High on the Vine: rosé talk with Perrine Prieur

The owner of Perrine’s Wine Shop discusses the perfect summer wine

Photograph by Mary Caroline Mann

During my last semester in college, I wanted to take my budding interest in wine to the next level. An early exposure to wines produced on the left banks of Bordeaux had me hooked, and so I sought out the truest source in Atlanta to learn about the other varietals from France: Perrine Prieur, owner of Perrine’s Wine Shop on Howell Mill Road.

Fiercely French and fiercely competitive, the blue-eyed Burgundy native tended the vines of her parents’ vineyard before officially earning her chops as a somm at London’s Le Gavroche, the first restaurant in the U.K. to earn three Michelin stars.

Perrine arrived in Atlanta eighteen months later in 2006 to work at the now-closed JOËL Brasserie (where Local Three is now). In 2010 she followed her dreams and opened what has become one of the most distinct and personal wine shops in the city.

Interning for Perrine was an experience. During my first day she abruptly tore off a label from the shelf and turned to face me.

“WHERE is this wine from?” she demanded, radiating an intensity that could shatter glass.

“WHAT is the grape? WHAT are the other main regions?”

As May approached and my enlightening internship came to an end, Perrine started stocking the store with one of her favorite summer wines: rosé. With one of the largest rosé selections in the city, Perrine recently sat down to answer a few questions about a wine that doesn’t need food or an occasion to drink.

When I say “rosé,” some people may envision winemakers taking a bucket of red wine and a bucket of white wine and pouring it into one barrel. That’s not true, is it?
The first famous rosé came from the Provence region in France where it’s hotter and where there are a lot more red grapes growing there. They wanted something cooler, softer, and fresher. So instead of fermenting the red grapes so long, and keeping the skins in contact with the grape juice for an extended time, they left the skin in for just a few days to give it that pink, salmon color. When you leave it in for four to five days, the rosé will be a darker color. Regular fermentation skin contact is sometimes two weeks. So no, rosé isn’t a bucket of red and white blended together.

What was the first time you ever had a rosé, and what is its appeal?
The first time I appreciated rosé, I was working at a hotel in a kitchen in the south of France. We were drinking Domaines Ott and visiting a lot of wineries. Rosé was what we were drinking after work. It was refreshing. You go to the beach, drink rosé, and keep it on ice. At that time you definitely don’t want to drink red—it’s too hot—and sometimes the whites are too big. It’s very light, refreshing, easy to understand wine. It’s delicious.

Other than Provence, what are other top regions for rosé? In France, there’s also the Rhone Valley. You have some rosé in the Sancerre region in the Loire Valley and some in the Anjou region made from Cabernet Franc. In Napa Valley, they make some rosé, but it’s a bit too hot there. In Oregon in Williamette Valley, they make it from Pinot Noir. That’s new for them. There are a few Italian rosés. My favorite is made from the Nebbiolo grape.

Rosé comes from everywhere. There’s not as much growing restrictions but definitely the famous one is from Provence.

Last year exports of rosé from Provence to the U.S. increased by 41%. I also read that French rosé outsells French white in France. This seems like a recent phenomenon in the last couple of years.
In America when they started doing rosé wine, it was more like blush wine, white Zinfandel. It was sweet. It took a while to take that mentality away. But when people actually traveled and tried real rosé, they liked it and started asking for it. Then stores started investing in it. It’s all about education.

Looking at the different shades of rosé, you’ve got everything from peach to dark, brick red. What does the color say about the flavor?
The lighter ones are fresher and softer with fewer tannins. As soon as you start adding more color, there are more tannins in the wine so it’s bigger with riper fruit and more pepper.

What foods pair well with rosé?
Rosé pairs well with fresh salads, and also nice grilled fish. Very simple. That’s what I had this weekend. We grilled a whole snapper stuffed with herbs instead. It was just the best. Anything you can grill, fresh seafood, tuna, a good roasted chicken, it’s great. Not so much red meat.

What’s a good price point for rosé?
I think anywhere up from $13 is good. If you’re just starting in rosé, I wouldn’t spend more than $30 on a bottle, but then I have two rosés that are more expensive but they’re absolutely stunning. They’re complex with more oak on it. If you know about rosé and are used to it, you will enjoy these. It’s all like buying a car: if you can’t drive it, why would you get a Ferrari?

Right now what are your three favorite bottles in the store?
2012 Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Carneros, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley – $29.99
I think it’s the best rosé in America, very balanced and refreshing. You see the color, and it’s elegant. The fruits are well balanced with acidity. There’s no oak. It’s beautiful.

2012 Chateau D’Esclans, Cotes de Provence, Grenache/Rolle, Provence – $29.99
This one is a Provencal rosé. I know the owners personally, and they’ve done a very good job for a more accessible, reasonable price point. This has a tiny hint of oak, just a little bit which brings a little more complexity to it. I love this one a lot.

2012 Clos Ste. Magdeleine, Cassis, Grenache/Cinsault/Mourvedre, Provence – $34.99
This one is also from Provence but more specifically from the Cassis region, which is close to Marseilles. This one is just lovely. It’s fresh with bright fruit, a good acidity, crisp and no bitterness. It’s beautiful, and I’m the only one in Atlanta to carry it because I bought everything they had.

Have you encountered an issue where men are less likely to drink rosé because of the color?
I could say that. I could say some men would be scared of rosé because of the color, but lucky for us we live in Atlanta. There are always some people who aren’t going to want to try it, but sorry for them, they’re missing out.

Wednesday July 31st, Perrine is hosting a Rosé Tasting at her shop, featuring more than 20 bottles from around the world. You can sign up on her website.
This is a link to perrineswine.com/events.php