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….
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.
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
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.
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
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. [Editor’s note: now available through website pink.wine]
My first view of the book