A few summer impressions, a bit late because of the backlog of posts...
La Roquebrussanne, Var (Provence)
Coops are quietly evolving and it is wise to check regularly the wines there and go taste all the wines in a Cooperative from time to time. There are quite a few coopératives offering a range of pleasant wines at a very cheap price, and every wine region in France has these collective wineries. To remind what a Coopérative vinicole is, let's say it is a collective structure where growers bring their grapes and where the wine is made (usually grapes being vinified together by color) and commercialized. The growers are paid in proportion of their contribution. The prices are usually cheaper than in regular wineries, making them a favorite supplier for locals. Of course, the coopératives are more widespread in the south of France, where growers are federated in nearly every village. If coops are still reluctant to follow the outstanding Estezargues coop and its additives-free wines made from individually-cared vineyards, most have passed the messsage to the growers to begin to move from heavily-conventional farming to an "agriculture raisonnée" one. It is hard to give a clear definition to the "agriculture raisonnée" farming concept, let's say it means using as low as possible chemical dosages for sprayings (there's no one to check though) and letting some grass grow...
Provence and the South of France is really Coop country, you find a coop in every village and growers there still rely heavily on the coops to make and sell the product of their grapes, resulting often in excess production, low prices and low quality, and by way of consequence occasional unruly demonstrations which surprise the outside world (which isn't aware that disturbances, tire-burning and occasional ransacking are the norms in France for many interest groups to make themselves heard and receive more aid from the State).
In summer when you need large volumes of rosé for the apéritif of the end of the day, the coop is the right place to check. This post isn't intended to compare the coops, there are so many coops around in Provence, this could be the subject of a book.This particular coop may offer an illustration for other inner provence coopératives which have made progresses in terms of quality.
I needed a few liters of rosé for our daily consumption, and buying in bulk is a favorite mode of purchase here, even if I always buy bottles along too (the bottled wine is usually better than the bulk one). I usually buy here and there, in regular wineries too, as they sell also in bulk their rosé and their other wines. The trick is not to be locked on a particular winery or coop, because you need to buy dozens of liters for a typical summer sojourn, and the rosé landscape is changing every year, with suprises around the corner. The price factor is of course central for buying in bulk, the rosé costing typically barely over one Euro a liter in a coopérative viticole. It seems that from what I felt, people keep buying from the same place all the time, call it lack of curiosity or customer loyalty, and that's too bad because there is a wide range range of quality levels, even for this cheap booze.
I was lazy and in order to not have to re-bottle later, I had brought four empty 1,5-liter plastic bottles for my rosé. The lady at the shop said that they don't accept to fill bottles usually (too long and spills too much wine I guess) but she accepted exceptionally as this was the first time she saw me as customer (I had already bought from this coop in the past though). The other people brought 10- or 20-liter containers, glass or plastic, and bottled probably it all once back home. The bulk section of the shop looked like a gas station with the pumps of the different qualities, not unleaded or diesel here, but red, rosé, white, either in AOC or Vin de Pays. The amazing thing is that a liter of rosé happened to cost exactly the same as unleaded gasoline these days in France : 1,2 Euro a liter. And we could add that the price of bottled water is very close, and even higher than that for certain brands...
The bibs that were displayed on the side of the shop seemed to be less popular than the pump wines that day. The reason may be that the price per liter is a bit higher : a 5-liter bib of white Vin de Pays cost 9,5 Euro, a 5-liter bib of red or rosé AOC Coteaux Varois cost 11,3 Euro, and a 10-liter of the same 20,5 Euro. By comparison, the Vin-de-Pays bulk wine (red, rosé or white) costs 1,2 Euro at the pump, and the AOC Coteaux Varois (red or rosé) costs 1,65 Euro per liter.
Roquière (this is the name of the coop), Rosé, Vin de Pays du Var. Bottle. Cinsault, Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet and Syrah. Acceptable quality for this price bracquet (costs 2,5 Euro a bottle). Reasonably balanced and pleasant. 12,5°. Got a medal in the "Concours des soleils" fair in Brignoles (a small town of inner Var), well done for a coop Vin de Pays. Light wine, the one you can pour generously at the end of a hot summer day.
