Rioja Rosados with Altitude

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‘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.

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Rosés of IGP Pays d’Oc 2018 vintage

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First published in The Buyer June 2019

Created in 1987 IGP Pays d’Oc has become regarded as the New World winemaking region of France, with single varietal wines its calling card. But the denomination is not always associated with rosé, especially when its near neighbours are the three appellations of Provence, which is odd given that it produces almost half a million hectolitres every year. In a ‘tasting special’ The Buyer asked leading rosé expert Elizabeth Gabay MW to taste-test 97 Pays d’Oc rosé, to pick out the best according to varietal and style and advise us on which ones we should put our money behind.

Pleasantly surprised by the range and quality on offer Gabay concludes “Chapeau to IGP Pays d’Oc Rosé!”

IGP Pays d’Oc may not be a denomination which springs to mind when considering French rosé, but with 23% of French rosé production 1.6 million hl in 2018 (compared to 1.1 million hl from the three combined Provence appellations of Côtes de Provence, Coteaux Varois and Coteaux d’Aix), it is certainly a market sector worth considering.

Following Languedoc winemaker Robert Skalli’s studies in California in the late 1970s, he became convinced that the climate in Languedoc was similar to that of California, and that the Languedoc could be the New World region of France and could produce quality single varietal wines. The denomination was created in 1987. Today, Florence Barthès, the director of the IGP Pays d’Oc says that single varieties are the DNA of the denomination with over 90% of wines being labelled as varietals (in reality this means at least 85% of the wine is made from a single variety). Amongst the rosés, Grenache remains the single most popular variety, closely followed by Cinsault then Syrah.

Faced with the daunting task of tasting 97 IGP Pays d’Oc rosés, I was expecting a degree of uniformity and fashionable restrained dryness. ‘Find ten or twelve examples you like’, I was told. Instead, I was bowled over by both the quality and range of styles on offer, and struggled to limit my selection. My favourites included varietal expression, with some more joyful, others more serious and complex. There may not be a single style, but there is certainly lots to discover.

Grenache Noir and Grenache Gris

Grenache, which can include both Noir and Gris versions, came in a number of different styles. I particularly liked the version by Domaine de l’Herbe Sainte [not in UK] with its classic salmon pink colour followed by an explosion of wild raspberry fruit on aroma and palate, ripe creamy body, a fine mineral core and long mouthwatering acidity. Gerard Bertrand’s Naturae had intense strawberry jam fruit with vibrant, intense acidity that left the mouth tingling with fresh fruit.

The pale Gris rosés of Languedoc have more akin with Provence rosé. Les Vignobles Foncalieu’s Le Versant [Inverarity Morton and Hennings Wine, about £9.99 retail] was a pale shell pink with creamy white peach and apricot fruit, round, rich, creamy texture and an overall lush softness backed by long vibrant acidity. Les Jamelles Clair de Gris [not in UK] made with Grenache Gris had intense raspberry, whte peach fruit, fresh pear, white flowers and lemon and lime acidity – a lovely wine for a summers evening in the garden – softer and riper than a white wine, with fresh vibrant elegance. Calmel & Joseph’s Villa Blanche [Daniel Lambert Wines, around £11.99 retail] 60% Grenache Gris and 40% Grenache Noir was a more structual style with creamy white peach fruit, redcurrants, wild bramble and fraise de bois fruit. A serious dry rosé with nice complexity and intensity. Les Collines du Bourdic’s Eclat de Gris [available through Sommelier Consultant] had delicate creamy peach and apricot fruit with hints of wild berry tartness and lime acidity.

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