​Ch Salettes Rosé 2016 Bandol


From £16, €17.30, $26.99 

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Today may be the first day of September but I for one am hoping for an Indian summer here in the northern hemisphere and would like to do my best to prolong that summery feeling. 

One particularly appealing way of doing so is to focus on a great pink wine, a wine type that was long regarded as quintessentially estival but has been moving firmly into all-year-round territory. No rosé is more substantial and food-friendly than a top-quality Bandol rosé. And the Bandol countryside – all olive groves, pine trees, garrigue, vines and the nearby sea – could not be more evocative of holidays. Domaine Tempier’s is the most famous of these noble pink wines  (I wrote extensively about it in Tempier – a 30-year-old rose) but of course it comes at a price: in the UK Lea & Sandeman are selling the 2016 for £26.95.

Although it is rather more precocious, Ch Salettes’ version reminded me somewhat of the Tempier one in style, being full-bodied, herb-scented and clearly made for the table rather than for relatively mindless sipping before a meal. (We finished up the bottle on our balcony with hand-made potato crisps and smoked cod’s roe – a pretty good colour match, and the wine was not cowed even by the British answer to taramasalata.)

My tasting note: 40% Mourvèdre, 30% Cinsault, 25% Grenache Noir, 5% Syrah. Hand picked, 40 hl/ha. No malo, no oak, no filtration.
Mid salmon pink – quite an earthy colour. A meaty rosé, definitely for the table rather than as an aperitif. A real mouthful of sunshine but good balance and a savoury, almost salty (appropriately enough in view of the name) finish. Really serious rosé.

This estate just outside La Cadière d’Azur to the north-west, has been in the same family for 18 generations – which is not necessarily a guarantee of wine quality, of course. But in 2011 Jean-Pierre Boyer, who runs the estate, a son-in-law of the original Ricard family who, as traders in nearby Marseille, founded the property in 1604, took on Alexandre Le Corguillé (below), a trained agronomist and oenologist who oversees all operations on the estate.

In 2015 he extended the cellars in to allow fashionable and fastidious plot-by-plot vinification. (The cellars had until 1985 been in the original 17th-century olive-oil mill but the 1956 frosts killed off the olives that had once been responsible for half of the estate’s production.)

Le Corguillé has also completed a programme of replanting the restanques, stony terraces facing the Mediterranean, with Mourvèdre, the characteristic grape of this quintessentially Provençal appellation whose wines are so much more serious than the norm for this holiday region. The estate is currently being converted to certified organic and is moving towards biodynamic viticulture – which must be a lot easier in this dry, sunny corner than elsewhere in France.

Vine density is 5,000 plants per hectare on south-facing clay-limestone terraces, partly on a limestone base and partly on sandstone. Alcoholic fermentation in concrete and stainless steel is followed by six months’ ageing there and the malolactic conversion is suppressed.

They make about 50,000 bottles a year and say their rosé is meaty enough to be enjoyed up to five years after the harvest. I enjoyed proof that some vintages of Domaine Tempier’s rosé can last 30 years. This one does not have that track record, and I have not tasted the Tempier 2016 but suspect that if it is true to form, it may well be a little more closed at this stage than the delightfully accessible Salettes.

In the UK it seems to be available exclusively from The Wine Society, who have offered the last three vintages. Otherwise, according to wine-searcher.com, it is available in France, Luxembourg and the US. Considering the high levels of taxes on wine in the UK, it is quite unusual to see a wine available more cheaply in pounds than in other currencies. Thank you, Wine Society.

I see you can buy wine at the domaine itself Monday to Friday (except for the mandatory two-hour lunch break from noon) and on Saturday mornings from May to September. Tempting...

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