The Original & Reigning Champ of Provence Rosé

We know most of you love rosé and many of you especially swoon for those from Provence. Of course, where else would we like to spend the summer months? Tanning at the beach with celebrity “winemakers” Brad, Angelina or Jon Bon Jovi, eating the freshest seafood and glorious local vegetables. Naturally washing it all down with a few glasses of Provençal rosé.

Sadly, this year Provence is off the grid for most of us, so we are hoping to be transported by drinking and eating the flavors of the region. While it boomed in popularity in the 1970’s and 80’s the fame of the wines was built on the reputation of small growing regions like Bandol, Bellet, Cassis, Baux, and Palette. This spurred the establishment of many of the larger appellations such Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence and others. These bigger areas tend to be more popular in large part because there is more wine being made there. The truth is, these original, much smaller, areas are still crushing the rest of the region in terms of quality.

When we talk about “original” then we have to talk about Cassis. Established in 1936 as a French appellation or growing area, it’s the “OG” of Provence regions. The vineyards were planted by the Ancient Greeks in the 12th Century. It sits on the Mediterranean about 20 miles southeast of Marseille. One can only imagine the likes of Cezanne, Picasso, Pierre Puget and perhaps Van Gogh sipping the wines of Cassis while painting now-iconic masterpieces.

view of vineyards, courtesy of Rosenthal Wine Merchants

The Cassis AOC is just under 500 acres in size and only has about 12 producers. The well-regarded importer Neal Rosenthal began working with a great one in the 1980’s. Domaine du Bagnol was then run by Claire Lefèvre, a passionate winegrower who generously shared her wines but also the culture of the fashionable fishing village. The estate was purchased by Jean-Louis Genovesi, a native of Cassis, who now with the help of his son Sébastien, have continued the fine work Madame Lefèvre had begun. The estate is situated about 220 yards from the sea, in the shadow of the Cap Canaille, a massive sea cliff that dominates the harbor. The location affords cooling winds to coddle the vineyard from both the north and from the Mediterranean, while providing a combination of the soils found in the region. The estate is now certified organic and Jean-Louis and Sébastien are practicing biodynamics as well. Additionally, the Genovesis only use fruit from their estate for all their wines.

While the white is also compelling, we have completely fallen for the rosé. This is a blend of only red grapes, Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre, and here they press these grapes whole cluster and direct to tank so the color is as delicate as the season’s first berries. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel to retain freshness but does spend six months on the lees, the dead yeast, giving it complexity.

The 2019 was an exceptional vintage for Domaine du Bagnol, both in quality and quantity. The wine immediately catches your eye with its lovely delicate pink rose petal & salmon hues. The nose continues the journey with its fresh and fruitful style. A touch of bright red fruit pops out first, but quickly mixed with a salinity and sea spray and all manner of coastal herbs and brush. If you close your eyes it’s not hard to imagine: you're near fields of lavender, thyme and rosemary, listening to the surf in the, not-too, distance. That salinity also carries a sense of wet stone and grounds the nose pulling it away from mere fruity elements. The palate is just ideal: a lovely texture with nothing but dry, subtle fruit flavors: strawberry, cherry and watermelon swirl on the tongue. Then that stony, minerality appears on the palate and carries the flavors through the finish. On the whole, this rosé shows exceptional depth and complexity and will still be compelling this fall and for years to come. There are a few Provence rosés that attract a lot of attention due to famous owners, but this Cassis delivers so much more, with its history, stewardship of the land, longevity and absolute joy of drinking. Rosé lovers: don’t miss this wine.

Tim Buzinski