Behind the Scenes of ‘Rosé: Understanding the pink wine revolution’

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So excited! After a year of rosé discovery, my book Rosé: Understanding the pink wine revolution, part of the Classic Wine Library, is out and will be available from 15 January.

My first view of the book

Back in October 2016, when first discussing the idea of writing a book on rosé, I thought I understood a lot about rosé. For 30 years I had written about rosé and, worked with the wines of Provence, then lived in the region, judged rosé, talked about rosé. My biggest worry was would I find enough to say to achieve the 90,000 words required by the publisher.

After discussing details and chapters, I started work on the book in mid-December, aiming to submit it by the end of June 2017 for publication in September. As this is my first book, forgive my optimism underestimating how long it would take to put one together.

I mapped out chapters, putting into place what I already knew. I started tasting in earnest, talking to winemakers. I put out appeals on social media for interesting rosés, with amazing response. The most exciting was when Jason Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards in Oregon responded on Twitter about his rosé, but found the logistics of sending a sample daunting. I then noticed my friend Wink Lorch was in Oregon before going to TexSomm to talk about her book on the wines of the Jura. I messaged her – would she be near Eyrie, did she have space in her suitcase? She replied immediately – ‘I have just walked into the Eyrie cellar and I have space in my suitcase!’

Dark, fruity pinks

Initial responses to my project were very varied, ranging from ‘Wow! That’s fantastic, we need a book on rosé’ to ‘Really? You are a Master of Wine, why are you wasting time on such a boring subject?’ I even had to work hard to convince some rosé producers that I was being serious, they were so used to their rosés being overshadowed by their red and white wines.

The unenthusiastic comments were a wake-up call for me to consider different angles showing just how exciting rosé can be. I researched the history and trends of how rosé styles have evolved. I talked with producers about the dilemma of whether to continue making traditional styles or to change to an ‘international commercial’ style which might be easier to sell, and how rosés are evolving.

Economics plays a large role in the style of rosés available. Here my husband, David Bernheim MBA, became increasingly involved, using his business experience to put together the chapter on the Business of Rosé.

Increasingly my research led me away from mainstream rosés to investigate other styles. Evaluating these styles in tastings was an interesting challenge, with rosés aged in oak, amphora, under flor, with resin, different levels of residual sugar and acidity, cool or hot climate, unusual varieties.

Matching rosé with food

Some wines were unique, without any benchmark for comparison. Some styles were so different that I needed a few tries to calibrate my palate. Such variation meant I had constantly to question the definition of rosé, its range of colours, styles and wine making. Having a team of fellow tasters helped me discuss the wines.

Tasting with Ben Bernheim

Many thanks to Ben Bernheim, Stefanie Köhler and Christian Scalisi for tasting with me and providing interesting comments and opinions, and to the Provence producers for allowing me to use their tasting room at the Maison des Vins de Provence.

Working our way through rosés from around the world

By the end of June there was a sudden rush of rosés arriving to be tasted as the latest vintages became available. I extended the deadline to the end of July. I tasted daily, trying to fit the new wines into the book. Sometimes these late arrivals filled the missing gap in the puzzle, sometimes they confirmed my opinion of a region other times they completely upset the theories and patterns established for a chapter. I had reached 130,000 words, when my permitted maximum was 100,000, so had to prune what I had written. Chapters were re-organised, countries re-grouped, new traditions and ideas fitted in.

Rosé in the glass and on the screen

By mid-September, after two hectic months of working what felt like all hours, with myself, husband and son reading, re-reading and re-re-reading, I finally handed in my copy. Then came the proofreading, squeezing in as many hot-off-the-press details as I could, probably to the despair of my ever-patient editor Rebecca Clare. We rested over Christmas and the book was printed for release on 15 January 2018.

Time and space meant not everything could be included. Many rosés, varieties and regions are not covered which I would have liked to include. Rosé has proved to be a fascinating world with a wealth of history, traditions and dynamic evolution. My research continues, with more rosé posts to follow; I hope this will encourage producers who make interesting rosés, even in tiny quantities, to come forward with their wines.

To everyone involved in the world of rosé: please tell me about your ideas over viticulture, winemaking and marketing. Please join in the discussion. I am keen to hear from you.

For more information on my book, see Rosé: Understanding the pink wine revolution.

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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

Defining Szekszárdi Bikavér

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How often have we read a simple description defining a wine style, only to find that few wines match this? Indeed, with permutations including vintage, winemaker, terroir, how can one description sum up a region?

