“After my visit to Miami, I think I am going to start producing wines in a Magnum,” jokes handsome French wine representative, Francois Pages of Chateau du Campuget. “Everywhere I went, people seemed so oversized and built-up, like superheroes!”
Yes, in Miami everything seems slightly larger than life. Yet here we are, at a French café in midtown Manhattan and the world seems smaller and much more intimate. And though it is spring – the traditional start of the rosé wine drinking season – the weather is freezing. Yet as Francois pours me a glass, I try to pretend I am at Club 55 in St. Tropez, watching celebrities like P. Diddy scamper in the cool blue waves.
“Quite nice,” I pronounce the wine, which is a gorgeous baby pink rose color, and is scented with raspberries and strawberries. One the palate, the wine is pleasantly assertive in a way that belies its pretty color and can pair with much more robust cuisine than a typical rosé with its rich berry flavors and charmingly bitter finish, somewhat akin to Campari liqueur or a fresh pomegranate seed. I am not surprised when Francois tells me this is his best selling wine.
If you are new to rosé, or if you have not had a glass in a while, this is an appropriate time to explain that in America, we have two basic types of rosé: dry and sweet. In Europe and other regions, rosé was traditionally only dry. So if you have had sweet pink wine and have yet to experience the pleasures of dry, Chateau du Campuget traditional rosé is a great place to start.
I also try Francoise’s traditional white – very good, but the white that stands out for me is the Viognier de Campuget. If you are a wine geek, you probably already know that the Viognier grape receives its finest expression in the northern Rhone, though it is also very popular in Austria. Both are relatively cool regions, unlike the hot Costieres de Nimes at the most southern area of the Rhone valley. When tasting wine blind, I have been fooled by a Viognier from a hot region because the fruit is so ripe. Imagine how a sun-warmed peach would taste and you have an idea of the ripe, rich, intoxicating flavors of this wine.
All things considered, I am a red wine drinker and really enjoyed the Traditional Rouge (made from the area’s key grapes, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Carménère). The Traditional red is pleasant and surprisingly unoaked – it is aged in stainless steel tanks. Yet it tastes so rich I ask Francois about it. In his typical French way (well, actually, virtually all French people wax philosophic like this in my experience) Francoise tells a colorful story about how a beautiful girl doesn’t need to really pack on the make-up to be attractive. In other words, when it comes to his wine, simplicity is best. No need to gild the lily. More complex than the Traditional are Prestige Rouge, which sees some oak aging, and the Chateau de Compugent “1753” which is intended to be cellar aged, both excellent.
Today “value” is the word on everyone’s lips. Starting at under $10, Chateau de Campuget’s wines are delicious, well crafted, and affordable. It may still be cold outside, yet when you sip this winery’s rosé, you will feel the warmth of a quaint French summer.