Friday, 5 July 2013

Think pink

I’ve been waiting for summer to arrive before writing about my recommendations for rosé wines.  And waiting, and waiting.  But it seems that “summer” is never going to really get into its stride, just come and go in fits and starts.  Given these conditions, where a sunny evening in the garden will be a rare treat that you must be ready to embrace at a moment’s notice, you would be well advised to have a couple of bottles of something pink ready-chilled in the fridge.

Contrary to what you might think based on news coverage, consumption of red and white wine has been falling in the UK in recent years.  It is our increasing fondness for the pink stuff that has been single-handedly responsible for keeping our wine consumption figures essentially flat.  

Rosé wines tend to fall into two styles – on the one hand, deep-coloured “saignée” method wines, whereby juice from a vat of crushed red grapes which has been left to macerate for a short amount of time, is run off to make a fairly deep-coloured and full-flavoured wine.   One the other, the pale pink, elegant wines which are classically produced in Provence.  These last are made by the “direct pressure” method, whereby red grapes are pressed, after little or no maceration, giving only a faint trace of colour to the juice.  Both styles have their fans and in general, ne’er the twain shall meet, with each camp viewing the other with suspicion and convinced that their own style of pink wine is the best. 

Here I’m recommending a few wines in varying styles – arm yourself with a few of these and, when the sun does decide to show itself, you’ll be ready for it. 

Señorio de Sarría Viñedo N⁰5 –   £9.99 from The Vineyard (Dorking), various independent merchants, including Harrods at £11.99
This wine is from Navarra, northern Spain.  Wines from here have a hard time establishing a separate identity for themselves, distinct from their more famous neighbour, Rioja.  What Navarra can do, though, is make a name for itself as Spain’s pre-eminent source of deep-coloured, intensely flavoured and food friendly rosé. 
The best known Navarran Rosado in this country is Chivite’s Gran Feudo, which is quite widely available for around £7.50.  It’s fine as far as it goes, but Sarria’s old vine Garnacha has more class.  The old vines give the wine an effortless concentration and a kind of gentle intensity (can a wine be gently intense?).  Strawberry and apple aromas leap out of the glass and continue on the palate, along with fresh acidity and a long-ish finish.  You could drink this on its own, but it can more than hold its own with things prawn-y and garlick-y. 

Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 - £7.99 from Taurus Wines (Bramley) and other independent merchants
Miguel Torres is best known for his Spanish wines, but he has fingers in a few pies and this is one of his projects from Chile.   

Small-berried, thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon is never going to make a delicate pink wine, but this really is a wine for people who would normally drink red, but would like something  you can chill in the warmer months and drink on its own or with food.  A rosé purist would surely consider it out of order, but I rather like its full on, pure blackcurrant aromas, with more of the same on the palate, along with blackcurrant leaf and something more savoury that stops it being a complete fruit salad.  This could stand up to bangers, burgers or barbecued lamb.

Aldi The Exquisite Collection Côtes de Provence Rosé 2012 - £5.99 from Aldi
Yes, Aldi.  It might not be somewhere you would traditionally head for wine but, along with the unknown brand cheap cereals and spanner sets, they have now put together a pretty good and good value selection of own-label wines.  To spare your blushes, the word Aldi is restricted to small lettering on the back label – though if you’re anything like me you’ll be telling everyone where it’s from, just to see the reaction. 

This doesn’t pretend to be the finest Provence rosé, but it certainly looks the part:  pale, sea-shell pink colour in a curvy “Bardot” bottle.  The nose is fresh, with a hint of rose petal and the palate delivers a gently fruity experience.  £5.99 is a very fair price for it.

Aix, Côteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé 2012 - £19.99 for a magnum from Majestic
If you like the understated charms of Provence rosé, but at the same time fancy givin’ it large at a summer party, a magnum of this should do the job nicely.  The magnum (the equivalent of 2 standard bottles) makes a nice statement of intent, looks great in an ice bucket – and the wine inside is pretty classy too.  Majestic will probably sell out of these, as they did last year, despite the underwhelming weather, so make your move sooner rather than later. 

Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2012 – around £11.49 from and Hailsham Cellars (East Sussex)
Pink wines from the Rhône valley sit somewhere in between the pale Provence-style rosés and those deeper-coloured saignée types stylistically.  It has great freshness (surely a prime requirement of pink wines) and a lively palate with a hint of stone fruits about it.  I could happily drink this on its own, but it has enough oomph to stand up to wedding buffet-style food.

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