Provençal Pairings: Wine with Food

Tasting Tavel

by David Scott Allen

Winery: Château de Ségriès
Cuvée: Tavel
Appellation: Tavel (Rhône)
Type: Rosé
Vintage: 2015
Grape Varieties: 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 10% Clairette, 10% Syrah
Alcohol content: 14.5%
Average Retail Price: U.S. $18, France €12.50

Four years ago, almost to the day, I was at a dinner party for which each of the eight guests was asked to bring a rosé to include in a blind tasting. The wines came from all around the world, and no one wine was duplicated. One of the wines presented was a Tavel; its dark hue was unfamiliar to us and assumptions of sugar content and fruitiness were raised but, in the end, people really liked it.

Flash forward to August 2016. I needed a wine for a complex meal and described my menu to one of my wine gurus. His recommendation? A Tavel. As I trust him with my life (and wine is life), I got a bottle from Château de Ségriès and, as it fits within the parameters of the PWZ tasting region, I chose it for today’s wine and food pairing.

After purchasing the wine, my fears of four years ago resurfaced: it’s dark pink color might mean it was sweet, like some of the other darker rosés I have tried from other countries, including the U.S. Once again, my fears were completely unfounded. While its mineral-intense nose included abundant wild strawberry, raspberry, and citrus notes, the bold flavor kept its minerality and wild strawberry without ever being fruity or sweet. Noting the high alcohol content – which also made me think it might be sweet – I find this a perfect wine to accompany food, and full-flavored dishes at that.

My guru said, “Think if it as a light red.” While I can see what he meant, I wouldn’t use that as a descriptor. Tavel is as unique in flavor as it is in its regional viticulture. The appellation of Tavel makes ONLY rosé wines. I found this quote in an earlier post on Provence WineZine: “It should be mentioned that not far away, in the Rhône Valley, just a smidgen past the line that divides Provence from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, folks in Tavel had been focused on rosés for centuries. Anything but a byproduct, they honed their rosé vinification as long ago as the early 13th century. At that time, it was the main wine in the cellar of the Papal Palace as well as the favorite wine of Kings Philippe le Bel (1268 – 1314) and Louis XIV (1638 -1715), earning it the title “Rosé of Kings.” It was the first rosé to receive Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status (in 1936) and Tavel still, by definition, only refers to rosé.”

Now, back to the table… What did I make for dinner? I roasted salmon fillets that were stuffed with Provençal-herbed goat cheese, wrapped in thin strips of zucchini, drizzled with lemon-infused oil, and sprinkled with crushed pepperberries. The wrapped fillets were served on a spicy and buttery tomato sauce, topped with chopped kalamata olives. After creating this monster, I wondered about the wine pairing. Pairing for salmon is one thing, but the olives might beg a different wine, and the buttery tomato sauce yet another. From this description, you can see why I needed a little help from my guru – there are a lot of flavors going on here! The recipe can be found on Cocoa & Lavender.

This meal was one of our “dinner and a movie” nights we like to share with OFB – Our Friend Barbara. Tasting the Tavel with the salmon brought out a buttery quality to the wine in response to the butter in the tomato sauce. All three taste testers also felt that there were times when we couldn’t delineate between the wine and food; there was even a sip in which we actually tasted black olive. It was as if the wine and food had become one. The combination was so good that we actually stopped the movie several times to discuss how well this paired. All in all, it is – by sheer accident – one of my favorite pairings to date.

I recommend serving this Tavel as an apéritif, as it goes well with cheeses and fruit. Also, it is perfect for a mixed grill, as its boldness easily accommodates all variety of meats, fowl, and seafood. Considering its region, rustic soups and hearty stews also pair well. In the mid-price range, this is a great value for its quality.


  1. David, I was introduced to Tavel by a French friend in 1975, in Avignon; I’ve introduced it to several other friends since then. It remains one of my favorite wines. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Peter – I wish I had such good friends in 1975! It is such a delightful wine and my next pairing will be with duck! I somehow think that will be quite wonderful.

  2. The light red comment brought a smile to my face, reminding me of a dinner in Ft. Worth almost forty years ago. We were entertaining French colleagues at a Mexican restaurant and the server asked Benoit, seated to my left, if he wanted a drink to begin the evening. He asked if they had wine by the glass and she responded both white and red. So he chose red, and then she inquired if he wanted Rosé or Burgundy. He said he wanted red, and again she gave him the same choice. So he asked why she referred to Rosé, as it clearly was not red. Sure it is she said. Rosé is red, and Burgundy is redder.

    • Jerry – that story made me laugh out loud. Red and redder. Perhaps it was a Tavel… or, more likely, Lancer’s! Not necessarily related, here is another fun restaurant story. A friend of mine, who used to recruit for the music consistory I attended, was in the Midwest looking for great musical talent. He went to a restaurant and after the server took his order, she asked if he wanted wine. Not seeing a wine list, he asked, “What kind of wine do you have?” She said she would check, went to the back, then quickly returned to tell him proudly that they had, “Vin.” Well, he wondered aloud, which kind of fun? She came back and prounounced it “Vin Fin.” Does it mention any color, he asked? After her third trip, she came back and said, “it’s Vin Fin Rose.” (No accent to be found.) “I’ll have a glass of that,” he said.

  3. Can’t wait to try your salmon recipe David. Avec a bottle of Tavel, bien sur!

    • Thanks, Pam! Let me know what you think. How did your event go this summer?

      • Thanks for asking David, it was a grand success, with your Sautéed Shrimp on Savory Coconut-Rice Pillows apps being the hit of the fete. Went perfectly with the magnums of Mirabeau’s Pure rosé served with the little morsels. FYI – they freeze beautifully.

  4. Hi David, nice article. What sort of cheeses will pair well for Provence reds as I am conducting a wine lesson next week. Thanks

    • PK – thanks for your kind comment, and for asking about pairings for red Provençal wines. Here are a few of my personal favorites to try. Keep in mind that each wine will have different properties and not all the cheese might work. Also, remember that every palate is different. Some like Camembert (cow’s milk) with red, but it brings a tang to my palate. However, a goat’s milk Camembert works fine for me! My list:

      Ossau-Iraty – sheep’s milk
      Cantal – cow’s milk
      Comté – cow’s milk
      Fresh chèvre
      Cambozola (a recent discovery with red wine. While I find triple creams too much, and blues too astringent with reds, this combination works well for me. Oddly, it is a German cheese.)
      Some aged chèvre cheeses
      Hard, aged cheeses – Parmigiano Reggiano

      I hope that helps! I should also ask, do you have a good cheese seller where you live? They also might be able to make recommendations based on what’s available in your area.

  5. Thanks David. yes i have to agree that creamy cheeses do not work for most reds but Cambozola….looks like i will give it a shot for my wine lesson….hope the my cheese shops sell them here in Singapore.

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