Friday, July 20, 2018


...there was rosé. The first wine of France, the original French wine, made in the classic method of the Greeks, well before extended maceration and deep red wines. 

It's quite well known that the Romans, when they arrived in the 5th century BC, planted vines in present-day Provence, in fact, the name of the place itself is one given by the Romans. But the Greeks, having established themselves around Marseille in the 7th century BC, were there before, and they planted vines and brought wine making to the region, making wine their way, really the only way of the time, which was not too different from current rosé wine where the juice does not see prolonged contact with skins. The method of macerating red grapes and allowing extended contact of the juice with skins, the process which gives red wine its colour, was virtually unknown, certainly not common. So all wine from red grapes was rosé wine.

Rosé prevailed even after the Romans arrived and brought deep red wine and their wine making methods with them... back then, you did not want to be seen drinking a deep red wine which was considered brutish, the drink of drunkards and ignobles. So the typical way to drink wine was to mix it with water or, drink rosé.

Therefore, not only is Provence the oldest and first wine region in France, rosé is the first French wine and the original red wine!

Image result for six colors of provence rose
Unlike other regions where rosé is an afterthought or a why-not to the main act of white or red wines, in Provence it is the main act, with red wine being somewhat in the background. And since the Center for Rosé Research (Centre de Recherche et d'Expérimentation sur le Vin Rosé; was established in Provence in 1999 - the world's only research institute dedicated to rosé wine - we can rest assured that Provencal rosé will continue to rule the roost there. They have even published the official colours of Provencal rosé, very useful for describing Provence AOP wines.

Today, nearly 90% of Provencal vines yield grapes intended for rosé. It's the traditional and preferred wine, enjoyed year-round and paired with many types of local foods... snails, rabbits, birds, lamb, fresh cheeses, herbs, fish, and more. The mouth-puckering acidity of Provencal rosés, pairs splendidly with cheeses like chèvre or Banon.

Fast forwarding from the beginning of time to the Paleolithic era (Stone Age)... Provence went through significant climatic changes in the ~3.5 million year long Paleolithic era. Two ice ages and dramatic changes in sea level, for example. At the beginning of the Paleolithic era the sea level was nearly 500 ft (~150 m) higher than now, and by the end of the Paleolithic era it had dropped to nearly 500 ft (150 m) below the present sea level!

3.5 million years of the high sea level was a long time for much of present-day Provence  to remain submerged under water, but it allowed the formation of layered sedimentary rock like limestone, sandstone, and shale (which is primarily crushed clay and quartz), that happens to be favourable for grape vines. In the forensics world we often joke that sandstone wants to be a beach. I.e. where there is sandstone, there will be sand, and vice versa. So, in Provence, there are sandstone beds and sandy soils, and vines grow in both.

Limestone layers are formed by the deposits of marine mollusc skeletons which over time get compressed into rock. Incidentally, limestone is a soft rock and since it is layered, if in building construction, if limestone blocks are not oriented with the planar surfaces horizontal, layers can cleave off over time, leaving walls with a jagged surface. But in winemaking, it's the layered character of limestone that proves to be desirable because water collects between the planes and is available to the roots of grape vines without making them water-logged. Calcareous soils are basic (high pH) and facilitate cation exchange which is critical to nutrient uptake in grape vines (hence, the addition of lime as a soil conditioner for gardens!) and helps maintain acidity in the grapes late into the growing season. This ultimately results in wines with a higher acidity (lower pH), such as the delicious Chateau de Berne wines some of us #frenchwinophiles had this month!

Shale (aka mudstone) and sandstone are about the same but shale has unbound crushed particles and sandstone is rock. They are both mainly clay, silica, and quartz, and excellent media for grapevine growing. There are also areas with schist and granite in Provence.

Some of us #frenchwinophiles received three beautiful bottles of Provence rosé for our July event on French Rosés. The wines were from the Chateau de Berne group.

Fun Fact: As evidenced in the Chateau de Berne wines we've reviewed, Provençal rosé is often sold in creatively designed bottles of varying shapes. This - somewhat of a tradition now - is a strategy dating to the 1930s when wineries started bottling their own wines and needed a unique selling proposition (USP) to stand out amongst others.

2017 Ch. de Berne Emotion (
50% grenache, 25% syrah, 25% cinsault
12.5% abv
SRP: $16 (sample)

Soil: limestone and clay soil, elevation 2,600 - 3,300 ft (800 - 1,000 m)

Colour: Light pink with gold edges, clear. Provence colour: pêche-melon.

Nose: A gorgeous, fragrant wine that we wanted to smell all day! Tart - citrus, and strawberries.

Taste: Delicious racy acidity with a long finish overall. Slight minerality with red summer berries and white flowers on the front. This is a lovely nuanced wine, would be perfect on its own too.

