Château La Mascaronne Côtes de Provence Blanc Vita Bella 2019

I have visited Provence at least half a dozen times over the years, sometimes on flying visits (one madcap day trip to visit Domaine Tempier maybe fifteen years ago was particularly memorable), sometimes on a more leisurely schedule, part tasting trip, part holiday. On the occasion of the latter I am sure I spent much of my time there with a glass of the region’s famous rosé in hand. This would hardly be surprising; the Côtes de Provence appellation is France’s largest producer of rosé wines, with about 80% of its 20,000 hectares dedicated to this style (as an aside, with a nod to my love of the Loire Valley, second place goes to Cabernet d’Anjou with a little over 5,000 hectares).

Much of the rosé was (and still is) consumed locally, and I did my fair share, but in truth the wines coming from the other 20% of the vineyard would often excite my tastebuds more. Indeed, rather than falling in love with the rosés of Provence during those many visits, I soon developed a secret admiration of the region’s white wines. My discovery of these, so cool, fresh, bitter and bright, a style which seemed to deny the region’s warm climate, was an unexpected delight. It was fond memories of this discovery which prompted me to reach recently for this bottle, from Château La Mascaronne.

Château La Mascaronne Côtes de Provence Blanc Vita Bella 2019

Château La Mascaronne is a well-known and long-established estate in the region, situated on the hills just above the old town of Le Luc, 25 kilometres from Saint-Tropez. The domaine is spread out over 100 hectares, of which 60 hectares are planted to vines. Until recently it was in the hands of Tom Bove, no doubt a familiar name to fans of the region’s wines; he used to own nearby Château Miraval before in 2012 he sold it to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (you probably haven’t heard of them, but they are two up-and-coming actors), and which is now the source of the much-hyped (and well reviewed to be fair) Miraval Rosé.

He held on to Château La Mascaronne though, at least until 2019. He was eventually persuaded to also sell this, to none other than Michel Reybier, proprietor of Château Cos d’Estournel.

The estate produces red, rosé and white wines, and the latter features varieties well suited to the climate, specifically Rolle and Ugni Blanc. The wines have long been made by Laurence Berlemont, who took over from her predecessor, the famed oenologist Emmanuel Gaujal. Berlemont and Gove always favoured local varieties over international, so these whites are joined by Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsaut for the red and rosé. The vineyards are managed using organic methods, having been certified in 2016, and I am entirely certain this will remain the case under Reybier.

The 2019 Château La Mascaronne Côtes de Provence Blanc Vita Bella featured here therefore reflects a period of transition for the property, as it passed from American to French ownership. That does not seem to have done the wine any harm though. In the glass it has a very slight hint of onion skin to the hue, suggesting a rich style, but the nose impresses with notes of freshly pressed white pear, white peach, crushed chalk and thyme, a remarkably fragrant character, nuanced with attractively bitter citrus elements. This is followed by a beautiful texture on the palate, which combines a pithy substance with flavours of ripe pear and a confit-level richness, the middle creamed and textural, all this is countered by a deliciously grained substance and delightfully bitter elements. And it has fresh acidity which gives it all a sense of lift, before it fades into a finish marked by a deliciously lingering bitterness. This is a smart wine, true to my memories of the region, but I expect we will see yet greater things coming from this estate in the coming years. 92/100 (15/3/21)

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