Richard finds a pink wine to move you.
Le Grand Cros, Rosé from €11.50, £12.95
Le Grand Cros, L'Esprit de Provence Rosé from €10.80, £17.95 from Berry Bros
Goodness knows we all need something to look forward to. The thought of travelling to the French Riviera remains a distant fantasy at present, but thankfully this wine of the week will take you there without having to leave your house, which is especially convenient during a global lockdown.
It's a Provence rosé, of course, and the entire category is an evocative one.
Just the colour is enough to conjure a pot of steaming moules marinières in a bustling quayside restaurant, or an early-evening apéritif as the sunshine twinkles across the surface of the tranquil sea. Whatever your own pink-tinged memory might be, surely one of wine's most treasured qualities is its ability to transport us.
In recent years, rosé has boomed in popularity, becoming a year-round drink that is being taken seriously both for food matching and its ever-increasing quality potential. See, for instance, this review of Liz Gabay's book Rosé: understanding the pink wine revolution. Yet one of rosé's most abiding attractions is its seasonality: for many drinkers, it represents the long summer days, and is the quintessential bottle to accompany nothing more complicated than leisure and pleasure.
This is exactly the sentiment that came to me when I recently tasted Grand Cros, Rosé 2019 Côtes de Provence, and its slightly pricier sibling, L'Esprit de Provence (although the euro prices found on Wine-Searcher are reversed). It was bottled escapism, a portal to more carefree times, a sojourn within a wine glass.
Does it matter that the blends are made from various percentages of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Rolle? Do you need to know the alcohol level, residual sugar and total acidity?
It's surely more important to consider how wine makes you feel, and the youthful exuberance of the 2019 vintage was exactly what I needed to lift me out of the lockdown blues. The succulent strawberry and melon aromas whisked me away to a sun-drenched terrace overlooking the Med and the touch of fennel surrounded me with native garrigue. With the first sip, I plunged headfirst into cool refreshing waters, and I'll leave what I was wearing up to your imagination.
Now THAT'S what you want from a rosé.
I've tasted several previous vintages of Grand Cros, and this new vintage is up there with the best of them. All I know about them otherwise is what their website tells me: that a Canadian couple bought the property in 1989, and their son joined the business 10 years later to upgrade the winery in a quest to improve quality.
I liked both the cuvées I tasted, with a marginal preference for the cheaper of the two, simply called Grand Cros Rosé. For me, the Esprit had a stronger herby note, and I preferred the purer fruit of the 'basic' version. As Jancis observed, they have a definite vinous quality about them, although it is the summery evocation that will stay with you long after the final sip.
According to Wine-Searcher, the 2019 vintage of both cuvées is already available in the Netherlands, France, the UK and Germany. Previous vintages are available in Hong Kong, Australia, Japan and the US, so it is to be hoped that the latest vintage will arrive with them in due course. You can see a retailer list on the Grand Cros website.