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Chewy, rustic reds have historically enjoyed the spotlight in Provence, and the newfound rosé craze has brought crisp pink wines to the mainstream. But what about les blancs de Provence? A mere four percent of Provençal wine is white, but these rare bottles should not be overlooked. The region’s sun-kissed terroirs feature absurdly poor, rocky soils to which the grapevine is perfectly suited, while the howling Mistral, the pungent garrigue, and the adjacent Mediterranean Sea also exert their distinguishing influence upon local wines. The best whites express succulent, sun-ripened fruit along with floral and herbal notes drawn from their environment. Whereas northern French whites are endowed with slicing natural acidity, those from Provence tend to be softer and plumper-bodied, manifesting a mouth-watering stony or almost bitter note to stimulate the palate instead. Stellar whites in Provence are not bound to a single appellation; its top vignerons are found all across the region. Today, you will discover four of the most exciting examples currently being made.
2016 Côtes de Provence “Blanc de Blancs” • Clos Saint-Joseph $48.00 Roch Sassi’s small domaine is hidden away in a narrow river valley north of Nice, encircled by spectacular limestone mountains. Biodynamic farming and native yeast fermentation (with full malo) yield this stony, creamy medley of Rolle, Ugni Blanc, Sémillon, and Clairette that feels as Alpine as it does Mediterranean.
2017 Bandol Blanc • Domaine de Terrebrune $36.00 Grown in a fresh, breezy corner of the AOC marked by notable maritime influence, Terrebrune’s blanc has the distinction of aging just as well as the domaine’s long-lived Bandol rouge. Delicate and flowery, this blend of Clairette, Ugni Blanc, and Bourboulenc charms in its youth as much as it astounds with bottle age. 2016 Cassis “Bel-Arme” • Clos Ste. Magdeleine $52.00 In the only Provençal appellation where white takes center stage, Jonathan Sack crafts elegant, saline Marsanne-dominated wines from organic vineyards perched over the Mediterranean. This old-vine cuvée was raised in concrete eggs on fine lees, giving a fleshy and complex Cassis that is far more than a simple seafood companion.
2012 Alpilles Blanc “Dolia” • Domaine Hauvette $57.00 A renegade vigneronne conceiving singular cuvées in the shadow of the Alpilles mountain range, Dominique Hauvette is the icon for natural winemaking in Provence. Smoke, wildflower honey, gunflint, and quince feature in this textured blend of unfiltered Roussanne, Marsanne, and Clairette. The finish is reminiscent of pure stone.
Roch Sassi and Constance Malengé of Clos Saint-Joseph
When buying red Burgundy, I think we should remember:
1. Big wines do not age better than light wine. 2. A so-called great vintage at the outset does not guarantee a great vintage for the duration. 3. A so-called off vintage at the outset does not mean the wines do not have a brilliant future ahead of them. 4. Red Burgundy should not taste like Guigal Côte-Rôtie, even if most wine writers wish it would. 5. Don’t follow leaders; watch yer parking meters.
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