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.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Postcards from France

The two Heathers have both recently returned from two contrasting parts of France. Read our postcards to find out who enjoyed time amongst the beautiful people and glitz of the Riviera, and who sampled the more rustic charms of France's far southwest.

Dear readers,

I've never had a meal quite like it: this was nose to tail eating, and then some. Piled onto our plates by the grape growers of Fitou from a wood-fired barbecue amongst the vines were mountains of lamb, pork, black pudding and more pork. All this after an appetiser, if that's the right word, of snails (cooked with pork fat, natch - picture above), downed with a dollop of aïoli and washed down with a generous glug of gutsy red Fitou.

Asterix would have felt at home at the feast, though he might have lamented the lack of wild boar on the menu.

This part of France, almost as far south as you can go before you bump into the Pyrenees and the border with Spain, is renowned for having the highest number of sunny days in the country. Needless to say, it was raining when we arrived. It's famous for Cathar castles, strapping rugbymen and the full-bodied wines of Fitou.

Over two thirds of Fitou wines are made by the energetic and quality-minded co-operative, Mont Tauch. So the chances are, if you've ever bought a bottle of Fitou, it will have been made at their state-of-the-art winery in the tiny village of Tuchan, at the foot of Mont Tauch itself.

Grape vines are the only viable crop here and any land that isn't suitable for grapes is soon taken over by that wild mix of aromatic Mediterranean plants that we call “garrigue”.

You too can check on the development of this year's grape harvest, accompanied only by the sound of birdsong and wafts of scent from the garrigue, if you pick up a self-guided walk leaflet from the Mont Tauch winery and Visitor Centre in Tuchan. At the half-way point you can stop for a picnic (pack your own, not forgetting a suitable bottle of wine) at the source of the Artigas, before returning to the hum of the stainless steel vats of the winery.

Wish you were here,
Heather D  xx

Find out more at:

Heather’s pick of Mont Tauch wines available in the UK
Le Dog de Roselyne, Pays d'Oc Rose 2009 – Morrison's £5.79 (from September)
A light, fresh mouthful of red fruit, with a spicy kick on the finish.

Les Garrigues Grande Reserve Grenache Blanc, Pays du Torgan 2009 - £8.79, Savage Selections
Grenache blanc is an unsung variety that's capable of really characterful wines with enough weight to make them great with food. This has notes of pear and thyme on the nose, following through to a herbal and spicy palate with a hint of almond.

Les Garrigues Grande Reserve Grenache Noir, Pays du Torgan 2009 - £8.79, Savage Selections
This is one to bring out if you're chucking a wild boar on the barbecue. The dense, brooding fruit and tannins cry out for something meaty to match.

Dear Surrey Advertiser readers,

If you don’t feel the need for hairs-on-your-chest, mountain-man stuff then you would have been better off with me laconically lazing in la-la land, St Trop darling, where pink is the drink.

Just so that Heather D doesn’t think she had all the adventures – I will have you know that I encountered my fair share of wild(?) bores, but mostly of the slashed shirted gold medallion type. Yawn.

Whilst visiting old friends who have lived for many years in the fragrant lavender bedecked countryside of Provence, I found many an occasion to sample various local wines ranging in colour from off-white to almost red, a rosé by any other name.

In the spirit of research I visited various vineyards and hostelries ranging in style from the sublime to the ridiculous - and oft combinations of both. I cannot say that I came across an unpalatable wine in any guise, whether from humble farmhouse (or Mas), to the renowned bars and restaurants on Pampelonne or Tahiti beach - it was just the price that was very, very different.

St. Tropez was a quiet little fishing village until the mid fifties when film director Roger Vadim chose that location to make a film called “And God Created Woman”, staring the up and coming young actress Brigitte Bardot. One enterprising local fisherman decided to offer lunch on the beach to all the stars and crew and this was the start of what is now one of the most iconic restaurants in France, if not the world. It is named after the year it was conceived “Cinquante Cinq”. Le Club 55 is still the haunt of the glitterati, yachtterati and de rigueur for wannabes and vinous voyeurs such as yours truly. Their rosé is excellent but not available in our UK supermarkets.

There are however many excellent rosés to be had and I came across an interesting website that lists some fine examples of the French wines I have been drinking and which you can buy online: . Château Routas Wild Boar Rosé - just to continue on our theme - works out at £11.50 a bottle and is a modern, crisp and refreshing wine, easy drinking with or without food.

Our favourite local independent wine stores all stock a good selection of rosés and we will be devoting ourselves to researching these on your behalf for recommendations in our next column. Can’t wait.

Au revoir,
Heather A xx
Think pink, www.redwhiteandrose for all your liquid assets.