What shocked us right out of the gate with this set of six wines was the huge variation in color. One was an intense, unapologetically light red, while another was very pale, barely a rosé, looking more like an orange wine. And shades in between were presented too, along with large variations in style and six different appellations. None were very expensive.
It had been since June 2016 since we last compared these, and while we certainly had favorites, all bottles received at least two points. Everyone except for Andy R voted for bottle #1 as their top wine, revealed later to be a Bandol, offering complexity and minerality.
First Place: Bíeler Père & Fils Bandol Réserve 2020. Pinkish orange, not unlike watered-down orange Kool-Aid or apricot in color. Lots of minerality, like crushed up rocks, plus a little bit of funkiness, suggesting cottage cheese. A hint of active dough, then scents of peach pit, under-ripe strawberry, and sea salt air. Resa suggested that it "smells like it'll bite you." Tasted like sea salt or salt water taffy, and reminded tasters of sitting by the beach, with its briny, olive juice notes, plus notions of bright cherries, then clementine at the end. Slightly fuller in body, but offered plenty of acidity, with a very long finish. Made from 65% Mourvèdre, 19% Cinsault, and 15% Grenache. Everyone's favorite except for Andy R, for a total of 33 points. David's bottle. About $22.
Second Place: Domaine de Fondrèche Ventoux 2021. Ballet pink, or light watermelon in color. This offered overt fruit scents, like Bazooka bubble gum, ripe honeydew melon, and bananas. Not at all subtle, like a bowl of fruit with a bare hint of petroleum. Andy P noted that it "smells like angry bees." Flavors reminiscent of gravel and crushed rocks, plus a saline quality, tasting very different from the nose. Additional notes of pink grapefruit and white peach, with a slightly shorter finish. Kristin found a notion of "oyster meat", while Andy P noted that "the shape of it is not as organized." Andy R's favorite, with a total of 24 points. Andy P's bottle. About $19.
Third Place: Château d'Aqueria Tavel 2020. Ripe strawberry color, with a complex nose suggesting dust, Juicy Fruit gum, cough medicine, cabbage, tin can, smoke, raspberries, red apple, and hint of something vegetal. This had actual body and an umami note, feeling more like a light red wine, tasting like strawberries, then a hint of cranberries, black pepper, and pine resin on the finish. A little shy on the attack, but had a strong mid-palate. David suggested that it had the depth to pair with a roasted chicken. A winter rosé. Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault & Clairette. 17 total points. Kristin's bottle. About $22.
Romain Paire Granit Rosé 2021. Watermelon color. Like raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, beach sand, bubble gum, soap, orange peel, lychee, and apricot on the nose. Flat out fruity in the mouth, but also something cheesy, like parmesan, then prosciutto and dark tomatoes. Ends with a sprightly lift. Andy R found "Pixie Stick", while Andy P noted that it was "very square to me", and not a journey. Ali commented that it "finishes like lasagna, but not in a good way." 100% Gamay St Romain. 8 points. Resa's wine. About $18.
Jillian Louise Rosé Coteaux d'Aix en Provence 2019. The most pale of the night, like the color of an aged champagne, with hints of amber. Grassy on the nose, suggesting bell peppers, wildflowers, hay, and white artist's erasers. A hint of acetone, and reminiscent of a warm hillside. Kristin was reminded of "a new clean penny." Tasted like dark ground spices (cumin, coriander), then golden raisin on the finish. A little bit soapy and flat, with not as much uplift or intensity. We described more of what it isn't than what it is. Serve cold. 2 points. Ali's bottle. About $13.
Villa Riviera Rosé Côtes de Provence Réserve 2020. Light in color. The nose suggested wet kitchen sponge, blue cheese, acetone, and something funky-salty-dairy. More fruit on the palate, plus buttery toast and honeydew melon. Resa decided that it "feels a little mean to me", while Andy R noted that it "it tastes like liquid blue cheese." Resa ended with, "I just tasted it again and I hate it." 2 points. Andy R's bottle. About $25.