Pairing: We had this with classic tomato bruschetta and Délice du Poitou (Loire, France), a citrusy herbaceous two-month old goats milk cheese covered in vegetable ash. The rich velvety cheese was amazing with the acidity and aromatics of the wine.

2017 Ch. de Berne Inspiration (
70% grenache, 20% cinsault, 10% syrah 

12.5% abv
SRP: $19.99  (sample)

Soil: limestone and clay soil, elevation 2,600 - 3,300 ft (800 - 1,000 m)

Colour: Light pink with gold edges, clear. Provence colour: light pêche.

Nose: Stony, stone fruit, strawberries

Taste: Juicy with a delicious racy acidity and a creamy mouthfeel. Cherries, strawberries, and white flowers on the front, with a medium finish. This is a lovely warm weather wine, not too complex.

Pairing: We had it with watermelon in pesto, a lavender chèvre with pistachios and crostini. Uh-mazing!

45% grenache, 35% cinsault, 15% syrah, 5% rolle (vermentino)
12.5% abv
SRP: $22  (sample)

Soil: The countryside vineyard is near an oak forest not too far from St. Tropez. The vines are grown in shale - a shallow bed of soil over a sandstone slab base.

Colour: Gorgeous rose gold and pink, clear. Provence colour: pêche-melon.

Nose: Fresh and floral, with strawberry, raspberry, and a slight peppery note

Taste: Juicy, well-structured, and delicious with crisp acidity but overall a warm, rounded flavour. Tart cherries, red berries, red currants, with a welcome minerality on the front and a bit of spice on the finish. This is an elegant wine and our favourite of the three!

Pairing: We had it with anchoïade and crudités, and the salty anchovies with the peppery radishes complemented the acidity of the wine very nicely.


Join the #frenchwinophiles on Twitter on Sat, 21 July 2018, 8 -10 AM PST to talk about  French Rosés and hear everyone's thoughts on it! And you can read more from the #frenchwinophiles here:
  • Michelle from Rockin’ Red Blog will be Celebrating the Provençal Lifestyle with Three Rosés.
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator prepares # RoséAllDay with Grilled Cheese Gourmet for #Winophiles.
  • Nicole from Somm’s Table adds Cooking to the Wine: Ultimate Provence Urban Rosé with Herbed Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts and Roasted Eggplant Sheet Pan.
  • David from Cooking Chat says it’s Always a Good Time to Sip Provence Rosé.
  • Jill from L’Occasion explains Why Rosé Matters, According to French Culture.
  • Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog discusses The Pleasures of Provençal Rosé #Winophiles.
  • Payal from Keep the Peas will share Rosé: The Original Red Wine.
  • Julia from talks about Rosé: Not from Provence but Just as Delicious!
  • Lauren at The Swirling Dervish, we’re Celebrating Our New Home with an Old Friend: Rosé from Provence.


  1. We did a very similar pairing: wines and cheese. Fun. I can't wait to try watermelon and pesto. Wow.

    1. Wine and cheese are made for each other! I make basil and watermelon agua fresca and love the flavour combination! Watermelon enrobed in pesto is delicious too.

  2. We found the two wines we have opened to be wonderful with or without food. The pairings you chose were perfect. I have learned from your post why these wines are so amazing...with so much history it has been perfected completely.

    1. Thamks, glad you enjoyed the post! Yes who knew rosé wine has such a storied history!

  3. First, I love your in depth description of the soils and geology! Next, those pairings. I like Cam, really want to try the watermelon and pesto!

    1. Thank you! I think you’ll like the watermelon and pesto combo!

  4. Enjoyed your soil review. Didn't know about the planar surfaces of limestone, the layered character that allows water to collect, etc. I don't have a bio-science background but in discussions debate as to what vines can uptake nutrients and resulting flavors in wine has been ravenous. Can a particular soil really result in a higher acid wine for example? What you say makes sense- cation exchange helps maintain acidity resulting in a higher acid. So interesting! Moving to food- the plate paired with Ch de Berne, bravo!

    1. Thank you Lynn! I think Provencal rosés get their acidity also from grapes picked a little early - before they're fully ripened. Glad you like the food pairing too!

  5. Fascinating look at the history of my favourite wine! And I loved the fun fact about the design of the bottles! And yes, I'm all over the idea of watermelon in pesto!

  6. Such a great overview of what makes Provence rosé so special. I love to learn more of the details on soil and history - all the things that make us love wine in the first place. Cheers!

  7. All of these pairings look magical! So interesting to read about the soils in greater depth.

  8. All of your pairings sound delicious. Great overview of the history and the region.

  9. A great read Payal. I love how you included the Provence color. Wonderful pairings too! Cheers!

  10. I love the post and the pairings Payal! This was a fun event and informative event. Glad you're a part of the French Winophiles!