As befits such a singular estate, Chateau Simone’s Palette Rosé transcends the category itself. Whereas, nearly every other rosé entering the market this upcoming season is from the just-harvested 2016 growing season, we will be premiering Simone’s 2015. And those who know the wine know that it can age and improve effortlessly for a decade or more. This is a rosé that never touches stainless steel, that is pressed slowly with an old-style basket press, that ferments spontaneously, that is bottled well into the following year, and that unabashedly offers complexity, structure, and cellar-ability.
Simone’s rosé is always produced from the same plot of old vines—an interplanted mélange of various varieties between 50 and 100+ years of age. Primarily Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah, there’s also Carignan, Muscat Noir, Manosquin, and Castet in the mix, and the grapes are pressed and aged together. The north-facing orientation of Chateau Simone’s distinctive amphitheater of vineyards ensures an elegance and acidity rare for this warm southerly climate. Produced half from direct-press juice and half via saignée, Simone Rosé ferments naturally—the Rougiers have never inoculated a wine, fearing any outside influence on the robust yeast population of their labyrinthine subterranean cellar—and is aged on the fine lees in a combination of well-used foudres and demi-muids for the better part of a year.
The 2015 is gorgeous in the glass—a faded rusty ruby with orange undertones, serene and stately rather than pinkly electric in appearance. Whereas, rosé, aromatically speaking, is often relatively straightforward and exuberant, Simone’s is wide, deep, and arresting in its complexity. Landscape-like, it draws the taster into it rather than insisting upon being noticed. The palate is similarly Zen-like, caressing rather than sizzling, with a palpable limestone-derived stoniness that binds to the gentle tannins like bricks to mortar. The acidity is balancing but not nervy, and it makes the whole thing vibrate and hum. Rosé this seamless and complex is a real rarity, and it’s a thrill to see what this category is capable of when it’s made with the seriousness, patience, and skill of someone like Jean-Francois Rougier.