__La Roquière Cuvée du Laoucien, Rosé 2008, AOC Coteaux Varois en Provence (the recently-added "en Provence" is the new find of the Appellation administration to help promote the region wines). More powerful and aromatic wine. Feels higher in alcohol even though it reads 12,6° on the label. Will be more for a meal, you get to eat something with this wine. Gold medal in Paris in 2009. Costs 4,9 Euro a bottle.
__La Roquière, rosé in bulk, Vin de Pays. Less balanced than the bottle version, the mouth is less structured, definitely another wine, but the price tag is also different : 1,2 Euro a liter. We need volumes and I'll fill my plastic bottles with it.
__La Roquière, white Vin de Pays du Var. Quite awfull, flat watery mouth. Costs 2,5 Euro a bottle.
__There is another rosé that we didn't taste, it is labelled La Roquière, AOC Coteaux Varois en Provence and it won a silver medal in Paris (2009). It costs 3,6 Euro.This coop makes also three sparkling wines, two whites (a Brut and a Demi-Sec, both at 4,75 Euro) and a rosé named "Cuvée d'une Nuit" at 5,5 Euro. We bought a bottle and had it a few days later, it was so-so, and with big bubbles.
He considers that for the quality of the incoming grapes, a well-timed mechanical harvest can make a difference. In Provence, the temperatures are so high that only a mechanical harvest done in the wee hours of the early morning can allow the grapes to reach the winery at low temperatures. He says that this way, the grapes being in good shape, they can add much less SO2. Speaking of SO2, he uses (including at the coop) 50% to 60% less SO2 than the maximum authorized level : 100-120 g instead of 210. Today, he adds, the temperature control has become another formidable tool to lower the SO2 addings.
For the rosé, he says that it is difficult to work with wild yeasts because of the short contact with the skins, so he uses external yeasts. He says that people who pretend that they use wild yeast for the rosé often end up adding much more external yeasts at the end because the fermentations stall and they have to push it.
The Coopérative has also begun to make sélections parcellaires, or wines from individual vineyards, opening the way for more individually cared vineyards and wines, and less mass-blendings of different plots. This is the case for the Rosé Domaine Teisseire 2008, a wine that is vinified at the coop and sold for 5,3 Euro a bottle.
Asked about his organic farming at la Rose des Vents, he says that the South and Provence gather ideal conditions for organic farming with its a dry and windy climate. The N°1 problem in terms of diseases here is Oïdium. Speaking of Esca, he considers that the cause of the disease may be the viticulture modes, the choice of variety for a given plot, and the dead wood that are not taken away from the vineyard.
Here are other prices for the bottled wine at this Coopérative :
AOC Coteaux Varois la Roquière 2006 (Cab 10% Syrah 90%) : 3,5 Euro
AOC Coteaux Varois Cuvée du Laoucien 2006 (Cab 30% Syrah 70%), 4,60 Euro
Vin de Pays du Var (cab 30% Syrah 30% Grenache 40%), 2,5 Euro
Vin de Pays du Var, Cuvée San Bastian (aged in cask - Grenache 40%, Syrah 60%), 2,9 Euro
AOC Coteaux Varois La Roquière 2008 (Grenache 80%, Syrah 5%, Cinsault 10%, Rolle 5%), 3,6 Euro
AOC Coteaux Varois, Cuvée du Laoucien 2008 (Grenache 70%, Cinsault 10%, Syrah 15%, Rolle 5%), 4,9 Euro
Vin de Pays du Var, 2,5 Euro
Domaine Teiseire 2008, 5,3 Euro
Sparkling wines : 2 different whites (Brut & Demi-sec) at 4,75 Euro, and a pink bubbly at 5,5 Euro
Vin de Pays du Var white, 2,5 Euro
Vin de Pays du Var, Rolle, 2,9 Euro
AOC-wine Bibs cost 11,3 Euro for 5 liters and 20,5 Euro for 10 liters. Vin-de-Pays bibs cost 9,5 Euro for 5 liters.
Bulk wine (the gravity pump) costs 1,2 Euro a liter for Vin-de-Pays wines (red, rosé or white), and 1,65 Euro/liter for AOC Appellation wines (red and rosé).