‘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?
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
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 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.
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….
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.
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.
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:
- A review of Polish rosé wines by Monika Bielka-Vescovi.
- Tasting notes I wrote from the tasting of Polish rosés.
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.
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