Published in Dockwalk – May 2006
Rosé is making waves all over the place these days and with sales going through the roof last year and still rising, I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at what all the fuss is about.
Probably the most important two words to remember when sourcing pink wine are these: ‘banish blush’. OK, you may know of one or two exceptions but, as a rule of thumb, avoid them unless you know them. After all, they’re probably a bigger cause of rosé’s erstwhile – what shall we call it? – `image problem’ than anything else.
Rosé may be just about the hottest thing on the block right now but remember it should always, and I mean always, be well chilled. Perhaps not as much as we used to chill it in the bad old days of Mateus Rosé and Rosé d’Anjou, when half the point was to deaden the frequently less than fabulous flavours, but still a good hour in the refrigerator. (Bear in mind that while it’s easy to snigger at poor old Mateus, their sales went up by 42% between 2002 and 2004 and yet more last year. In fact, they went from very big to very, very big.)
There’s been a serious upturn in the quality of rosé across the board in the last few years and the fact that it is winemakers of the calibre of Jean-Luc Colombo who are turning their hands to producing them tells us that this looks like being more than a passing fad. His Pioche et Cabanon 2003 ($10) from Provence has a roundness and a complexity of red fruits and something more Rhône-like – black olives, perhaps – that would have been unthinkable in a rosé even a few years ago. Try it with something herby and tomatoey and garlicky and sort of … Provençal.
Of the big brand names, Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Rosé 2004 from Australia (around $12) is a perennially good bet when a deep draught of something cold enough to send trickles of condensation down the outside of the glass is what you want. It has good body and length and candied-fruit flavours with a nice tarry edge – there’s a splash of rose water thrown in for good measure.
Scotsmen excelling at making rosé wines in Bordeaux? In kilts? OK, I made the last bit up but if Château de Sours 2004 ($15) is the result then I’m all for it. The late, great Auberon Waugh described Esme Johnstone’s effort as ‘probably the best rosé in the world’ and its jammy nose, fleshy summer fruit flavours and general all-round yumminess certainly make it a contender.
The good folk of the Southern Rhône might, however, have a thing or two to say on that subject. Their appellation of Tavel is the only one in France to specify rosé as its sole authorised wine – as useful a wine-trivia question as I have up my sleeve, but I pass it on to you freely. The best producer in the appellation is generally thought to be Domaine de la Mordorée ($15-20), who also produce first-class Châteauneuf du Pape. Owner Christophe Delorme thinks the 2005 vintage is the best he?s made in his 20 years at the domaine and given that Robert Parker gave the previous year’s effort 89 points, I’m looking forward to sampling it with a juicy lamb steak.
Domaine Tempier ($28-32) has certainly booked its place on the podium with its spicy, beguiling Bandol – again from Provence, the spiritual home of rosé – made chiefly from the mourvèdre grape. Its long-lived, slight tarry and smoky flavours are ideal for outdoor eating.
The fact that Domaine de Limbardie 2004 Vin de Pays des Côteaux de Murviel from France’s Languedoc is stocked (at a mere $10 or so) by several of the UK’s leading merchants including Tanners, Adnams and Berry Brothers tells us that it’s a wine that can pull its weight. The flavours are of strawberries and Turkish delight and it’s very adaptable, with the body and depth to work well with barbecues.
Very much worth seeking out is Specogna Pinot Grigio 2003 ($20) from the Venezia-Giulia region of Italy. Although a ‘white’ grape, Pinot Grigio is a somewhat genetically confused scion of Pinot Noir and it has a pinky-grey skin which gives this wine its burnished auburn hue. It’s laden with Autumnal flavours like chestnuts and bay, sappy pine needles and herbs and smells of swirly bonfire smoke and pancetta so I’m not going to let the fact that it’s not strictly speaking a rosé put me off.
All these new-wave roses – to coin a phrase – are remarkably versatile food wines and the fuller-bodied examples, the Tavel and Provence wines especially, can go right through from canapés to cheese. A nice thought is a ?pink dinner? ? if you put your mind to it, you can come up with a menu consisting of only pink food, and maybe use pink tableware and linens too.
For sundowners on the after-deck, there’s no prettier thing to put in a glass than a rosé wine. Except perhaps a rosé champagne. For a large crowd, Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial Rosé ($50-60) is always a good bet, with overt strawberry and raspberry fruit and a nice tight mousse. Going upscale, Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle Alexandra 1997 ($100) has all the right credentials – crisp fruit with a nice warm briôche nose and masses of tiny bubbles. For best friends, Roederer Cristal ($350-450) always cuts a dash – 1996 is the preferred recent vintage if you can’t find the legendary 1985.
Meanwhile, Sogrape, the Portuguese producers of Mateus Rosé, have just launched a new wine and it’s a … rosé from, er, Spain. Looking at the publicity blurb I was a little disconcerted to read the legend across the front of the bottle which proudly announces it to be ‘A Taste of Spam’. Well, it is pink, I suppose … but I was disappointed that a second look reveals it, in fact, to be a taste of ‘Spain.?