Monday, August 4, 2008

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, July 27, 2008: In the pink

Rosé, once the poor relation of the wine world, has become the toast of it in less time than it takes to mature a bottle of fine red. Everybody everywhere is sipping it. The French now drink more rosé than white wine. In Britain one in every 10 bottles bought is pink - up from one in 20 four years ago. The Americans have discovered cult rosés (they would) – including Provence’s Château D’Esclans Garrus at £50 a bottle.

All over the world wineries are turning their hands to rosé to feed the demand, from Portugal’s Vinho Verde producers to Argentina’s malbec growers and all points in between. Even hulking Australians with bone-crushing handshakes unashamedly make and drink knicker-pink wine.

What is it about rosé? Simple: the glass of wine that used to mark you out as naff, tasteless or effeminate has become classless, ageless and sexless. You don’t need to know about wine to enjoy it, but at the same time there are bottles to satisfy connoisseurs. Twenty-year-olds who give other types of wine a miss make an enthusiastic exception for rosé - and their parents and grandparents drink it, too.

Put another way, rosé is relaxed. But that doesn’t mean it’s unsophisticated. Not any more. Rosé has come up in the world, both in quality and in variety. Admittedly, sweet, vapid California rosés still account for a significant chunk of the UK market, but the days when the choice was often limited to dry and overpriced (20th-century Provence and Tavel) or medium-sweet and sulphurous (old-style Anjou and Portuguese) are gone.

The styles made range from shocking pink, full-bodied and ebulliently fruity to ultra-pale, crisp and dry. Broadly, the new world veers to the former, the old world, especially France and epitomised by Provence, to the latter, but there is increasing crossover with every vintage. At Bordeaux châteaux, for example, where rosé is often made by draining juice from the vats of newly fermenting red wine, the resulting colour is often deep pink. The trend in parts of the new world is to make lighter, snappier, drier rosés because they go better with food. The great thing is to have the choice.

2007 Grand Milord Organic Rosé, £5.99
Medium-full, southern French Vin de Pays with spiced red-berry fruit and a satisying crisp finish (Marks & Spencer).

2007 Crow’s Landing Cabernet Shiraz Rosé, £4.25
Cheerful, cheap, off-dry Californian with bouncy, ripe, briary fruit (Co-op)

2007 Mas de la Rouvière Rosé, Bandol, £12.25
Classy rosé from Bandol in Provence; sweet cassis fruit with spicy, currant-leaf freshness (Yapp Bros, 01747 860423).

2007 Torres Viña Sol Rosé, £5.99
New from Spain. Full, ripe, cherry flavour with refreshing structure and finish (Booths).

2007 Domaine de la Grande Pallière Rosé, Côtes de Provence, £8.95
Organic, ultra pale, perfumed, fresh and delicious - but make sure you buy the 2007 (Nicolas).

2007 Sainsbury’s Cuvée Prestige Côtes du Rhône Rosé, £4.99
Medium-bodied, well-rounded, with sunny raspberry fruit (Sainsbury’s).

2007 Château d’Aqueria, Tavel, £9.99
Deep-coloured, full-bodied, strawberry-scented with spicy fruit (Berry Bros & Rudd, 0870 900 4300).

2007 Altosur Malbec Rosé, £6.99
Deep pink Argentine with vibrant cherry and blackcurrant flavours (Majestic).