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  • SUMMER LIFE THROUGH ROSÉ-TINTED GLASSES

    Chilled pretty pink wine is a summer staple according to Angela Mount. Here are a few of her favourite suggestions...

     

    There are things in life that evoke a strong sense of place and season; for Summer, near the top of the list must be the salty, ozone-fresh tang of the sea, the soothing sound of waves lapping a sun-drenched beach, the incessant chirping of crickets on a warm Mediterranean evening, the exhilarating, cooling splash of a clean dive into a glitteringly azure pool – the list goes on. We’ll ignore the smell of diesel and hot tarmac on the M5 to Cornwall for the purposes of this piece. Memories, perceptions, associations – all buried for eternity in our brains and senses.  And for me, and many, the sight of a chilled glass of tremulously pale pink wine, with tiny beads of condensation shimmering down the sides – and of course the aroma and taste, as you take that first, welcome sip - immediately conjures up the thought of holidays and downtime.

    Is the scene now set in your mind?  Regardless of where you’re reading this, and even if our lovely city is downcast beneath leaden skies, in a familiar deluge of rain, let me transport you to sunshine and relaxation for just a few minutes, and encourage you to pick up a few bottles of wine, of the pink variety, to enjoy this evening, whatever our maverick weather pattern may throw at us.  We wine writers harp on about how rosé isn’t just for Summer, and I’m one of them (I happen to think that Rosé is about as good as it gets with Middle Eastern food, and also a great deal of Asian food, all year round) – but, you can’t get away from the fact, that it always seems to taste just that bit better in the sunshine.

    Enough of mindfulness exercises, now that I’ve hopefully transported you to a happy place, here’s what will be chilling in my fridge, of the pink vinous variety, this Summer….

    Whilst there are some fabulous rose wines from the New World, I’m sticking to a European theme this month. Firstly, let’s talk about the contentious subject of which shade of pink.  Rose wine has been done no favours by the presence of lurid, neon-pink hued, cloyingly sweet wines from big brands, which dominate supermarket shelves – and therefore the perception is that, the deeper the colour, the sweeter the wine. That’s not strictly true, as the colour is all down to how long the winemaker leaves the grape juice on the grape skins to soak up the colour. But the style ‘du jour’ is definitely pale, driven primarily, by the recent phenomenal success of ‘Riviera Rosé’, more properly known as Cotes de Provence. Last year, in the UK, we drank over 12 million cases of pretty pink wines, with Provence Rosé at the top of the pile.

    Chateau Gassier ‘Le Pas du Moine’ Cotes de Provence 2016, is the wine that transports me back to the lavender fields, sleepy villages, and chic beach restaurants of Provence, although Great Western Wine have an enviably wide selection of other options also.  With its ethereal pale peach colour, and entrancingly gentle flavours of wild strawberries, pomegranates, and wild provencal herbs, this award-winning wine from a family-run estate, pretty much sums up Summer in a bottle; and even more so in an impressive magnum ( big bottle) for £29.50, which can’t fail to impress guests and imbue the feel-good factor. Simply add tuna nicoise, and you have the Riviera on your doorstep.

    Staying with the ethereally pale, onion-skin theme, one of my long-standing favourites is a delicately- scented pink from Sicily, Planeta Rose 2016, from the island’s leading wine producer. Gossamer-pale in hue, with a pretty floral label, it epitomises the perfect Summer aperitif. The colour and lightness of this wine belies its origin and proves that, with care, the hot, southern Mediterranean isn’t all about rich, voluptuous reds. Fresh, fragrant, with pink grapefruit, lemon peel, and gentle red berry flavours, chill it right down and enjoy with a platter of antipasti, or the freshest of seafood. It’s my go-to picnic pink.

    Moving on to Spain, I recently discovered the deliciously fruity Sierra Cantabria Rioja Rosado 2016. Bone dry, and seductively perfumed, it has a similarly pale colour, but a bit more oomph and weight than many. I recently had the enviable task of matching wines to the delicately spiced and fragrant dishes created by local Iranian cookery school teacher Simi Rezzai-Ghassemi, and this emerged the star. The bright, raspberry and wild herb-stashed, super-fresh style makes it a brilliant food wine with juicy prawns, grilled salmon, middle-eastern dishes, and tapas.

    And finally, to prove my point about colour, a dry rose with a much bolder pink colour, and an equally bold, funky, graffiti-inspired label.  The appropriately named Mas Amor Rosado 2016 (meaning more love), is bright and breezy, packed to the brim with succulent raspberry and all manner of red berry fruits. Bursting with character, this one’s the pink of choice for barbecues, chargrilled prawns and piri-piri chicken.

