Last year I filed an extensive report on the super-Provence estate of Château d’Esclans. The range of rosé wines produced under the d’Esclans label includes the global phenomenon that is Whispering Angel, but also a whole raft of wines (one priced at under £10 at time of review), to one of the world’s most expensive pinks, the Les Clans cuvée, that retails for £100 per bottle.
The beautiful estate of Château d’Esclans (right) is the property of Sacha Lichine whose family has a long history in French wine, particularly in Bordeaux. Lichine is still fully involved, though in 2019 the luxury drinks company, Moët Hennessy, took a 55% controlling share in the business.
I was sent the current range of wines to taste for myself after a really strong showing for last year’s selection. Once again it is an excellent line-up of Provençal rosés. At the top of the tree the three barrel fermented and aged ‘Collection’ wines are worthy of cellaring, setting a benchmark for premium rosé.
(2022) As the soaraway success of Whispering Angel continues, it's price is now knocking on the door of £20 per bottle, so it is a smart move by Sacha Lichine to introduce this wine from Var en Provence, listed by Waitrose at £14.99 but £9.99 on offer at time of review. It's a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah and is in a broadly similar style to the Angel, very dry, quite savoury, focused around small red berry fruit. While it may not quite have the ultimate finesse of Whispering Angel, it is an excellent Provence pink and delivers plenty of style and quality in a very attractive package, and is bound to find lots of fans I suspect.
(2022) The 2021 Whispering Angel blends Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle, Syrah and Tibouren. It's always an extremely refined rosé, but this vintage seems to add an extra ounce of firmness and savoury, food-friendly character. It is aromatic, with pomegranate and fine raspberry and floral aspects, but an intriguing mineral salts nuance too. In the mouth it has that delicious freshness, quite vivacious with tart red berries and zippy citrus and, again, a stony, lightly salty and mineral finish. Watch the video
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(2022) The estate wine is partly vinified in larger oak barrels and blends Grenache and Syrah with Vermentino. There's an attractive peachiness on the nose here, but mostly tight, small red berries and a wisp of salt. The palate is firm and has a really decisive, dry, grippy citrus core that is eminently food-friendly. Long, structured, with a saline edge, it's a lively and serious wine.
(2022) Last year's Les Clans was a fabulous wine that I ranked more less equally with the Garrus, and I have to say this 2020 is equally compelling. The blend is Grenache, Syrah and the white Vermentino, the wine fermented and aged 10 months in oak. I detect the creamy, quality but subtle oak across the aromas, but there's a raft of delightful small red berry fruit that still dominates the nose. The palate shows that layered, complex subtlety, delicate but so intense, the frut and mineral, stony acid core combining to extend the finish.
(2022) There is no denying the concentration and serious intent of this 2020 edition of Garrus. A blend of the best parcels of Grenache, Syrah and Vermentino, it was fermented and aged 10 month in French oak 600-litre 'demi-muids'. Taut and mineral on the nose, tasted blindfolded this would be judged a serious, complex white wine I am sure, save for a tell-tale whisper of small, precise red berry fruits and a hint of sweet earth and spice. The palate is quite strict, the tension of the citrus and salts acidity and a little grippy tannin, agains red fruits that are constrained, but one can almost sense a straining at the leash, waiting to blossom more fully. Long, balanced but concentrated, I'd tuck this away for a few years for sure.