Pretty in Pink: Rosé wines for summer drinking
Rosé wines were thought irredeemably naff by past generations of wine drinkers. Only in this century have rosé wines come back into fashion after years of neglect. Now we can’t get enough of them, especially on sunny summer days. Indeed, rosé wines are so in vogue they are part of the basket of goods measuring the UK Retail Price Index (RPI). Rosé wines are not about chick appeal; they are chic in their own right.
The sickly sweet soda-pop pinks of old are in steep decline. Too often products of poor winemaking, they look like failed red wine and taste of mouthwash. Such vivid confections are the colour of Liberace’s boudoir. No wonder they are neither credible nor enjoyable drinking.
These days, the favoured rosé style is dry and fresh, though softer and balanced off-dry examples are good too. And they are more than a simple apéritif, being excellent food partners; for alfresco dining, summer picnics, BBQ’s and much more besides. A good rosé should revive you, not tire you out.
Call it what you will; Rosé, as they do in France, Rosado in Spain, Rosato in Italy, or Blush (sic) in the USA. You’ll find rosé made from every kind of red grape variety.
Pink wine traditionally came from France and Spain. Since the Millenium, the New World has joined the pink trend. Rosés were first made to create a light, refreshing wine for long hot summer days. Especially so in those parts more suited for red rather than white grapes. Pale red grape juice bleeds off red grapes in the early stages of winemaking. Sometimes this was just a by-product of concentrating the full-blown reds.
These days, the best pinks are deliberate creations made from early picked red grapes. Good Rosé is made by carefully applying modern white winemaking techniques to red grape juice. The goal is to ensure freshness, acidity and red fruit aromas and flavours. Harsh tannins and most of the colour is left out.
Because most grape juice is white, it’s the grape skins that contain all the colour and tannin. The winemaker decides how long the grape skins remain in contact with the liquid. For rosé, this is only a matter of hours. The resultant pale juice is fermented, often in stainless steel tanks with temperature control to preserve aromas and flavours. Short maturation lets those flavours sing. Only relatively few oaked rosé wines are made.
Good Rosé is hardly ever a blend of red and white wines. With a couple of exceptions, blending is a recipe for insipid rosé wines. Those blends are pink but won’t have much real rosé character. The wine should still smell and taste of the red grape varieties used.
The notable exception to this is with sparkling rosé wines including Champagne and Crémant. This fizz blends wines made from different grapes and years for consistency.
Pretty in Pink
With any rosé, the colour is a significant part of the appeal. It must look pretty! There is a remarkably broad spectrum of colour variations, depending on the grape variety and the amount of skin contact chosen. Colours range from the palest onion skin, through orange, to salmon, rose petal, and finally tomato and pomegranate. Darker colour rosé wines are known as Clarete in Spain or Chiaretto in Italy. This distinguishes them from lighter coloured examples.
Rosé combines elements of both white and red wine styles. Red wine fruit flavours are accompanied by white wine’s crisp acidity without tiring tannins and high alcohol.
Hence rosé occupies the middle ground; it can appeal to wine drinkers that usually prefer red or conversely to those that choose whites. But rosé wines don’t have to be middle of the road!
Most rosé is for young drinking. Usually, rosé doesn’t age well and so best drunk young. Typically that’s in the summer following the vintage, before the fruit flavours and freshness start to fade.
A light chill should be all you need for a summer apéritif. Food-wise, good dry rosé is versatile at any time of year and underestimated in these respects.
They make an excellent partner for charcuterie. Try ham, salami and pâté. Fuller bodied examples go well with Tapas and also middle-eastern food. The heftier ones are a good foil for a barbeque while lighter ones match sushi and sashimi. Try the bolder ones with milder curries because they avoid the clash of food spices with wine tannins. And can anything beat rosé with strawberries?
Rosé wines to try this summer
Here are ten rosé wines well worth trying. A light chill is all you need to enjoy them at their best. I’ve gone for a diverse mix of colours, styles and grape varieties from around the world. There’s food matching ideas too. Consequently, there’s something here for everyone.
Château Massaya, Classic Rosé. Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2016.
Deep coloured, strawberries and cream from a top Lebanese producer. Syrah and Cinsault. Delicate and floral, perfumed aromatics; strawberry and peach and has a super-fresh but creamy finish. An essential companion to any middle-eastern food. Tanners £14.95
Rimauresq, Côtes de Provence Cru Classé, France, 2016.
