For many, a perfectly chilled glass of the pink stuff is the taste of summer. Harry Eyres rounds up the best rosé wines you should be drinking this year.
If one swallow doesn’t make a summer, then perhaps the same is true for one glass of rosé. This is certainly the case at my tennis club, where heroic quantities of it are consumed throughout the year. However, two glasses of rosé… even those quite frequent grey or rainy days of what is meant to be the British season of outdoor jollity will appear more estival — and if the sun really is shining, all the better.
Rosé needs no special pleading, as the consumption of this category of wine in the UK has been growing rapidly in recent years. Exports to the UK from Provence — the best-known and most fashionable source of the pink stuff — rose by 51% in both volume and value between 2019 and 2020. The point isn’t only about numbers. Where once rosé was considered frivolous, its image has become both more sophisticated and, in wine terms, more serious. Rosés that cost £20 or even £50 a bottle aren’t uncommon and their versatility and ability to partner a wide range of dishes are increasingly appreciated.
“It can be still or sparkling, too. My impression is that the quality of these sparkling wines has increased markedly in the past few years.“
If, to quote the notorious advertising slogan for Soberano brandy, rosé was once considered not exactly ‘cosa de hombres’, now, it is endorsed by a figure as defiantly testosterone-fuelled as Jeremy Clarkson. ‘It’s something you drink because you want to feel happy,’ says the tousled terror of the roads. Who could disagree?
What follows is a round-up of some of the best pink wines to drink this summer. I’ve cast the net quite wide, not only geographically (from cool southern England to the torrid uplands of Castile), but also stylistically. Provence has its place, of course, but it seems worth drawing attention to the variety of styles rosé can come in, from achingly pale and sophisticated to hearty and robust — and, of course, it can be still or sparkling, too. My impression is that the quality of these sparkling wines has increased markedly in the past few years. Pink fizz might once have been considered a Valentine’s Day phenomenon, but top Champagne houses and the best English producers now take rosé very seriously indeed.
Château Minuty Prestige 2020 Côtes de Provence
Minuty, which styles itself the leading Provence rosé drunk in St Tropez, has established itself, with Whispering Angel, as the benchmark Provence rosé of our times. That is to say, very pale in colour, sophisticated in aroma and flavour with hints (nothing too strong) of red berries and herbs and, above all, a satisfying, voluptuous texture, which somehow plays against the ‘supermodel’ minimalism.
£119.94 per six from www.northandsouthwines.co.uk
Páramos de Nicasia Clarete 2019 Màquina & Tabla
Now for something completely different — this is a biodynamic rosé from a single vineyard of old, bush-cultivated Tinta del País, Garnacha and Malvasía vines in Toro, north-west Spain, made by defiantly unmodern methods. The result is truly exciting, a positive, orangey-pink in colour, with a fascinating complex nose, quite full and very pleasurable on the palate. It’s a proper wine, in other words, good on its own, but robust enough to partner quite spicy food.
£16.95 or £14.95 if you buy 12 form www.leaandsandeman.co.uk
Babylonstoren Mourvèdre Rosé 2021
The surprise sensation of my summer rosé tasting. The inspiration may be Provençal — a mixture of St Tropez sophistication and Bandol garrigue and body — but this beautiful wine from Franschhoek in South Africa, made from the Mourvèdre grape, sings its own distinctive song. The colour is very pale, slightly orangey, there’s an enticing bouquet of flowers, wild herbs and red and black fruit and a satisfying fullness of body. As good as several Provence rosés that cost considerably more.
£14.90 from www.rakq.com
Lady A La Coste Rosé 2020 IGP Méditerranée
Here, we’re back in more familiar territory, in Provence (but outside the Côtes de Provence appellation), with a rosé made from Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Merlot. The style of this wine, developed by master sommelier Vincent Gasnier in honour of Soho House’s Markus Anderson, is distinctively light and fresh — qualities well conveyed by the Damien Hirst-designed butterfly label (although, apparently, the latter refers more to Mr Anderson’s social-butterfly qualities).
£14.95 from www.31dover.com
Sancerre Rosé 2019 André Dezat et Fils
I have a special fondness for rosés made from the Pinot Noir grape and also for the wines of Sancerre (which come in all three colours). This, from a 50-acre family estate, has all the lightness and freshness you expect from Sancerre in its white incarnation, with the extra body and sappiness of Pinot. Works very well both as an aperitif and as an accompaniment to fish dishes.
£17.90 from www.tanners-wines.co.uk
Le Rosé de Vertheuil 2019, Claire Villars-Lurton, Bordeaux
From the grape of red Burgundy to one of the two main grapes of red Bordeaux: this 100% Merlot rosé has impressive pedigree, hailing from the Pauillac Fifth Growth Château Haut-Bages Libéral. The colour is Provence-pale, but there’s a distinctive and very attractive freshness and more acidity than you tend to find further south. Fine, elegant and stylish.
£19.99 from www.waitrosecellar.com
Tavel Cuvée de la Reine des Bois Domaine de la Mordorée 2020
This is a magnificent, deep-coloured, raspberry-scented and voluptuous rosé from the Rhône appellation, which has always been famed for the most serious pink wines and the ones that benefit most from ageing. Utterly un-Provence-like, this biodynamically farmed blend of five grape varieties is thrillingly precise and sensuous. Worth every penny.
£26.50 or £23.95 for 12 from www.leaandsandeman.co.uk
Chilworth Manor Vineyard Rosé 2020
At the other extreme in style is this exhilaratingly fresh blend of 51% Pinot Meunier and 49% Pinot Noir from the Surrey Hills. The damp-hedgerow bouquet is followed by red fruit (redcurrant) and flowers on the palate — all in a lightweight frame and coming in at 12% alcohol, perhaps a relief after the 14% powerhouses.
£21.95 or £20.95 for 12 from www.leaandsandeman.co.uk
Nyetimber Sparkling Rosé NV
Quite bright pink in colour. The nose shows enticing red fruit (strawberry, raspberry) with warm brioche notes. This is a very accomplished English pink fizz, on the dry side, crisp and firm. It bears comparison with big names from Champagne, at a similar price.
£35.99 from www.frazierswine.co.uk
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé
I have long been an admirer of the medium-sized family house of Billecart-Salmon and especially of its rosés, which are as good as any in Champagne. The Brut rosé is perfectly poised between citrus freshness and the red fruit and even meaty body imparted by Pinot Noir.
£310 per six from www.goedhuis.com
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