paler, Syrah Grenache Carignan Cinsault 13%) - zingy rose petal and redcurrant, light almond and cream v juicy fruit, tight crisp finish. 85-87
 2006 Jules, Côtes de Provence rosé (deeper) - very similar, can you tell the difference apart from the colour? Perhaps slightly fruitier and richer with fuller texture; otherwise dry, tight and zingy. 85-87
 2006 L'Esprit de Provence rosé (paler, Cinsault Grenache Syrah 13%) - juicy yet quite weighty and round v zesty tight finish; fuller, less 'fruity' & oily rose petal palate, seems a tiny tad less dry perhaps? 87
 2006 L'Esprit de Provence rosé (deeper) - zippier with redcurrant and raspberry fruit, oily and weighty v fresh and crisp; more cherry fruit and light tannin too, nice length and mineral texture. 87-89
 2005 Nectar rosé (Mourvèdre Carignan Syrah 13%) - a bit strange, very deep colour; lightly oaky backdrop v rich fruit, dry and crisp v toasty notes; not for everyone, better with food e.g. a spicy fish dish. 87

 Domaine du Grand Cros - update June 2008
 Julian Faulkner recently sent me a selection of new-release 2007 rosés - three differently named cuvées this time so I don't know if he's abandoned the 'variety of shades' winemaking idea (see above for explanation & background on the estate) - along with three of their red wines to try too. So without further ado, here are my notes and ratings for what it's worth. And why not go there and check them out yourselves next time you're cruising around Var country and along the coast? I really must do another Provence rosé tour sometime, on the way to next year's Cannes film festival perhaps if I get nominated for the Palme d'Or... Jules and Grand Cros are distributed in the UK by importer & wholesaler Noel Young wines, so I've included retail prices below in £Sterling. Certain lines are stocked by well-known stores e.g. Selfridges do the Esprit rosé. Contact Julian via the website www.grandcros.fr for US distributors.
 2007 Jules Côtes de Provence rosé (Grenache Cinsault Carignan 12.5%) - attractive pale salmon colour with floral aromatic white peach, redcurrant and gooseberry notes; zesty, very intense palate with crisp fresh bite; quite long, dry and stylish. £6.99 87
 2007 Nectar Côtes de Provence rosé (Syrah Grenache 13%) - similarly zesty aromatic intensity but more red-fruity, raspberry/strawberry-ish and weightier too (and not just because the alcohol's a little higher); quite rich and round-textured v fresh acidity and light bitter bite of tannins, definitely a reasonably 'wow' foodie rosé (e.g. quite good with something as strong as Roquefort & aioli pasta). Wasn't the Nectar a bit oaky before? Perhaps it's seen a barrel to give it that rounded mouth-feel although if so it's subtle. Having said all that, the second day open it had lost the edge off some of its excitement. £8.50 87-89
 2007 L'Esprit de Provence rosé (Syrah Grenache Cinsault 13%) - similar to the other two but more of the gooseberry & redcurrant intensity, with rose petal, violet and crunchy red fruits; very crisp dry bite yet floral and oily textured, quite powerful long and zesty. £7.99 89
 2006 Jules Côtes de Provence red (Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan Syrah 14.5%) - a touch stalky and 'reductive' (?) when first opened, although that went after a day or two; moves on to a creamier cassis palate with light liquorice notes; rather dry, firm and fresh on first tasting finishing a little bitter, although it has weight and some roundness too; softened up with airing and is reasonably elegant despite that quite high alcohol. Not sure, it's kind of fighting itself. £7.29 83-85
 2004 L'Esprit de Provence red (Syrah Carignan 14%) - pity, this bottle was slightly dusty/corky/musty (some of the other wines had plastic corks but not this one), as underneath there's some nice black cherry, cassis and liquorice fruit; smoky and quite lush v firm and fresh structure, showing good balance of fruit, power and elegance despite that lightly dusty finish. Have to try it again. £8.29 89+?
 2004 Jules Réserve red Côtes de Provence (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 months in French oak, 14.5%) - very attractive smoky cassis fruit with cedary, herby, black cherry and liquorice edges; big chunky solid palate showing good balance of fair alcohol, rich depth of fruit, grippy tannins and bitter/sweet twist; quite austere finish when first opened needing food and a couple more years to soften. £10.75 90-92

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.