Posted on July 1st, 2012
Think rosé’s a cheap wine for summer holidays? Think again – a huge variety in style and drastic improvements in quality means that rosé is a wine that can be enjoyed all year round.
Rosé gets a bad rap. In some cases, deservedly so. There have been some true atrocities committed in the world of wine by producers of sub-standard rosé. Rosé is (in most cases) easy to make. In very basic terms, it is produced by leaving the juice of crushed red grapes in contact with their skins for just enough time so as to adopt the colour of the liquid. So what you get is a young, fresh wine that has taken on a small aromatic proportion of the grapes used to make it. In the best cases, this results in wines with wonderful notes of berry fruit (strawberry, raspberry, cassis) with just a hint of spice and acidity. In the worst cases, you get highly acidic, tasteless, flabby pink wines that can only be tolerated with a large amount of ice cubes added. Throw brands such as Mateus into the mix and it’s hardly surprising that most people relegate rosé wines to the ‘holiday drinking’ cupboard of their repertoire.
This is a shame as there are some fantastic rosé wines available and there’s no reason they can’t be enjoyed all year round. Some fuller-bodied rosés could be enjoyed well into autumn and the light, bone-dry styles could be served instead of white as an apéritif or with cold starters. France alone produces a variety of styles to suit everyone’s taste so we’ve made a list of some of our favourites (in no particular order) and we look at what makes them so special:
Bandol, Chateau Sainte Anne: Bandol is famous for its wonderful inky red wines but the rosés are lovely too. This wine has a pink/coral colour and lots of fruit on the nose (strawberry, raspberry) combined with a bit of rose and a hint of anise. There’s more fruit on the palate with a touch of spice and excellent fruit/acidity balance. With vines so close to the sea, it’s possibly no surprise that this wine is perfect with sardines and red mullet. Would also be good with fresh anchovies.
Touraine, Le Rocher Des Violettes: This is a Loire valley rosé that is slightly richer in colour than others we are used to seeing in markets outside of France. Xavier Weisskopf is making some tremendous wines in Montlouis and his rosé doesn’t fall short of the mark. Berry fruit aromas, a crisp mineral palate and a lovely dry finish make this wine far too easy to drink. Another good match with stronger or oilier fish dishes, or with seafood if you’re cooking with chilli.
Côtes du Luberon, Bastide du Claux: Sylvain Morey is a great example of a winemaker being able to get the most out of his terroir. He manages to make a vin de pays chardonnay in the Lubéron that tastes almost like a Chassagne-Montrachet. Not surprising to hear then that this is Sylvain’s hometown – but given the difference in climate, soil type and exposure to the sun between the two regions, you have to be pretty gifted to make a wine with such incredible freshness and elegance. His rosé is just that – a lovely salmon colour with notes of rose, fennel on the nose and pomegranate and strawberry on the palate. All rounded off with a long, fresh finish. Perfect before dinner, very cold.
Vdp des Collines Rhodaniennes, ‘Syrah’, Christophe Bonnefond: If you’re a fan of Condrieu and Côte Rôtie wines, you might already be familiar with Christophe Bonnefond. He makes fantastic wines that are approachable at a young age and with great ageing potential as far as the reds are concerned. Christophe always produces great expression of terroir and has mastered the gentle use of oak. His rosé is a bit of a fruit bomb; the colour is fuschia and the nose is a hit of strawberries and cream. The creaminess comes from some time spent in barrel but the wood is very subtle on the palate. The combination of fruit and acidity makes this wine a great match for a variety of dishes: salad, chicken, oily fish – heck, you could even drink it with strawberries.
Tavel, Château d’Aquéria: Tavel is a rosé that has always been very popular in France but still remains relatively unknown outside of it. Very dark in colour (almost purple) and very fruity on the palate, it can take some getting used to. So what’s the deal? This rosé is so great that the French don’t want anyone else to know about it? Or is it unsellable to palates more attuned to the lighter, paler styles of Côtes de Provence? Well, it’s probably a bit of both, and Tavel has fallen out of fashion recently but Aquéria are making real quality wines. Full of fruit on the nose and palate, you can feel the heat of the sun and soil when you drink them. These wines can be matched with barbecue meats, Thai curries, tomato-based fish dishes and spicy harissa olives.