Pink wine is about pleasure and passion but which to choose?
- Credit: Liz Sagues
Are you bothered about the way rosé wine is made? Whether it's a result of quick, light pressing of red grapes, of bleeding-off juice before making red wine, or even (though appellation rules rarely allow) by mixing a little finished red wine into white?
No? I'm not surprised. Pink wine is much more about pleasure, and perhaps passion, than geeky vinous understanding. It's the wine of sun-drenched Mediterranean beach-bar lunches, of chillier English picnics, of supper on a warm terrace, of summer weddings and, of course, that special mid-February date.
But how do you choose among so many examples? Here, too, heart is likely to overrule head. Can colour hint at flavour, in terms of fruit, spice, freshness, even savoury elements? The palest pink shade remains the height of rosé fashion, but it's no longer limited only to bottles from Provence.
Are those pale wines super delicate, and do deeper ones offer a richer, sweeter flavour? Sometimes, but certainly not always. There's only one frequently-quoted rule on rosé: drink the most recent vintage. But even that isn't necessarily the best advice. I met one producer who steadfastly refused to let his bottles leave his very elegant cellar for at least two years, yet the result was delicious.
That experience was in Corsica, which neatly brings us to summer 2022. With willing friends, I've opened a lot of rosé bottles recently. And the one which won most acclaim from the band of tasters came from the Isle de Beauté, a wine from native Corsican grapes niellucciu (most probably Italy's sangiovese) and sciaccarelu, plus a little grenache and cinsault.
It's ultra-pale and pretty, yet serious – not a mere puff of strawberry fruit but a zesty, bone-dry, quite substantial melange that lingers elegantly and partners all kinds of summery foods as well as being a joy to drink on its own. It's The Society's Corsican Rosé 2021 (£10.50, thewinesociety.com), and for me is a reminder of two splendid holidays on an island that is very special – as are its wines.
But you don't need to travel that far for a lot of pink pleasure. England's rosés are a delight. One sparkler evoking particularly happy memories of staying in a shepherd's hut among the vines, is the strawberry-pink, fine-bubbled, apple-and-redcurrant-crunchy Oxney Estate Rosé from England's largest organic vineyard on the Sussex/Kent border (£28, oxneyestate.com). I also retain a soft spot for Château Bauduc's gently-fruited Bordeaux rosé blended from cabernet franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon (£12.50, bauduc.com), thanks to English ex-pat owner Gavin Quinney's warm welcome.
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Our tasting tour did, however, range much further through Europe and on to the new world, and some other highlights are recommended separately. Let's hope the sun shines.
Before I launch into a raft of rosé recommendations, there's a new white wine that is as delicious as it is intriguing: A de Château d'Arche 2020 (£13.95, thewinesociety.com). A dry white Bordeaux, predominantly semillon with a little sauvignon blanc, it owes its aromatics and complexity to sauternes know-how, including precise picking time, and part maturation in sauternes barrels. Fascinating and rewarding.
Touring the rosé world, first stop has to be the south of France. For straightforward pleasure, Abbotts & Delaunay Les Fruits Sauvages, Pays d'Oc (£9 mix-six, Majestic) is perfect, the grenache grapes giving a sherbetty, strawberry appeal.
Pinks from Provence are everywhere, and choosing is hard. Mirabeau and Château d’Esclans are reliable classics, with bright fruit tempered by freshness and a touch of savoury salinity, and are readily available. Waitrose has a good choice from both producers in its tempting pink palette – watch out for current offers that knock off the Provence price premium and make fashion more affordable.
Majestic, too, carefully champions Provence, including statement-making magnums.
Heading east, to Croatia and a vineyard established by monks in the 13th century, Kutjevo is a fresh, juicy and very enjoyable pinot noir-zweigelt blend (£9 mix-12, laithwaites.co.uk), and Laithwaites also has a crowd-pleaser from Romania, Cramele Recas Babele (£8 mix-12), which adds local feteasca neagra to merlot, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and syrah creating a happy pot pourri of clean fruit.
I've not been overwhelmed by new world rosés made by blending red and white – New Zealand and Chile are among wine nations permitting this. But there is some great, good-value pink pinot noir-dominated fizz from Australia. Bird in Hand Sparkling is crisp strawberries and creamy bubbles; Janz Premium Rosé has all the finesse expected from a classic champagne-method blend (both from winedirect.co.uk, £16 and £20 respectively).
Back home to finish: Bolney Estate, Camel Valley and Balfour are among many great producers of English rosé. There's nothing better to drink during English Wine Week, June 18-26.