Château d’Esclans Garrus, Côtes de Provence 2021 (£120.50, clos19.com) The irresistible rise of cult rosé estate Château d’Eslcans is one of the more remarkable stories in wine in recent years. When the man behind it, Sacha Lichine, the French-American son of the Russian émigré wine writer and Bordeaux estate proprietor Alexis Lichine, set up shop in Provence in 2006, his plan to make “fine” rosé looked to many like an act of folie de grandeur. Pink wine, after all, was seen as something pleasantly refreshing but essentially simple for sipping on hot summer days, a style that no serious oenophile could possibly compare to the best examples of red or white. Lichine’s top wine Garrus was the startling challenge to this conventional wisdom. Made from a mix of old-vine red grenache and the white vermentino using techniques more akin to the top white wines of Burgundy (it’s fermented and aged in oak rather than the stainless steel of most pink wine), its resistible price tag makes you want to hate it. But the latest, luxuriously silky, spicy-toasty vintage has a kind of graceful power that is intensely alluring.
The Beach by Whispering Angel, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, France 2022 (from £16.50, Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose, Majestic) The audacious Garrus was the canny Lichine’s way of persuading wine critics to ditch their preconceptions about rosé and get them to talk about his nascent project. But the name which catapulted the estate to a level of fame that is exceptionally unusual for a wine brand was Whispering Angel. When I visited d’Esclans in September, its glitzy boutique was busy with impeccably dressed wealthy young things taking a break from their holidays on the nearby Côte d’Azur to make a pilgrimage to the home of Adele, Victoria Beckham and Malia Obama’s favourite wine. What is it about Whispering Angel that has made it such a rapid success, growing from about 130,000 bottles in its first vintage in 2006 to more than 1m 12-bottle cases today? A mix of astute marketing and good luck is part of the story; but tasting the latest 2022 vintage of both the main Whispering Angel (£20, widely available) and the, in my opinion, much better-value spin-off The Beach, I was struck by how effectively they deliver the soft-focus strawberry-and-cream, melon and gentle citrus freshness that is the hallmark of good Provence rosé.
Château Galoupet Cru Classé Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France 2022 (from £45, bbr.com; jeroboams.com; Harrods) The combination of aspirational, luxury marketing and technically accomplished winemaking you find at Château d’Esclans is strongly reminiscent of the world of Champagne. No wonder, then, that it attracted the attention of the biggest Champagne producer, the luxury goods giant, LVMH (owners of Moët, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon and Krug among many others), which bought a controlling stake in the business in 2019 and has since completed a 100% takeover. Indeed the company seems to be building a kind of Mediterranean equivalent of its Champagne empire, buying another top Provence pink producer, Château Minuty, in February this year, having already snapped up the single-estate Château Galoupet just before it invested in d’Esclans in 2019. Of the three, Galoupet is the least well-known, although, given the exquisitely plush feel, herb-infused red-fruit and white peach flavours, and subtle textural grip of the 2022 vintage, that may well be about to change.
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