After long gloomy months of grey winter St. Valentine arrives with an explosion of colour…everything goes pink. Even the mashed potatoes on the plates of the lovestruck couples celebrating this special day are pink.
Spring is almost in the air and we suddenly realize that after all the robust, full bodied red wines that we have consumed during the cold weather, maybe a rosé wine would be just perfect to accompany dinner on this special evening, and many other dinners to come. So let’s open the door to spring, even if somewhat early, and let’s start exploring the rather underestimated world of rosé wine.
In recent years Rosé wines are enjoying ever increasing popularity. Once regarded as a rather unconvincing alternative to either red or white wines, rosés have now firmly established their own individual identity. Very few rosés are matured in oak barrels, the majority being vinified as young wines with limited contact between the skins and the must. It is an essentially young, fresh and fruity wine style. Strawberry and raspberry tend to be the prevailing tastes that we can easily identify. However, the range of styles is wide. Spanish rosés, Rosados, tend to be mono varietal wines, in other words, wines made from only one grape type.
Navarre has long been considered the home of Spanish Rosé, usually made with the Garnacha grape, although there are some very good wines made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. An excellent example of the later is the Orvalaiz Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich,full bodied wine, which has won many awards, the most recent being the gold medal for the best Rosé in the recent Torremolinos Wine Fair. You can buy this wine online by clicking here. However, there are excellent rosados made in the Catalan region of Penedés. Those produced in the Rioja tend to be similar in style and body to those from Navarra. However the rosados from Cigales, situated in Castilla / Leon near the Ribera del Duero / Rueda regions are quite different. Usually made with the Tempranillo grape, they tend to be dryer, more austere in taste, with a more noticeable acidity but without losing a wonderful fresh fruit flavour.
Rosé styles are truly diverse. The Gran Caus Merlot Rosado from the Can Rafols dels Caus winery in the Garraf region of Penedés is so dark in colour that one can easily be forgiven for mistaking it for a slightly pale red wine (click here to view + info); a Pinot Noir for example. However, this full bodied wine, has often been judged one of the best in Spain, although it is far from the idea of “light and fruity” that most of us have of these wines. At the other end of the scale, we have the pale rosés which look so light that it takes us by surprise when we see 13 degrees alcohol on the label. However, although recently the Spanish wineries are beginning to produce pale coloured rosés in order to satisfy the trend, we really have to look outside Spain to find the best of these wines and the origin of this latest fashion.
The rosés from Provence in France have long been recognized for their complexity and quality. By law, they have to be produced from a minimum of two grape varieties and very often can have up to four. The varieties most usually used are Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mouvedre and Carignan. These wines are deceptively pale in colour, making one assume that the wine is going to be simple, easy drinking. However, the alcohol content tends to be high; the wine, complex and satisfying, having layer upon layer of taste. These wines tend to be relatively expensive due to the difficulty of harvesting the various grape varieties at their maximum moment of maturity, all more or less at the same time. The quality, class and depth of flavour of these excellent wines ensure that each year demand increases. The Loire Valley also produces excellent rosé wines, with probably the slightly sweeter Rosé d’Anjou being the most well known along with the Rosé de Loire also very popular. Here the Cabernet Franc, the Gamay and the Grolleau grape varieties are those most commonly used.
But where did the recent rage for pale rosé wine start? Almost certainly in California in the Sutter Home winery where they produced their famous Blossom Hill `white Zinfandel’. When first produced it was a complete trend setting novelty. Made with the red Zinfandel grape, by leaving the grape juice in contact with the dark red grape skins only for a very short period of time, they were able to achieve a very attractive pale rosé wine. Almost immediately this unusual wine style became the rage. The “blush”. Pale and delicate in appearance but a wonderful, mouth filling drink. The Italian Pinot Grigio grape produces an enormously commercially successful ‘Blush’. Light and tasty but at the same time, full bodied and surprisingly alcoholic.
But Rosé also excels in the production of sparkling wines. Nearly all Sparkling rosé wines are delicious and there is something to fit all pockets. I think every adult in the northern hemisphere has at some point enjoyed a bottle of the hugely famous Portuguese Mateus Rosé. The Spanish Vino de Aguja , produced by the same method, capturing the first fermentation in the bottle, also produces some really tasty, easy drinking sparkling wines. Maybe it is with sparkling wines that rosé really comes into it’s own. Pink Fizz! The enormously successful Lambrusco Rosato, ideal for younger people who are starting to enjoy wine is fresh, fun and easy to drink. The Italian Proseccos and the Spanish Cavas also produce some excellent bubblies. Cremants, sparkling French wines produced in the Champagne Method but outside Champagne, are made in seven different regions of France. However, the star of the show has to be Champagne. One of the very few controlled appellations that actually allows the blending of white and red wines to produce the final pink wine.
Who can resist a glass of pink bubbly??
So let’s raise our glass to St. Valentine for helping us to forget the winter and to see the world through pink coloured glasses. Wine glasses, of course!