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Memorial Day approaches and that means it's time to think pink; that is, the light, fruity, unchallenging, and oh-so-pretty wine known as rosé.
This week and next I'll be featuring two of these inexpensive summer lovelies, with the first, this week's Wine of the Week, being the Hecht & Bannier Rosé 2010 ($12) from Languedoc.
For centuries Languedoc-Roussillon, that huge area in southern France between the mouth of the Rhône and the Pyrenees, has been the country's largest wine-producing region. That's "large" in terms of quantity. Quality has always been another matter.
Hot and fertile, it churned out vast amounts of bulk wine, the sort of plonk that was sucked up by the liter with uncritical enthusiasm by peasants and industrial workers. The problem is, there's no market for this dreck anymore and the region is struggling, not entirely successfully, to keep up with a changing world.
Most of the progress that is happening comes from outsiders like partners Gregory Hecht and Francois Bannier.
Hecht is from the other end of France, Alsace, but he recently told me that after he and Bannier had finished their studies in Burgundy "we always wanted to make wine in the south of France because we thought there was a huge potential in the region, fantastic juice, fantastic grapes, many different terroirs. We've always been convinced that there was everything to make very, very distinctive and interesting wines.
"We wanted to make something different than the traditional rosé de Provence. The thing was to take the quality of the syrah and all the aromas a syrah can bring in a rosé; that was the challenge, to keep all the aromas of the syrah but to avoid the heaviness."
Interestingly, most rosé is an afterthought, something to do with the leftover grapes from the young vines. "They are harvested 10 days before the syrah for the reds, with much higher level of acidity so you keep a lot of freshness," Hecht said.
This is what I love about the wine, its vibrant freshness. It's all strawberries and peaches shot through with a bracing streak of minerality. Clean and flawlessly made, it sings of summer—and all this pink pleasure for $12.
To find this wine near you, try Wine Searcher.
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary
Food Pairing: Barbecue, grilled vegetables, pork, charcuterie, milder cheeses
Grapes: 33% syrah, 33% grenache, 33% cinsault
Region: Southern France