In the spirit of the day, here are my wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy, peaceful, prosperous and sweet New Year with some favourite sweet wines from 2019.
It somehow seems very appropriate to be thinking of sweet wines for a new year. While looking forward to the future, these sweet wines are all firmly rooted in our vinous history. These sweet wines also span a wide range of vintages with memories of past years – perfect for the years to come!
Tokaj bottles in the cellar
Looking at the Canary Islands on the map, their location, just off the coast of north west Africa seems an unlikely place to find fresh rosé wine! In March 2019 I had a short visit to Tenerife and La Palma and was able to taste some of the rosés (as well as some splendid red, white, fortified and vino de tea wines)
This article was originally published in Nomacorc website magazine in the summer 2016, following my three day visit to Trevallon in April 2016. A cold Mistral was blowing for most of that week, so hiding in the cellar some days, despite the noise, was a respite.
Sometimes the most unexpected vineyard visits appear from nowhere. While researching my article on new trends in premium rosés for Nomacorc, I discussed the use of Stockinger barrels with Stockinger’s European agent Thomas Teibert of Domaine de l’Horizon. Thomas asked if I were interested in going to Domaine de Trevallon at the end of April to see a rare event – the installation of five 3400l barrels by Franz Stockinger, head of coopers Fassbinderei Stockinger from Waidhofen-an-der-Ybbs in central Austria. Trevallon and its wines has always been one of my favourite estates, and the opportunity to observe this unique occasion, to see the domaine from a different perspective and taste the results, was one not to be missed.
View of Domaine de Trevallon on the western edge of Les Alpilles
Domaine de Trevallon, one of the most famous Provence estates, is located on the north western slopes of the small Alpilles mountain range overlooking the Rhone valley and not far from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The domaine’s artistic origins still dominate most articles: The romantic holiday home of Parisian artists, friends of Picasso, their son Eloi Dürrbach’s creation of the wine domaine, planting Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings from Château Vignelaure, whose owner Georges Brunet had brought cuttings from his Bordeaux estate Château la Lagune in the 1960s. The quality of Dürrbach’s wines made Trevallon an early flagship for Provence, though Trevallon is not included in the Les Baux de Provence appellation due to use of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Syrah.
‘Two is company, three is a crowd’. Tasting one or two fresh, high altitude rosados from Rioja is interesting; tasting three or four, and a theme starts to appear. While Rioja may be best known for its red wines, its rosado revolution is showing great promise.
When I was researching my book in 2017, I was overwhelmed by the sheer scope and variety of rosés coming out of Languedoc, ranging in quality from basic entry level quaffing wines upto some truly exciting and high quality rosés. The range of styles also made it hard to define a ‘Languedoc’ character. In 2018, Languedoc produced nearly 2.5 million hectolitres of rosé, an increase of 25% in two years and represents 16% of the region’s production, up from 10% in 2008, The region is now the largest producer of rosé in France with 30% of the total, much of that falling into the IGP category, double that of Provence, and now, with almost 70% of rosé production sold in bottle moving it beyond the basic jug wine image.
With such a dynamic growth in production and quality, having the opportunity to taste is always interesting. So I leapt at the chance when Rosemary George MW, author of the recent book on the Wines of Languedoc, invited me over to taste seventy-four rosés from the 2018 vintage from around Languedoc (which stretches across the Mediterranean south west of France), in a tasting organised for by Estelle Nijhof of the Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins AOC du Languedoc (CIVL). Emma Kershaw of La Maison de Rire also joined us for the tasting. Continue reading
I am often asked how I see rosé developing. Is it just a fashion? Will the market soon become bored of neutral pale pink ‘lifestyle’ wines, drunk icy cold by the pool and move on to something else?
Pinterest rosé lifestyle
My answer is yes … Pinot Grigio, simple rosé – both styles have been overdone by volume, mass appeal and lower prices. Cheap watery Chardonnay, light grassy Sauvignon Blanc went the same way. My opinion only, I am not selling wine and I am probably nowhere near the average consumer. If anything, I am a rare wine geek searching for wines which catch my attention. I do not think this light, simple style will disappear, but I do feel that there is a growing number of very exciting rosés being produced with more and more wine merchants are listing some fabulous wines. Kermit Lynch, The Wine Society, Les Caves de Pyrene, Yapp Brothers, to name just a few, have some great examples. Continue reading
In March 2019 I had the good fortune to be invited to visit the Canary Islands by Gabriel Santós of La Laguna University in Tenerife. At the university I met young winemakers, and tasted and discussed their red, white and rosé wines.
With young winemakers of the Canaries
I also visited a few vineyards, where, because of the region’s isolation from the mainland, phylloxera never arrived in the Canary Islands, meaning that vines can be hundreds of years old, often trained using traditional methods.
Tasting the wines of Provence has been a bit erratic this year. While Côtes de Provence had a stand at both WineParis (11-13 February) and Prowein (17-19 March), the 2018 vintage had often only just been bottled and were still quite young and closed. My preferred time for tasting the new vintage rosés is later in the spring, often at the generic appellation tastings, usually in April. However, for various reasons, the appellations of Côtes de Provence and Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, have chosen not to hold their annual tasting in 2019, leaving only Coteaux Varois to present their wines.
The appellation of Coteaux Varois
The Coteaux Varois annual tasting is always held in the gardens of the Alain Ducasse restaurant at La Celle in Brignoles, due to the fact that the Maison des Vins is in part of the same old monastic building. In past years, the tasting has fitted neatly into the small garden in the corner of the old monastery, giving it a neat back drop and a certain elegance, with colour co-ordinated ice bags and bunches of flowers, giving the tasting fantastic visual appeal. See earlier posts. Continue reading
Having to assert that there is serious wine in Bordeaux is a strange way to start this post, but mixed feelings over pink Bordeaux was certainly evident when I was researching my book on rosé.
Serious rosé in Bordeaux is still a minority product which is showing considerable promise. Christer Byklum, the Norwegian Bordeaux specialist commented that in all of his visits to Bordeaux he is very rarely shown any rosé wine, ‘almost as if the producers themselves are a bit ashamed of them.’ He is more likely to taste Bordeaux rosé in a restaurant than in a cellar. He also pointed out that readers of his wine reviews are unlikely to be interested in rosé wine.
The emergence of lighter rosé
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….