WHISPERING ANGEL ROSE
In 2006, when Sacha Lichine bought the run-down Chateau d’Esclans near St Tropez, there were only two good quality wine rosés on the market, both by Domaine Ott. The son of the Russian émigré and wine titan known as “The Pope of Wine”, Alexis Lichine, he showed great promise from an early age. He was involved in all stages of wine production and created and ran a few businesses related to wine when he was still a student. He also introduced a white wine to the portfolio of Chateau Prieure-Lichine in Bordeaux, the chateau he inherited from his father which he subsequently sold, declaring that there were so many good red wines being produced that the world had no need of another one and that it was time to think about rosé instead. The fortunes of Chateau d’Esclans were about to be dramatically transformed. He persuaded the legendary winemaker and cellar master, Patrick Leon, who worked at Chateau Mouton Rothschild and had looked after its other estates for over two decades, to come on board. Leon had worked for his father, Alexis Lichine, for more than 10 year before that and had helped to create the game changing Opus One in California. It wasn’t long before Leon’s son, Bertrand joined the team and the rest, as they say, is history.
Chateau d’Esclans now produces five Cotes-de-Provence rosés. Two top cuvee - Les Clans and Garrus are made from very old Grenache vines with a tiny addition of the white grape Rolle (Vermentino). Mainly free run juice is used, and fermentation is conducted in new and second year French barrels called demi-muid (600L); maturation takes place in the barrels on the lees, “Burgundian” style. The results are amazing. These cuvees are considered to be the best rosés in the world. They are serious wines for serious wine lovers with prices to match. They are elegant, balanced with great intensity, concentration and texture, priced at £50-60 and £90-130 accordingly.
As an introduction to the top range, try 2017 Rock Angel. Produced mainly from Grenache and Rolle (Vermentino), and vinified partially in French barrels and stainless steel tanks, it’s a superb value for money wine, if the quality is considered, and is modestly priced at £25-30 (Harrods - £30).
Whispering Angel, their most popular wine, ranked by the research group Nielsen as the best-selling rose wine in the US, is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle, Syrah and Tibouren and is vinified in stainless steel tanks. The producer at this level is called Caves d’Esclans. They describe the wine as having a very pale salmon colour; good texture; tangy, citrus and pink grapefruit, good minerality; white peach, perfumy, mango and white cherry fruit flavours; good with spicy food, charcuterie, or as an aperitif.
2017 Whispering Angel, Caves d’Esclans, Cotes-de-Provence, France
Waitrose/Waitrose Cellar - £17.99
You can also try the Chateau’s recent addition, the first release of the Whispering Angel’s little brother, the Palm by Whispering Angel - £19.90 at the Sampler, or £13.95 at FromVineyardsDirect.com. It’s more on the fruity side than its older and more sophisticated peer.