Moving Greek Rosé Forward

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One of the most difficult tasks for the modern rosé winemaker appears to be how can you make a rosé which stands out from the crowd without changing what is taken to be the essence of rosé?

While writing my book on rosé, one of the most important questions which arose was almost philosophical. How do you define rosé wine?

Pink – but ranging from creamy white to pale red.

Judging Greek and Cypriot rosés at Decanter 2016

Fermented as white wine – except when involving longer skin maceration, like orange wine, and no fermentation on the skins. But wait! a number of rosés do start their fermentation on the skins before withdrawing the juice….

Winemakers have attempted to make upmarket rosés aged in oak – many of which I think are fantastic, but are often decried by purists that they are no longer the light airy wines which have made the style so popular.

Indeed, I was questioned about this in a number of interviews. Surely my book was going against the very essence of what made rosé successful – that it was a wine which did not need great knowledge or tasting ability to enjoy, that it was a simple wine solely for pleasure on hot summer days.  The market for easily quaffable rosé will continue to exist, although whether with such success as in recent years or not, was a matter for debate.

Judging Greek and Cypriot rosés at the International Thessaloniki Competition 2017

But, as winemakers are often also artists, they will seek to re-interpret any style and I try to explore and understand these different rosé styles. There is certainly more than one type of rosé and there is enormous scope for rosé to become textured, complex and interesting, using a variety of methods.

Which comes to the wine in question:

Peplo by Domaine Skouras

In my book, in the introduction to Greek rosés I stated:

A tenth of Greek wine production is rosé, but this is slowly growing, driven by its popularity amongst women drinkers and tourists. The pink trend in Greece appears to have initially been driven by female drinkers, with ouzo preferred by men. Until six or seven years ago, most rosés were a pronounced pink-red colour with vibrant fruit, but, with the fashionable trend for very pale rosés, over half the production is now pale.

Peplo rosé has a classic pale pink colour. The front label immediately proclaims that there is something different about this wine. It is aiming to be a serious wine. High Altitude, barrel, tank and amphora are all announced.

Peplo front label

The back label explains more. ‘Three varieties. Three high elevations. Agiorghitiko in Acacia barrel, Syrah in stainless steel, Mavrofilero macerated in amphora. Layered. Textured. Elegant.’My curiosity was instantly piqued.

Here is a wine which is not only playing around with different varieties to give complex flavours, but also looking at site selection and methods of vinification to maximise the different flavours. A fusion of styles and ideas.

Barrels and amphorae

So, let’s break it down a little to see the component parts.

My tasting notes for the 2017 vintage are:

‘Floral rosewater aromas, almost Muscat character, which carries onto the palate. The floral notes are prevented from becoming sweet or dominating by the fine mineral core which runs through the wine and the vibrant red fruit acidity coming through on the finish. Long, clean and fresh with firm structure subtly integrated into the finish.’

First of all, the high elevation. In the hot climate of the Peloponnese, high elevation allows the wine maker to retain acidity without harvesting so early that there is little fruit character.

The mountainous vineyards of Domaine Skouras

The use of Mavrofilero gives the pronounced floral character to the wine, with maceration in amphora adding to the weight, structure and persistence of the varietal character.

Mavrofilero macerating in amphora

Fermenting the Syrah in tank could provide some of the darker fruit and mineral elements to the blend while the Agiorghitiko gives the fresh red fruit acidity. Acacia can give a soft, sweeter character than many woods and in this wine, contributes to the ripeness of fruit and the weighty structure on the finish.

All in all, a very exciting wine, with intriguing nuances, and one I would certainly like to experiment with to see how to match it with food.

George Skouras

I asked George and Dimitris Skouras about Peplo:

‘We wanted to make a serious rosé wine. Something similar to our big reds or whites. We saw a lack of those wines in the international market of rosés and we worked hard on this project experimenting for three full years. We believe that the Greek varieties can make great rosés. Thus our purpose is that Peplo will elevate the perception of Greek rosés around the globe. Overall a wine made with a lot of work.’

I would say they have succeeded. A serious rosé, made largely with native Greek varieties, combining freshness and elegance.

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Twenty-four Gamay Rosés from the Saône and the Loire

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While researching rosés for the Rosé book, Gamay stood out as a variety which was particularly attractive for pink wines. Good fruit, acidity and light colour make wines which range from fresh crisp and fruity in cooler climates to rosés with greater depth and intense fruit while retaining a lighter colour in warmer climates. Styles range from simple and fresh to more complex.

The following French rosés, all made with Gamay, have been tasted at various times over the past year.

Gamay

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Strawberry Fields on Schist… forever

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Mention the Douro, and it is not rosé that immediately springs to mind. Most wine lovers will immediately think of rich, dark,  powerful port. For many, the first Portuguese rosé which springs to mind is Mateus rosé.