A truly classic rosé, salmon pink and organic too. Delicate and elegant berry fruit underpinned, with typical earthy, spicy and garrigue notes. Dry, with the typically slippery texture that is the subtle hallmark of Provençal rosé. Made from 30% Grenache, 45% Cinsault and 25% of the local Tibouren grape. Unusually, this ages really well. A classic match is a fish soup with lots of Aioli and crusty bread. Field and Fawcett, York, £13.95
Bodegas Coviñas, La Copa de Bobal Rosado, DO Utiel-Requena, Spain 2016.
100% Bobal grape. This ultra-modern crisp rosé from the enormous Coviñas co-operative is a delight with Paella. Deep raspberry pink, in the Clarete style. Strawberry flavours, racy acidity and the finish leave a taste of rosewater. Great Western Wine Company £7.95
Clos Columbu, The Society’s Corsican Rosé, AOC Vin de Corse-Calvi, Corsica, France, 2017
A splendid characterful example of Corsican rosé. It’s 50% Neilluccio (Sangiovese), 30% native Sciaccarellu, 10% Syrah, 10% Cinsault and a splash of white Vermentino. This is all about red berries cut with lemons and herbs. Salami and charcuterie hit the spot. The Wine Society, £9.95
Camel Valley, Pinot Noir Rosé, Cornwall, England, 2017
The Lindo family make world-class wines down near Padstow in Cornwall, and this 100% Pinot Noir Rosé is no exception. Light, bright and full of raspberry and strawberry flavour. Delicate and pretty. Camel Valley is the only wine estate with Protected Designated Origin (PDO) status in the UK. It’s also the first to receive a Royal Warrant. The best winegrowers in Britain? Probably. Perfect for the forthcoming English Wine Week, try it with Paté. Waitrose, £13.95
Cavalchina, Bardolino Chiaretto, DOC Bardolino, Veneto, Italy, 2016
60% Corvina, 35% Molinara and 5% Rondinella from the eastern shores of Lake Garda. Bardolino Chiaretto is an Italian classic, here using the grapes made famous by nearby Valpolicella. A salmon/orange colour, with hints of hazelnut and saffron in the red berry mix. Lively and refreshing, imagine yourself sitting on the shores of Lago Garda with a plate of Frutti di Mare. Valvona & Crolla, £12.69. There are more great Chiaretto selections here.
Tamboerskloof, Katharien Syrah Rosé, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2015
This copper-coloured rosé has attractive tropical fruit flavours mixed in with the more usual strawberry and raspberry profile. Add floral aromatics, a silky texture and a long dry finish, and you’ve got a winning combination. 100% Syrah, fermented in old oak vats, but there are no oak flavours here. Try it with mushroom dishes. Ministry of Drinks, £12.99
Miguel Torres, Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé Reserva, Valle Central, Chile, 2016
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, Cherry coloured, with blackcurrant flavours and character and aromas of grapefruit. Characterful, this is sunshine in a bottle. Organic and Fair Trade certified. Very Smart. Crudite and salad heaven. Latitude, Leeds £9.99
Charles Melton, Rose of Virginia, Barossa Valley, Australia, 2017
This is a real blockbuster, the colour of a pomegranate. It’s a blend, predominantly Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, plus Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz. All the grapes co-ferment together! It’s a Marmite wine in that you’ll love it or hate it, but it’s unique in expression. Aromas of rose petals, even Turkish Delight. Then a bold palate of black cherry, with some residual sweetness and tannins. Long, black pepper finish. This wine pushes the envelope of what rosé can be. Bring on the barbie! Excel Wines, £18.40
Robert Sinskey, Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Los Carneros, California, USA, 2016
A rosé that is as far from the prevailing Californian blush wines as it’s possible to be. No sweet, high alcohol soda-pop here. Salmon coloured with subtle orange blossom aromatics. It’s a crisply dry and vivacious Pinot Noir. Delicious strawberry, peach and nectarine fruit with a rose and grapefruit undertow. The long finish has a delightful mineral streak. At the apogee of what Californian rosé can be, it’s expensive but subtle, insinuating and complete. Biodynamic too. Try this joyous treat with a Tuna steak or sushi/sashimi. Ministry of Drinks, £29.99
With apologies to the great rosé winegrowers in other regions. There are great rosés in many other places. The Loire, Tavel, Lirac, Cirò, Sicily, Abruzzo, Marché, Rioja, Portugal, New Zealand, and many more. Brevity means that they’ll have to wait for another time!
Meanwhile, my top ten Rosé Champagnes can be found here.
Now the clocks have gone back it’s time to think and drink pink this summer!