    And there you have it - your Summer Rose collection has arrived. Enjoy.

  • Côtes de Provence - The Essence of Summer

    Azure blue skies; sun-kissed landscape; glittering sea; the smell of lavender, rosemary, olive groves, and hot, baked earth; local market stalls groaning under the weight of a kaleidoscope of  ripe summer fruits, and vegetables; pastis in the shade of the local bar, watching boules – this is Provence, in all its entrancing evocativeness, and it brings memories of lazy, hazy Summer holidays, and all that is good about life.

    Provence has an infinitesimal magic, and beguiling charm – the sun, the pace of life, the light, the sheer beauty of the landscape; once you’ve left the buzz and glitz of the Riviera, there is a mesmerizing charm about the Provence hinterland, almost a step back in time.  This is real Provence, and nothing epitomises it more than its produce and its wines.

    Côtes de Provence Rose, that tremulously pale peach, delicately fragrant, dry Rosé has taken the UK by storm over the past couple of years. Sales are booming, and there’s no better time than balmy May to stick a few bottles on ice, and enjoy an early taste of Summer.  With new season vegetables now in, and a trend to Mediterranean flavours in our food, these lovely palest pink beauties are also the perfect foil to their freshness, and evocative of the Riviera mood.

    But which to choose?  Great Western Wine has captured the zeitgeist of the moment, and  added to their existing haul of these delicious wines… not just in bottle, but in magnums also…. What better way to make a statement and create the ‘wow’ factor than to serve a splendid looking large bottle, rather than two smaller ones to your guests?!  And now’s the best time of the year, with the freshest of the recent 2015 vintage hitting the shelves.

    Comtes de Provence Rosé, La VidaubanaiseProvencal food is all about freshness, vegetables, herbs, seafood, and the pinkest of lamb – simplicity, colour and flavour on a plate.  A classic to serve with drinks on the terrace, (or in the garden in good old Blighty), would be Tapenade, an aromatic, dark paste, made of olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil, and Anchoiade, a similar dip , based on anchovies and garlic, served either with slices of toasted baguette, or with crudités. Throw in a platter of charcuterie, or a slice of Pissaladiere, the Provencal equivalent of pizza, topped with onion, olive and anchovy, and you have the perfect, simple lunch.   Try these with a bottle or two of  Côtes de Provence Rosé, La Vidaubanaise 2015, one of the best value Provence pinks on the shelves -  bright and breezy, in the characteristic Monroe-esque hourglass bottle, full of strawberry and lemon balm charm, it’s the perfect, fruity, alfresco pink.

    Château Gassier 'Le Pas du Moine' Côtes De Provence RoseIt’s easy to generalize Provence rosé – just like any other area, there are different levels, different qualities, wines made by co-operatives, wines made on private estates.  Step up Château Gassier ‘Le Pas du Moine’ 2015, a sophisticated rosé produced on an estate, managed by the 5th generation of this wine-making family. This is a wine with real personality; raspberry fruit, scents of thyme and rosemary, and a polished, elegant style, which  would work deliciously with a platter of char-grilled prawns, or a plate of a local dish, Petits Farcis, which are vegetables (normally courgettes, peppers, aubergines or tomatoes), stuffed with seasoned minced beef and slow roasted. I reckon it would also be pretty smart with a tangy goats cheese, pomegranate and rocket salad.

    Château Sainte Marguerite, Grande Réserve, Organic Rosé, Cru ClasséMoving up the scale, the freshest of fish, from red mullet to seabream, together with a cornucopia of seafood, is always great with Rosé, simply pan-fried with herbs, lemon and olive oil, bringing out those evocative fresh herb and citrus aromas. Château Sainte Marguerite  Grande Reserve, Cru Classe 2015 has incredible verve and style; balancing poised, restrained elegance, with racy, luscious red berry fruit flavours, and a lascivious twist of wild herbs. You’ll enjoy it even more in the impressive-looking magnums.
    Clos Mireille Rosé, Domaine OttFinally, an old classic Domaines Ott, Clos Mireille Rose 2014 (also available in magnums) is up there with the top 5 iconic Southern French Roses, a carefully-crafted peachy-pink wine, full of verve, redcurrant and citrus flavours; it has an aristocratic wild edge about it, but embodies the spirit of the region.  I would be very happy if I could sit and  drink this with a colourful plate of fresh Tuna Niçoise, the tuna steak, seared on the outside and rare inside, with the brightest of green beans and tomatoes, combined with the slightly oozing yolks of barely hard-boiled eggs, salty anchovies and tangy olives.  Heaven.

    Summer is coming. Enjoy a taste of Provence.

     By Angela Mount

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