23-04-2016

Chêne Bleu’s decade of rosé evolution

It was exactly two years ago that I was first introduced to Chêne Bleu at the G-Night event that takes place during Alimentària–‘G’ for Grenache lest you forget it. Of all the wines that this winery produces, it was the rosé that hooked me in and earned them a proper visit later that year. Naturally it’s only fitting that during Vinisud in February, I was able to attend a vertical tasting from the last 10 years of their rosés. Why on earth would anyone want to taste more than one or two vintages rosé wines? After all, it’s a young wine that’s meant to be consumed quickly and not generally thought about too much after the fact.

One reason to be excited about this is that Chêne Bleu is using screw caps for the rosé. Wha? How?!! Who would even want to drink that?!! Well, not the French as from what I understood they release a cork version domestically, but everyone else gets the screw cap. Let me say emphatically that I have zero problem with screw caps. They seal well and preserve the wine well. It’s just that the craaaack sound when opening a bottle is decidedly less sexy than the pop of the cork (although there should never be a pop when opening correctly…)

So, they wanted to show how well their rosé ages under screw cap and as I’ve seen before, the complete blockage of oxygen makes the maturation of the wine slow down considerable. You could immediately see this in the 2006 with how much that wine held up 10 years on. While drifting in to more tertiary notes, it still held a good deal of primary fruit to it and the color was still healthy and not tinging. The 2007 and 2008 were similar with less intensity than the 2006 but holding up fine in their blend of 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah.

In 2010, they started adding a bit of Cinsault to the mix which feels to me that it lifted the color a touch, especially in the 2013 vintage which was simply perfect, even with three years in the bottle. Just a beautiful blush tinge in the glass with crisp red fruit ever-present in the form of raspberry notes.

In 2014 they started putting 21% of the wine in oak for three months. This gave that vintage and the 2015 a good deal more heft in their shoulders and in the 2014 I found a bit of smokiness to it as well as a body that wasn’t terribly fresh. I can’t tell if this is more to do with the oak treatment or just that really tricky vintage because the 2015 jumped back up again with great acidity and balance overall.

It was an interesting exercise in judging a wine that’s easily maligned for its often-found simplicity in lesser cellars. It also frames in the overall evolution of this cellar given how direct a wine rosé can be to produce. You can see quite quickly how the cellar approaches their vineyards and winemaking. In the case of Chêne Bleu, what started off as direct and imposing has matured a great deal as they’ve learned their lovely property well in the last decade and are now producing some great wines in the Vaucluse.