Chateau Routas has been in the Provencal wine game way before the Yes Way Rosé and the Rosé All Day movements. There was a time when rosé was synonymous with Provence and not as well-known outside of it. It certainly wasn’t the sensation it is now. These days there isn’t a wine region around that doesn’t offer a rosé. A Pantone swatch of every shade of pink is represented in the rosé realm but it all began with the pale pink hue of classic rosé from Provence.
Routas claims 717 acres (290 hectares) in the heart of Provence in the region of Coteaux Varois en Provence. The 350-meter altitude offers cool nights that give the wine its classic crispness.
In 2005 Sir David Murray and his family took ownership of Chateau Routas and has seen the changing tides firsthand as it was during this time that America began its love affair with rosé and by 2014 it had gotten to the point where the Hamptons had issued a state of emergency (not really) due to the low supply of rosé. Keith Murray, Managing Partner and son of Sir David, came on in 2007 and travels the globe managing the family’s wine estates. He also holds the title of Directorship at the Murray-owned Wine Importers (Edinburgh) Ltd. We chatted with Murray about Routas and the global future of rosé and other topics.
Carrie Dykes (CD): Tell me about the products that Routas makes.
Keith Murray (KM): Our rosè wine makes up around 90% of our total production. But we should never forget the excellent red and white also in production. Our white wine is heavily influenced by the Rhone whereby 80% of the blend comes from Viognier and the remainder from Chardonnay. The red represents some of the oldest grapes in production in Provence whereby a proportion of our vines are over 50 years old. The red is a blend of Syrah/ Grenache/ Cabernet.
CD: What is Routas’ edge when it comes to standing out among other rosès from Provence?
KM: We have always maintained a strong focus to deliver the best price to quality ratio product we can. We aim to maintain critical price points for both on and off-trade to enable the business to outperform the competition. Many producers in the region have looked to increase price points year after year in the hope that the consumers will always pay the extra, but I believe a push back is now in evidence and the recent tariffs will only exasperate this situation.
CD: What’s the global future of rosè and where does Routas fit into it?
KM: I believe that rosé globally will continue to take market share away from red and white wine drinkers. The continuation of the consumer demanding lighter style wines can only be good news for rosè producers. I believe that Routas should continue the path it’s on producing the best terroir-driven wines we can while matching the consumers’ price expectations.
CD: Being in a major tourism hub, what does the winery do to bring in visitors?
KM: The Provence region has been perhaps the major marketing advantage for all the region’s wines. The combination of the mountain regions to the glitz of the coast combines to make tourism high up on the agenda. But first and foremost the Chateau is my family’s home, where we invested €5 million euros to create a home that we can be proud of. To that end, we don’t have a walk-in policy to visit the winery. We prefer to invite customers on an individual basis, and let them enjoy the experience for a number of days. Most customers we see as our friends and the visits to the Chateau and winery have helped solidify those relationships.
CD: What would you be doing if you didn’t get into wine?
KM: My University degree was in Hospitality, and from there I worked in a number of high profile restaurants. So I’m sure I would have been involved in some form of the food and drinks industry.
CD: What is the biggest challenge Routas faces?
KM: Climate change! The 2017 harvest was devastated by frost, it’s a terrifying situation I hope not to repeat at least for many years.
CD: What are you most excited about in the wine world right now?
KM: Unfortunately, I don’t venture far from the classic regions. So I enjoy going back to things I may have forgotten about. I just bought my first case of Beaujolais Nouveau in a long while, and still think the region represents some of the best value wines in the world.
CD: Do you drink rosè all year round?
KM: Yes, I may even drink rosè at Christmas.
CD: What is an unexpected pairing with the Routas rosè that many would not have thought of?
KM: Each year James Sucking reveals his favorite rosè of the year. The competition is based at the Nai Harn resort in Pucket Thailand. Routas was fortunate enough to win both the categories this year. Competition winner and at the same time the best value, which certainly raised a few eyebrows with products 2 or 3 times our price. Next year I will be visiting Thailand with my family. So I’m thinking a Prawn Pad Thai with a chilled glass of our rosè while the sun sets on Nai Harn beach.