Szekszárdi Bikavér – Bikavér (“Bull’s Blood”) from Szekszárd in southern Hungary – is often described alongside Bikavér from Eger, 300km to the north, making descriptions even more confusing. Though they share the name Bikavér, and are both based on Kékfrankos, they are inevitably influenced by their different terroirs. Egri Bikavér is often identified as being bigger and more structural, but this difference is often less obvious when taking into account winemaking styles. Indeed, a major challenge facing both areas, is to define the unique qualities of each and the differences between them in the eyes of the international consumer. Kristian Kielmayer has neatly summed up the differences between the Bikavérs in his 2015 review of the annual tasting of the wines from the two regions.

Logo for the annual Eger vs Szekszárd Bikavér tasting

Logo for the annual Eger vs Szekszárd Bikavér tasting

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Hungarian Cabernet Franc

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4th December is Cabernet Franc Day. Happy #cabfrancday!

Cabernet Franc featured high on my recent trip to Romania and Hungary. I had been asked to talk about marketing Hungarian Cabernet Franc wines, specifically from the region of Villány, at the 2nd  Franc & Franc Conference in Villány on 18th November 2016. Caroline Gilby MW presented a tasting of Cabernet Franc wines from elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe. Zoltán Győrffy presented a range of Cabernet Franc from Friuli in northern Italy.

Elizabeth Gabay MW at the Villány Franc & Franc Conference 2016

Elizabeth Gabay MW at the Villány Franc & Franc Conference 2016

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The Rosés of Serbia

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Tomislav Ivanov

Tomislav Ivanovic

With the world’s top men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic in the news in June announcing that he was buying a vineyard in his native Serbia, it seemed an appropriate time to consider Serbian rosés. I asked Serbian wine expert Tomislav Ivanovic, of Vinopedia, to describe the rosés made in Serbia and include some of the best examples.

Tomislav is: Author and editor-in-chief of website www.vinopedia.rs. Winner of Millesima Blog Award 2016. Wine writer and contributor to several wine magazines. Juror in national and international wine events (including Concours Mondial de Bruxelles). Focused on wines from Serbia and the Balkans. 

Rosé wines from Serbia

Serbian folk poetry shows that the ancestors of today’s Serbs were avid wine lovers. The turbulent history of Serbia nestled at the periphery of great empires where the West meets the East, resulting in an extensive collection of Serbian epic poetry. No wonder that medieval Serbian knights and warriors quenched their thirst with red wine rather than rosé. From their perspective, drinking elegant rosé with delicate aromas from a chalice did not match the image of a brave warrior, hero, defender against Turkish conquerors.

Travel writers who recorded their journeys across the Balkans in the Middle Ages, and local ampelographers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, revealed that the Serbian population also consumed darker coloured rosé wine called Ružica (pronounced: roo-zhi-tza), resembling clairet wine. Continue reading

353 Shades of Rosé

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Last month I had the exciting – and rare – opportunity of tasting an amazing selection of 353 still rosés from around the world. This proved a glorious spectacle of the most amazing shades of pink – forget 50 – this was far more dazzling. The range of colours was an easy reason why this sector of the wine market has so attracted the consumer; who is not enchanted by a glass of shell-like pink or glowing ruby wine, lit up by sun- or candle-light?

Tasting Rosés at The Drinks Business Rosé Masters

Jonathan Pedley MW tasting Rosés at The Drinks Business Rosé Masters

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A Taste of Modern Cypriot Rosés

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Earlier this year I wrote an article on premium rosés. One important point I highlighted was the use of altitude, especially in hot climates, which provides both the ripe fruit character and the crisp acidity essential in rosés. So when fellow MW, Yiannis Karakasis tweeted that he was visiting Cyprus vineyards at 1000m, I playfully tweeted back ‘… Any rosés?’ His affirmative piqued my curiosity, and the following week I received seven Cypriot rosés to taste.

Cyprus lies in the Eastern Mediterranean, with nearby wine-producing countries including Greece, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey.

Mosaic found near Paphos showing the god of wine Dionysus

Mosaic found near Paphos showing the god of wine Dionysus, illustrating the ancient history of wine production on the island

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Le Nid Restaurant, Flayosc

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Once upon a time, when I first started visiting Provence seriously, back in the mid 1980s, Flayosc was a rural medieval hilltop village, some 7km west of the sleepy town of Draguignan. Then the by-pass was built, which saved the village from the horrors of cars snarling up its tiny main road, but it suddenly become quiet and nearly died. Cars whizzed by – going on to Salernes, Lorgues, Aups…

The hills around Flayosc

The hills around Flayosc

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