Friday, 23 July 2010

A bunch of rosés

The psychology of summer: sunlight lifting the spirits, warm days, short nights, perfumed gardens, the happy social scene, the lightness of being; and sipping rosé wine.

We Brits have taken to the pink drink like the proverbial ducks to water and many of the bottles we buy are slung into the supermarket trolley along with our sausages, burgers and beans. There's nothing wrong with this, but it can be much more satisfying to search out quality and diversity and to buy from people who can advise you, and often give you a tasting too: our local independent wine merchants.

We are really lucky in the Guildford area to have three good wine shops, run by knowledgeable staff who are in the business because they love their product.

Our quest this week:  to find the perfect rosé wine, so we asked them all to recommend rosés that they thought were good value and that they felt happy to represent as their choice.

Rupert Pritchett of Taurus Wines near Bramley belies his years, as he tells us he has “been around for a long, long time”! It is a delightful experience to visit Rupert in his converted cowshed at Whipley Farm. Useful too, as, after stocking up on the wines, you can buy your animal feed next door. We were offered a whole host of rosés to try, but decided on one classic Provençal and one trendily dark-skinned Chilean.

M de Minuty 2009 is £12.99 and has the lovely and distinctive shapely bottle of Provence rosés, which was modelled, of course, on a woman. Or more prosaically it could be said to have a handy waist to hold on to. In southern France wine is often drunk “on the rocks”, further diluting the alcoholic content and flavour, so the fine but clear acidity of this wine has to be well pronounced to hold up to this treatment. The quintessentially Provençal pale shell pink colour, aromas of rose petals and flat stones baked by the sun and a clean minerality combine to make this a taste of holidays. Drink with or without food - great with grilled fish.

Torres Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé - £7.99. The Torres family name has been linked with Spanish wine for more than three centuries and in 1979 they opened a winery in the wine-grower's paradise of Chile. This rosé is a pale cherry colour with intense and exuberant aromas of red fruit and a hint of blackcurrant. It still retains Spanish roots and makes a great marriage with tapas, salamis - or butterflied lamb on the barbecue.

Real men drink rosé” is a sentiment that Ben Watkins of The Guildford Wine Company in Shalford subscribes to and he is happy to prove this with his wide range of samples chilled and ready to taste.

His Les Cerisiers Côtes du Rhône Rosé- £8.49 or £6.99 if you buy 2 bottles is not as pale as a Provençal rosé and has more oomph. The weighty stone fruit and herbal flavours, together with a definite acidity, show this wine means business.

Canforrales Garnacha Rosado 2009 from La Mancha in Spain, £7.99 a bottle, is a lively translucent red, just the shade of Heather A's favourite lipgloss. Its delicate bouquet of tinned strawberries might not sound complimentary, but is a classic description of garnacha-based wines and rather delightful. It has a robust dryness and is the rosé to accompany barbecued bangers – a bloke's rosé.

“And now for something completely different”, Ben brought out a dinky little half-bottle called Innocent Bystander (£5.99), an Australian sparkling pink muscat. This quirky wine, crown-capped like a beer bottle, is bursting with effervescent tutti -frutti flavours and would be a wonderful gimmick to bring out for parties....with a straw! Sweet, pink, fizzy and only 5.5% alcohol, it could be just the thing to splash around with a picnic fruit salad.

Les Caves De Pyrène on the Old Portsmouth Road, Artington, always seem to be in a state of chaotic upheaval , but then “busy” is their middle name as one of the premiere suppliers to the restaurant trade, including Terroirs, their own vinous eatery in London. Our man on the spot, Adrian Scholes, when not engaged in endlessly complex conversations with suppliers and clients, unfailingly guides us towards unusual items for our opinion.

Unusual is perhaps just one of the first words that comes to mind when sipping Alquézar Tempranillo-Garnacha Rosado 2009, £7.99 a bottle. The colour and flavours call to mind sour cherries, so an acquired taste or perhaps one for those who want to get away from the “cute” label of many rosés. Treat it more like a summer red that you can chill down for full-flavoured refreshment.

By contrast and oh, such an easy quaff, is Bergerie de la Bastide Vin de Pays d’Oc Rosé 2009 - £6.49. A delicate shade of pink with good, balanced acidity, light and floral, but not at all cloying. Easy and undemanding drinking.

Do seek out your own local wine merchants, buy from a real person and you will get so much more enjoyment from your wine shopping.

Think pink
Most rosé wines are made pink in one of two ways:
  • Lightly crushing black grapes and letting the grape flesh remain in contact with the skins for just long enough to colour the juice pink
  • Blending in some red wine to some white wine, to make pink. Sounds simple (not to mention cheap) but this is the way that most pink Champagne is made
  •  Always seek out the most recent vintage of rosés, as they don't improve with age. Look for 2009’s Europe and California – and we will soon be moving onto 2010s from the southern hemisphere.

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