As frosty, wintry weather gradually eases into the breezy, light-hearted feel of spring and with it the promise of balmy summer evenings, rosé often becomes the go-to colour for wine aficionados. Not that pink wines are only suitable for warm-weather quaffing, rather they bring with them the ‘joie de vivre’ synonymous with sunshine and warmth, and fill glasses with the flavours of summer fruits.

Diversity of Pays d’Oc IGP

France’s largest producer of rosé wines, Pays d’Oc IGP is a world benchmark for the colour. The designation, located across a vast swathe of southern France, has honed its skills for making this challenging style of wine, requiring thoughtful intent in the vineyard and the winery. From a varietal range spanning a total 58 grapes, its growers have selected 27 that lend themselves perfectly to rosé. They include the familiar names that are Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet-Sauvignon along with Mediterranean staples Grenache Noir and Cinsault. In recent years, the choice of varieties has been extended further to include vines that cope well with climate change, Caladoc and Marselan being the leading proponents, adding acidity and vibrant fruit characters to wines grown in warmer weather. And some growers have even nurtured heirloom varieties such as Sauvignon gris back from the brink of extinction.

Broad scope of Pays d’Oc IGP rosés

Earth-friendly vineyard practices, including organic and biodynamic techniques, along with winery evolutions such as longer lees contact, wild ferments and barrel maturation, have broadened the scope of Pays d’Oc IGP rosés. Their aromatic and colour spectrum now runs the gamut, enhancing their versatility with food and the range of drinking occasions. From al fresco styles laden with cherries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches and cream to the more serious, complex offerings suffused with minerality and salinity, the Pays d’Oc label caters to every taste, season and occasion.

Variety of locations

Covering 120,000 hectares of vineyards running parallel with a 200-kilometre stretch of the Mediterranean coastline, from the Pyrenees to the Camargue, the designation produces a staggering 273 million bottles of rosé wines annually. Both single varietals and blends, they grow in vineyard sites that flirt with the seaside, whilst others are ensconced amidst the rolling hills inland. This variety of locations – differing elevations, aspects, weather patterns and soils – translates to one of the broadest ranges of rosé wines in the world.

Elizabeth Gabay uitgelicht

Elizabeth Gabay MW has put together an eclectic selection of rosés that illustrate the creative energy that Pays d’Oc winegrowers pour into their rosés.

The upcoming varieties

As the climate gets warmer, adding later-ripening varieties with the ability to bolster acidity has become a particularly valid choice for wine growers. Caladoc is one such variety and like Grenache, it thrives in drought and preserves freshness and acidity. It can make quite hard wines if used on its own but contributes a lively freshness when used in a blend. Here, Paul Mas has included a respectable 20% to not just give acidity, but also some vibrant fruit character.

Arrogant Frog Ribet Pink by Paul Mas is made with 50% Grenache noir, 30% Syrah, 20% Caladoc. The Syrah has given it a pretty pink colour as well as attractive blue floral notes on the nose. On the palate, ripe raspberry fruit with hints of spice, typical of more expressive Grenache, and crunchy wild berry fruit from the Caladoc come together to give a fresh juicy, elegant wine. The wines come from sustainable vineyards and go through fermentation at the relatively higher temperature of 18°C.

paysocrose1.002 Arrogant Frog

The heirloom varieties

Many historic varieties have disappeared over the years, and Sauvignon Gris is no exception. As a pink-tinged variant of Sauvignon Blanc, it was, unsurprisingly, very present in Bordeaux before phylloxera, often found in the sweet wines of Sauternes. But by 1958 there were only 10ha left in France, as producers moved to more productive, disease-resistant varieties. Today this has risen to 660ha, with Les Vignobles Foncalieu being a big supporter of this little-known variety.