But this is not just a story of discovering a new rosé, but also a story of chance meetings, and how, by travelling and talking to people, our knowledge of wine expands. It can be difficult for buyers and journalists to find new wines of interest amidst the plethora of estates vying to attract our attention. Trade fairs such as Prowein have over 6 000 exhibitors, making it impossible to taste more than a fraction of the wines on offer over the three days. Regional trade shows are easier to for defining in trends and styles. Paid-for trips to the region can only show a finite number of wines and wineries.

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Moving on from Bull’s Blood

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At the end of February I was invited to talk at the XIX Vine and Wine Conference at the Károly Esterházy University in Eger, on marketing Hungarian wine in a global context. Some of my research highlighted the fact that after Tokaj, Bull’s Blood was the most well known Hungarian wine in many countries. It also indicated that Bull’s Blood had a reputation for wine in the cheaper bulk wine category, with many wines generically labelled ‘Bull’s Blood’.

Ceiling of the conference hall at the Károly Esterházy University

The successful marketing campaign for Bull’s Blood refers to the legend of when the Ottoman Turks believed the Hungarians were drinking blood to fortify themselves before battle when they saw the red wine stains on their beards. Today, it is largely the entry level wines which are called Bull’s Blood: blended reds which are bottled in Eger. Mostly, serious Eger producers choose to call their wines by the Hungarian name bikavér, with maybe a passing nod to a bull on the label, such as those of Ferenc Tóth and János Bolyki. Continue reading

The Polish Pink Wine Revolution

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During my last trip to Poland in November 2017, I attended the Kraków wine fair, Enoexpo, to talk about the winning rosés from the first International Rosé Championship, which had been held in May, also in Kraków.  During the fair, Michał Bardel, the editor of Czas Wina magazine, organised a tasting of Polish rosés for me and introduced me to Monika Bielka-Vescovi. To place my tasting notes for the rosés in context, I asked Monika if she would be happy to contribute. As such, this post has two sections:

  1. A review of Polish rosé wines by Monika Bielka-Vescovi.
  2. Tasting notes I wrote from the tasting of Polish rosés.

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Pink Méthode Ancestrale – Bugey-Cerdon vs Clairette de Die

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This is a story of old and new. Of traditions and innovation, and marketing opportunities. Of old wine making techniques, of the marketing success of sparkling pink Muscat and the trendiness of funky pet-nat wines. Of appellation rules and protecting wine traditions.

In early January 2016, Wink Lorch (who I mentioned in my last post had personally transported rosé from Oregon for me) telephoned me. As part of her research for her next book on the wines of the French Alps she was going to visit the vineyards of Bugey-Cerdon. Did I fancy going with her to taste their rosés and their méthode ancestrale rosés. It sounded a great idea and I duly booked my ticket to Geneva where Wink would collect me before a short week visiting vineyards. The plan started to fall apart as we struggled to find hotels and restaurants which would be open in January, and the trip collapsed when a freak, cold front plummeted temperatures to below -10C. Dear readers, even in my quest to seek out all and every interesting rosé, standing in freezing cellars for four days was not high on my list of vinous ambitions. The plan was shelved, and I continued my research in warmer conditions.

Cerdon vineyards in Bugey. photo by Mick Rock for Wink Lorch

Méthode ancestrale wines are also known as pétillant naturel, French for ‘naturally sparkling’ They can be made with any varieties and range in colour from red, through pink to white and, due to the method of vinification can be cloudy or murky. Unlike Champagne and traditional-method sparkling wines, they do not undergo disgorgement when the spent yeast and sediment are removed. Amongst the most well-known white wines is Blanquette de Limoux from the Pyrenees. Continue reading

Musings on Wine and Brexit

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Ben Bernheim, grew up in France and is a recent graduate from Edinburgh University, Scotland, with an MA in Economics and Economic History.  He was a member of the winning tasting team for the Edinburgh Wine Society. He is currently spending the summer working in a few Israeli vineyards.

A year ago, I was asked to write something on the economic impact on the wine trade of Brexit. I didn’t. Partially because I’m lazy, but mostly because I didn’t have the foggiest what would actually happen. At the time, I don’t think anyone did. Twelve months and a general election later, that’s still the case. Continue reading

Wine fair war in Montpellier

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Montpellier has the good fortune to be home to two international wine trade fairs: Vinisud and Millésime Bio. Such fairs are big business, with many producers and buyers coming, often from far away to meet under one roof. With many producers present, buyers can taste many wines quickly and negotiate with producers directly.

January saw the play-out of a major dispute between the two fairs, which was a major topic of conversation at this year’s fairs.

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Kadarka, Cadarca, Gamza

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Based on a post first written and posted for Blue Danube Wines and a masterclass at RoVinHud in Romania, November 2016. Updated 16 March 2017 following a Kadarka tasting in Szekszárd.

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Line up of Kadarka wines from Romania, Serbia and Hungary at my masterclass RoVinHud in Romania

Hungary is increasingly looking to its vinous history and indigenous varieties. There is a growing number of winemakers, who, with the help of research institutes like the one at Pécs, are replanting varieties which were almost lost during the phylloxera epidemic. Kadarka is one of those varieties now seeing a revival. It also happens to be my current favourite variety. Continue reading