Simply to get a good handle on the reputation of Tavel, an appellation in the Rhône Valley, I’ll pull this superb apocryphal story from the Wiki page on it:
. . . he [King Philip IV] was reportedly offered a glass, which he emptied without getting off his horse and afterwards proclaimed Tavel the only good wine in the world.
If that’s not a recommendation right there, I don’t know what king could convince you.
So let’s talk about the bottle!
Tavel itself, as I mentioned, is in the Rhône Valley, home to such illustrious appellations as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Crozes-Hermitage, the perhaps-familiar Giogondas . . . it’s a lovely, and quite hot region.
Can’t find our region in question? Look in the upper left map–it’s the bright spot of turquoise directly west of ‘Carpentras’ in the field of green. Seems small? That’s because it is! All told, the vines of Tavel only take up about 3.5 square miles. Not an excessive amount of wine being made here.
Not only that, but the wine rules involved in the appellation are deliciously complex, as makes sense for one of the older official appellations–Tavel was established in 1936! Among other rules, all Tavel wines must be rosés–and must be made as rosés, rather than the . . . dubious practice of blending red and white wines. Interestingly, one can use both red and white grapes to make a rosé (a rule that applies to all of France) but the resulting wine must be subjected to the rosé process.
Moreover, all wines in Tavel must be blends–no one grape can be more than 60% of a blend. This preserves a certain quality to the wine–which is aided by a diverse cast of grapes. While not every one is represented in equal prominence, Tavel wines can include: syrah, mourvèdre, cinsault, clairette, grenache, bourboulenc, carignan, picpoul, and last, obscure-but-storied, calitor.
The reason for such significant blending is that it is unusual to find a ‘pure’ Tavel vineyard–which is to say, many of the vineyards are planted with several varieties, resulting in cross-pollination, and a natural tendency towards gathering all the grapes in the bottle.
Tavel also makes it a point to define both the minimum and maximum alcohol content of wines bearing the appellation’s name–11% ABV and 13.5%, respectively.
Like many rosés, Tavel wines are often drunk quite young–as is the case with ours–but their relative power and acidity make them among the few rosés occasionally worth ageing. It generally softens the fruit and piquancy; an aged Tavel will be soft and lightly floral, gently floating on the palette.
A wine fit for kings, indeed! Let’s check out ours.
Full name: Prieuré de Montézargues, Tavel, Tavel, Rhône Blend, 2016. Appellation Tavel Contrôlée.
Grape(s): 55% grenache (red and white), 30% cinsault, 13% clairette, 2% other grapes (possibly but not necessarily, syrah, mourvèdre, carignan, bourboulenc).
Price (to the nearest $5): $15.
– Beautiful, deep salmon pink. Just a lovely dark color for a rosé.
– Juicy, ripe fruit on the nose. Lush red fruit, specifically, raspberries and strawberries.
– A touch of tartness, but quite pleasantly so.
– Is . . . is that effervescence? I think I might be crazy, but . . .
– Smooth, lush red fruit as on the nose, riposte’d by acid.
– Sweet (not sickly or syrupy, though) and smooth. Almost a more macerated taste to the fruit. Great acidity.
For the price, this bottle is a steal. It’s everything I want in a rosé–refreshing, lush, and pretty, but not boring or shallow. While there’s definitely plenty to think about, you don’t have to. And that’s nice, too. I’m going to drink as much of this as I can this summer. And just as a last note, the bottle is gorgeous. Nothing like having something pretty to look at while you sip on some wine.
That’s all (s)he wrote, folks. See you soon!