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The dog days of summer are here and for most of us there is no end in sight for the high temperatures. But don’t despair, we have your elixir: rosé perfection from Château Pradeaux. A good rosé should be refreshing, and hopefully interesting, but what about aromatically complex and texturally luxurious? Bandol is one of the few places on the planet that can combine all of that into a single, sunset-hued wine, and for our money, Pradeaux makes the very best. Our apologies to the late, great Lulu Peyraud, but even her family’s lovely version doesn’t have as much depth, as many layers, or as mesmerizing a combination of refreshment and profundity. Pradeaux’s rosé is a wine for a warm summer’s day, of course, but it is also a wine for a lavish fall feast or a holiday celebration. You can drink it young, or cellar it for many years. I’ll say it again: Pure, pink, perfection. And if you grab six or more bottles it is well under $30…buy it by the case!
Château Pradeaux’s vineyard holdings are the closest to the Mediterranean in the entire Bandol appellation. The estate has been in the hands of the Portalis family since before the French Revolution and was revived just after World War II by Suzanne Portalis and her daughter, Arlette. Her son, Cyrille Portalis, has continued to maintain the great traditions of this estate with his wife, Magali, and his two sons, Etienne and Edouard. Their Bandol reds remain strictly composed of 95% Mourvèdre, an incredibly high percentage given the appellation requirement is only 50%, allowing growers to greatly soften their blends with increased amounts of Grenache and Syrah. Not Pradeaux. Here, the conscious effort is to build massively flavorful and monumentally structured reds for the ages. Likewise, Etienne produces a rosé of visceral potency, resisting the market-obsessed styling by many growers in the region while crafting wines of sumptuous concentration, intense structure, and staggeringly powerful minerality. He embraces the risk of spontaneous fermentation—almost unheard-of in rosé production in Provence—and employs cement and large oak barrels for aging his flagship Bandol rosé.
While most rosé producers in Provençe rush to finish their wines and get them into the global market by late spring, Pradeaux will not be rushed. Etienne likes to bottle in late spring and then allow the wine to rest in the bottle for a few weeks before shipping them out. This means that summer is often in full swing by the time this rosé hits the U.S. But this is not a wine for a single season or even a single year. Although the skin contact during a slow, gentle press only lasts about 24 hours, that is plenty of time for the perfectly ripe Mourvèdre to work its magic. The thick, midnight blue skins impart robust texture and plenty of structure, which allows the Pradeaux rosé to age gracefully for many years.
The high percentage of Mourvèdre also imparts the brilliant pink-orange hue, like a clear, Mediterranean sky at sunset, that sets Pradeaux apart the moment it enters your glass. Serve it cool, not ice cold, at around 45 to 50 degrees, and for maximum enjoyment a quick decant of 30 minutes will allow the aromatics to bloom. White flowers, wild strawberries, blood orange, lavender, rosemary, and thyme all unfold on top of layered red fruits, sea salt, and limestone minerality. The pairing possibilities seem endless, from tuna tartare to bouillabaisse to tacos al pastor. I love it with a spatchcocked chicken smothered in herbs de provençe butter. But don’t forget to stash away some bottles for Thanksgiving or even next summer and summers beyond. If you have just one rosé on hand make sure it is the best one: Château Pradeaux.
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