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Bad bark is no good in the pink


Philip White has found the Provence rosé that wasn’t there when he finally reached Marseilles.

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You know the feeling? Years of dreaming of eventually reaching Marseilles to bog into a real bouillabaisse with a bright Provence rosé, only to finally arrive and discover most of the rosé was rotten?

I know it too well. That acrid carrion twang of trichloranisole (TCA), the perfectly named rotten cork compound. You have a spongiform wild oak bark steeped in wind, rain, dust, squirrel piss, birdshit and those dainty titbits left by bulls relieving itches. You peel that bark off the Quercus suber trunk and bleach it so it looks clean. Natural. Food-grade. But the bleach reacts badly with some of the resident cork fungi and leaves that damn stink. Shove cork in bottle; TCA moves into wine; eats all primary fruit, leaving the bitter gutted corpse of the original drink, ribs to the sun.

Twas on that lovely sunny first day in Marseilles I discovered that in the south of France the drying, eviscerating nature of trash Portuguese cork had become so prevalent that most wine vendors, from cellar to somm, thought that was simply what their local wine was like. I couldn’t believe it. You’re in a spaghetti western, you got buffalo ribs sticking outa that cracked desert clay, right? The visitor does not complain. Eat your bouillabaisse, son. We make our rosé dry.

TCA makes wine taste dry. Dry bones and coal dust. In those days, the locals would not use screw caps. Many still won’t.

So it’s cool, decades on, to be sent the wine I went to Provence to drink with the local fish stew. Note I say Provence, not providence, which I discussed here on Tuesday.

This wine came from yet another company whose website has yet to assemble itself, if it’s providence that interests you. On the bottom of the texturally/graphically-pleasing paper letter that came full speed by snail were the address of another website and a twitter handle. Nothing there, either.

The producer is a mob called Debussy, which seems to be a negociant-based thing which I reckon might get its wine made to order in one south-of-France co-op or another. The packaging and texts make me suspect there are Brits in the background:

“Rameau d’Or,” it says. “A specialist Rosé producer from Provence. The name, Rameau d’Or translates to Golden Bough and comes from a fantastical French tale of enchantment love and transformation – a perfect match for this quintessential summer rosé.”

What do you think? Brits? I reckon the back label’s even worse. It introduces the ugly prince. Never mention the ugly prince.

The wine is distributed in Australia by red+white, a well-reputed wholesaler which has absolutely nothing to do with me. To me it means pink when it’s not clarified, and as a colour-blind person, pink is a colour I do not see.

Debussy Rameau d’Or Golden Bough Côtes de Provence Rosé 2017
($28; 13% alcohol; screw cap)

That mild rose-petal/rosebud perfume that wends from the thorns all the way along to Turkish delight is here. There’s a bowl of lemons on Mamée’s same dappled linen, and the acrid dusty dry of the Provence farmyard well after the lavender’s all picked, packed and gone off to the stills. Hard bread covered in flour. Long before I reached the top of the label I could smell chook feathers blowing around. We are at the long Sunday table in the four o’clock sun. Fully replete, Old Pop snores as his chins nod closer to the cheese. The accordionist is drunk. The nieces are giggling. Does gingham have a smell?

I know cantaloupe – called muskmelon by some – wrapped in prosciutto is ideally a flavour from across the border in Italy, but this drink actually tastes like that. With some lemonburger pear, as grown by McCarthy’s Farm down my way. And then that hempen burlap smell of sacks stacked right there in the barn.

All those flavours, with the slender acid of the grapes (Grenache 70 per cent; Cinsault 30 per cent) and the tiny residual hints they leave – insinuations of gingery lime marmalade and leatherwood honey – are all here jumping and dancing so fresh and lovely BECAUSE IT HASN’T GOT A GODDAM CORK!

This is a bonny dry rosé of the best sort from the one place it suits as well as mine. You’ll find it more easily around the internet if you drop the Debussy. Rameau d’Or will get it. Strange, that.

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