The Grapevine: Look to Provence for rich and ripe reds

Provence is pretty in pink. In fact, it leads the world in the production of dry rosé.

The iconic sun-drenched landscape is as famous for its lavender and sunflowers as it is for its yachts and wealthy visitors who chase their afternoons at the beach with iced buckets of rosé at sunset.

Yet there is another facet to this pink and turquoise jewel — and it is red.

Despite the fact that 85 percent of Provence's wine production is of pale persuasion, those producers who paint with robust red pigment produce an equally stunning canvas of offerings. And although the red wines of the region can be quite different from each other stylistically, they all possess one single common denominator: a lush and hedonistic texture.

From satin and taffeta to brushed cotton and fleece, the wines are rich, ripe, round and mouth-filling … satisfying in a "gee, this is really good" kind of way.

You can pick a flavor palette ranging from currants and cherries to pepper and spice or a wild amalgamation of both fruit and savory elements, but it will always come delivered on a magic carpet of fabric.

The producers have a warm and sunny climate to thank for their good fortune. The grapes ripen and mature delivering wines with plenty of fruit and supple tannin. It's a winning combination.

Ch. La Tour de L'Eveque rouge 2006, Cotes de Provence ($32)

A rich, earthy red full of clove and Christmas spice. It wraps around the palate in a soft fuzzy blanket of brushed cotton tannins. The wine is as comfy on a cold night as slippers. (A Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend)

Rimauresq Petit Rimauresq rouge 2008, Cotes de Provence Cru Classé ($16)

This wine drinks like liquid ribbon candy. It is satin on the palate and full of Indian spices. Positively "scentoxicating". (A Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan blend)

Domaine du Grand Clos "Esprit de Provence" rouge 2009, Cotes de Provence (coming to the USA in three months time)

A lovely combination of ripe berries, sweet herb and strongly brewed Earl Grey tea wrapped in fleece. Delicious. (A Mourvedre, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon blend)

Ch. Coussin rouge 2010, Cotes de Provence Ste. Victoire ($23)

A dense and powerful red with suede-like tannins, good acid and a gamey hint of animal fur. It's "sauvage" in a he-man kind of way. Masculine and attractive. (A Syrah/Grenache/Cabernet Sauvignon blend)

Ch. La Sauveuse rouge 2010, Cotes de Provence ($15)

This rustic red hints of earth and English walnut. The tannins have a corduroy grip. Like calloused hands, there is a pleasant roughness to them, when they touch the palate. (A Grenache/Mourvedre/Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend)

Domaine Houchart "Tradition" rouge 2010, Cotes de Provence ($13)

A bright, fruit-driven red redolent of wild forest berries. The acids are vibrant with a tight core of minerality and the tannins are taffeta and starched linen … firm, yet soft. (A Grenache/Carignan/Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend)

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