Le Griset from Les Vignobles de Foncalieu is made from Sauvignon Gris grown on two plots – Ensérune with a Mediterranean climate and Puichéric with more Atlantic oceanic influences. All the vineyards are organic. Wine director Nathalie Estribeau has worked with this variety to extract a delicate shell pink colour with a few hours skin contact and plenty of freshness. The nose takes you straight to the green fresh fruit notes of Sauvignon Blanc. On the palate, the fruit has a creamy roundness with a delicate hint of floral elderflower and gooseberry fruit with a fresh grapefruit pith edge and a phenolic finish. A lovely balance of ripe roundness and vibrantly fresh acidity.

paysocrose1.003 Griset

Grenache Gris is another historic variety, although never endangered. Like other Gris grapes, it can be made as a gentle shell-like pink wine on its own, and can contribute charmingly rich fruit, often with a weighty texture giving added complexity.

Villa Blanche Grenache Rosé from Calmel & Joseph is made with 60% Grenache Noir, 40% Grenache Gris harvested at different dates – the first harvest aiming at freshness and the second harvest, two weeks later to obtain greater concentration of fruit and richness. Cool fermentation and time on the lees to add to the fruit and roundness. The combination of the two varieties has created a light creamy pink wine with ripe peaches, cream and fresh nuts, a hint of violets and fresh crisp acidity.

paysocrose1.004 Villa Blance Grenache

Solal from Blanville is a blend of two light varieties, 50% Cinsault which can provide a creamy laciness to a rosé and the richer, textured 50% Grenache Gris planted on cool limestone and clay soils. Here the creamy, white peach fruit has a delicate, lacy, slightly floral fragrance giving an elegant first impression before opening up intense, structured and creamy Grenache Gris fruit as it opens up. A tight minerality and crunchy, citrus acidity lead to a long zingy finish.

paysocrose1.005 Solal

Cinsault, 2nd grape variety used in Pays d’Oc rosés, is also a traditional variety which shines when presented as a solo performer. Le Petit Balthazar from sustainable producer Pierrick Harang Wine has crisp, crunchy cherries and raspberries, opening out to reveal fruity ripeness and vibrant acidity – full of delicate lacy charm for summer drinking.

paysocrose1.006 BaltazarThe time-honoured classics

Grenache is the base for so many rosés across southern France, and in Pays d’OcIGP it tops the varietal rankings for pink wines. Presented 100%, it offers a great introduction to the variety. Délicieuses from Domaine des Yeuses has the classic creamy white peach aromas leading to ripe peach fruit with notes of candied pineapple and redcurrant fruit. Intense creamy, citrus freshness, vibrant acidity and salinity on the finish.

paysocrose1.007 Delicieuses


Rosé from LarocheMas la Chevalière adds 60% Syrah into the blend with 30% Grenache 10% Cinsault. The pale pink belies the intensity of flavours in this wine. Crunchy redcurrants, apple compote, exotic fruit and creamy richness are juxtaposed with hints of sharp grapefruit, citrus acidity and some long blood orange salinity on the finish. Intensely fruity and mouthwatering.

paysocrose1.008 Laroche


L’Ostal Rosé from Domaine de L’Ostal is a straight blend of 50% Syrah, 50% Grenache planted on sunny, south-facing slopes. While it starts with the classic peach fruit, the Syrah kicks in full-bodied intensity of dark cherries with crunchy redcurrants and ripe raspberries. Crunchy, crisp and juicy with a touch of apple pippy phenolics on the finish.

paysocrose1.009 Ostal

Bringing in the outsiders

IGP Pays d’Oc has championed international varieties for thirty five years and they now have an established presence next to local varieties.

R Pinot Noir Rosé from Domaine Ricardelle de Lautrec is such an elegant rosé, as is often true of Pinot noir. Not a fruit-forward wine, but with some ripe passion fruit and tropical fruit lending exotic charm, lovely clean freshness with incredibly intense, zesty citrus acidity. Intense, powerful and delicate, this rosé is elegant and mouthwatering. An extra bonus, the wine comes in lightweight bottles and the vineyard is farmed organically whilst also converting to biodynamics.

paysocrose1.010 R Pinot Noir

Rosé Cœur de Cuvée from De la Jasse adds Merlot to Syrah and Grenache, Merlot creating a fruity ‘Summer Pudding’ of a wine with fresh red cherries, raspberries and redcurrants and long leafy acidity. A very pretty rosé for summer drinking.

paysocrose1.011 Coeur

Check here the article on this website about Elizabeth Gabay and her book: Rosé, understanding the pink wine revolution

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