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No longer considered tragically naff, rosé has become über-fashionable of late and is now taken seriously by everyday drinkers and wine buffs alike. Natasha Hughes takes us on a global tour of her favourite rosés
I was out for dinner with a friend recently and the conversation came to work. When I told James that I was researching an article about rosé, he laughed and said, ‘Isn’t rosé just for girls?’ See, my friend James is a bit of a caveman – and he’s living in the past.
Over the past five years, more of us have been drinking pink, not just on holiday but here at home. So much so that you’ll now find rosés in the shops and on restaurant lists year-round, not just during the summer. One restaurant, Franco’s in Jermyn Street, is so convinced that rosé is what its customers want that its sommelier, Andrea Asciamprener, has just added 42 different pinks to his wine list.
So why has rosé become so fashionable all of a sudden when, a few years ago, no one would have been seen dead drinking the stuff? One of the reasons is that rosé is incredibly versatile and food-friendly. Rosés are great for barbecuing or picnicking, and they can also provide a solution to the perennial problem of what to drink with fish (red or white? Nope, I think I’ll take the pink, thanks). Some rosés can even cope with spicy curries in a way that most red wines find impossible.
The diversity of rosé styles available in the UK these days has something to offer everyone, whether you’re into the sweet blush wines of California, the delicate flavours of southern France or the big, brash pinks of south Australia.
Most of us think of France as the big daddy when it comes to rosé – there are so many regions that make the stuff, you’re spoiled for choice. Many consider Provence’s pale pink wines the ne plus ultra of rosédom, but I’m tempted to opt for the lively Vin de Pays des Alpilles 2007 from Domaine de Lansac (£6.95, The Wine Society), the fruity, ripe Gris de Gris 2007 from the Domaine du Petit Chaumont (£6.15, Panzer’s) or the punchy, liquorice-tinged Soif de Mal Rosé 2007 from Domaine des Foulards (£8.50, Les Caves de Pyrene).
As you might expect from a country that has over 2,000 indigenous grape varieties, Italian rosés come in a huge range of styles and colours. Recently, I’ve particularly enjoyed the light, clean flavours of Ca’ Dei Frati Chiaretto 2007 (£12.49, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Roberson Wine and Philglas & Swiggot). You might be surprised by a rosé made from Pinot Grigio; nevertheless, when blended with the indigenous Rondinella grape, it makes a lively, berries-and-cream summer quaffer: Podere la Prendina, Rondinella Pinot Grigio 2007 (£6.99, Marks & Spencer). The crisp watermelon and redcurrant flavours of Agricola Terradora Rosaenovae 2007 (£10.99, The Oxford Wine Company), from Campania, make the perfect accompaniment for a gutsy summer salad or even a seafood stir-fry.
Spain has long produced rosés with personality, with Navarra as its heartland. Bodegas Ochoa Lágrima Rosado 2007 (£7.99, City Beverage Company, The Secret Cellar, Taurus Wines) is full of zesty pomegranate and berry flavours – just the wine for tapas on the terrace. Rioja makes some cracking pinks – the pretty, berry-scented El Talúd Rosado Bodegas 2007 from Martínez La Orden (£7.99, Novum Wines) is a case in point. Or try the crisp Torres De Casta Rosado 2007 (£6.99, Sainsbury’s), which is a dead-cert with a salad and some charcuterie.
Portuguese rosé has long been associated with Mateus, but there’s far more to the country’s pinks. Tagus Creek’s blend of Shiraz and Touriga Nacional, Ribatejo 2007 (£5.19, Waitrose) has enough personality to make it a terrific partner for salmon or chicken dishes.
While the idea of an English rosé might seem odd, given that full-bodied reds hardly thrive in our climate, delicate pinks make sense. You won’t find many of them around, but they’re worth tracking down for their crisp, clean fruit. Somborne Valley Pinot Noir Rosé 2006/7 (£7.49, Waitrose) is one of the best – and it will certainly provide a talking point for everyone round the table.
Greek wines get enthusiasts very excited but, sadly, leave most wine drinkers cold. Prepare to get rid of your prejudices, though, and taste the country’s full, fruity rosés. These are great food wines –a match for autumn stews as well as summer picnics. A glass of Kir-Yianni Akakies Rosé 2006 (£6.99, Vickbar Wines) should prove my point.
Eastern Europe is a source of some of the cheapest wines on supermarket shelves, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they taste cheap. Marks & Spencer’s Pinot Grigio Rosé 2007 (£4.75) from Hungary, isn’t a wine to take too seriously, but it’s a delight at a picnic.
Chilean and Argentine winemakers are getting better and better at making delicious fruity wines from a range of grapes. Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2007 (£6.99, Thresher) would go down a storm with a plate of charcuterie or a slice of grilled tuna, while Familia Zuccardi Santa Julia Syrah Rosé 2007 (£4.99, Somerfield) would be just the ticket with a mildly spiced beef curry.
California’s winemakers are making big efforts to move on from their association with blush wines. Their investment in ‘serious’ pink is starting to pay off, as you’ll see if you try punchy organic Bonterra Rosé 2007 (£9.99, Waitrose).
It’s taken these southern hemisphere countries a while to catch on to pink, but they are making up for lost time. One pioneer of the Aussie rosé scene was Charles Melton, whose vibrantly coloured Rose of Virginia (£13.49, Green & Blue, Philglas & Swiggot, Villeneuve Wines) is a cult wine. And Linda Domas Shot Bull Rosé (£8.99, Novum Wines) is no blushing bride – try it with a slab of barbecued steak.
New Zealand is taking up the pink baton, too, and is even experimenting with some unexpected grapes – Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé (£8.49, Tesco) is based on a blend of Merlot and Malbec.
Over in South Africa, growers are playing with Old World grapes from Cabernet Sauvignon to Shiraz. One wine I particularly enjoyed was Boschendal 2007 Pinot Noir-based pink (£5.95, The Wine Society), with its delicate strawberry fruit.
As the popularity of rosé has grown, so too has the demand for pink fizz. If you want
to splash out, Krug non-vintage rosé, at £195 per bottle (Berry Bros & Rudd, Fortnum & Mason) certainly creates a sense of occasion. If you’re on a tighter budget, Jacquart Brut Mosaïque Rosé NV (£44.99, Majestic) punches well above its weight. And, like the Krug, it’s a good food wine, too.
It’s possible to enjoy some sparkle without paying top dollar for Champagne. Other French regions make sparkling wine – one of the best pink crémants around at the moment comes from the Bollinger-owned Langlois, in the Loire (£9.99, Wholefoods, Partridges). Or you could try a New World Champagne-alike: Green Point NV Rosé (£10.99-14.99, Majestic, Sainsbury’s) is a favourite of wine aficionados round the world, thanks to its elegance and restrained fruit.
You might even want to look closer to home. Ridgeview Merret Fitzrovia Rosé 2005 (£19, The Wine Society) from Sussex is just the ticket for a decadent afternoon tea on the lawn. And, if you wanted to push the British boat out, it’s a sure bet that Balfour’s Brut Rosé 2005 (£33, Bibendum) will float anyone’s sailing craft.
Editorial feature from Square Meal Lifestyle Magazine Summer 2008