‘A glass of rosé, please luv.’ ‘Sure, but hang on a sec while I open two bottles’, replies’ the barmaid without batting a mascara-ed eyelid. Thanks to today’s cornucopia of rosés to choose from, there’s no need to blend a red and a white together any more to obtain the desired pink colour. On the other hand, the very proliferation of rosés makes it less clear just what you’re getting. Yes, it’s pink alright, that much we know, but its very pinkness is a cunning disguise. Behind the simple word pink lurks not just a palette of hues of which Dulux would be proud, but a mind-numbing variety of wine styles, not to mention of varying quality.
Do you expect your rosé to be a fun drink or a wine to be drunk with food? On the sweet side or dry? Still or sparkling? A pale blush or strawberry pink? The answer is that rosé is all those things and more because there’s no more a wine called rosé than one called red or white. Each differs according to its raw materials, its origin, the way it’s made and its price. One thing is for sure though: the first duty of a rosé should be to refresh and since there are too many past-their-sell-by-date rosés lurking on high street shelves, I would give 2006s and most 2007s a wide berth.
Provence is the name with which most of us associate French rosé, and with wines like the 2008 Domaine de Bélouvé Bandol Rosé, Bunan, £11.99, Tesco Fine Wine (moving onto the 2008 imminently), the claim is justified. In an odd recent scenario, the French got their pantalons in a serious twist at an EU proposal that they should be allowed to blend white with red wine (against French law outside Champagne) to compete with the New World. Was the resulting brouhaha out of genuine concern that the best method of producing rosé, i.e. the direct pressing of the grapes, might be lost? Hard to tell, but now the plan’s been scrapped, they can get on with mandating screwcaps for all bottles if they really want to show their concern for quality and freshness.
Outside Provence, there are some attractive rosés coming out of France, such as the new, much improved redcurrant-crisp, dry 2008 Château de Sours Rosé, £8.99 - £9.25, Majestic, Private Cellar, (01353 721 999), Bon Coeur Fine Wines (020 7622 5244), Goedhuis (020 7793 7900). Spain is a growing force with wines of the consistent quality of the strawberryish 2008 Torres Viña Sol Rosé, £6.49, Tesco, and the stylish, summer pudding-like 2008 Ottoe Bestué Somontano Rosado, around £9.50, Great Western Wine, Bath (01225 322800), Edinburgh Wine (0131 343 2347). Italy too boasts fine examples like the Alpine-fresh, juicily concentrated 2008 Alois Lageder Lagrein Rosé, around £11.99, Bacchanalia, Cambridge ((01223) 315304), Nysa Wine Boutique, Westfield (02082 226882).
There’s still far too much cheap and confected and rosé coming from the New World, particularly from California. Even here though, quality rosé is beginning to break through with pinot noir one of the best candidates for the style; like the full-flavoured, berry-scented 2008 Eradus Pinot Noir Rosé, Marlborough, £11.49, Corney & Barrow (020 7265 2400), and from Chile, the excellent cherry-raspberryish 2008 Vina Leyda Loica Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé, around £9.50, Great Western Wine, L’Art du Vin, Edinburgh (0131 555 6009), a star at a recent Decanter Magazine rosé tasting.
Something For the Weekend 8 August 2009
Under a Fiver
2008 Les Andides Saumur, £4.99, down from £6.49, until 18 August, Waitrose.
An affordable dry Loire Valley white wine made from the chenin blanc, this is a consistent performer for Waitrose, refreshing, appley and crisp with a bone dry finish that lingers.
Under a Tenner
2006 Domaine Vistalba Viñalba Malbec / Syrah, £7.48, Asda
The best red wine on Asda’s shelves at the price? Spicily aromatic with the opulence of black cherry and blackberry flavour only Argentina seems to manage with malbec, this is a Patagonian blend of rare distinction.
2008 Forty Knots Sauvignon Blanc, £12.99, Marks & Spencer.
From South Island’s Awatere Valley, this Kiwi sauvignon hits the spot with its vibrant passion fruit flavours tinged with citrus and the typical, pungently herbaceous green pepper characters of this cool climate Marlborough sub-region.