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  • Shades of Rosé

    Glance at a shelf full of pink wines, and you’ll see a startling, and potentially confusing diversity of colours, from the palest shade of onion-skin to neon Barbie pink. The range of Rosé hues is as widely varied as a tonal paint palette from Farrow & Ball, which doesn't make the job of choosing your weekend pink tipple any easier – unlike paint, you can’t really buy a sample pot, try it out at home and go back for the bigger size (although I’m reliably informed, that there will be lots of Rosés to taste in the Great Western Wine shop this weekend).

    So how do you choose? What are the different styles? And what do the colours mean? More importantly, what do they taste like?

    Firstly, a snapshot summary of how pink wine is made – most Rosé wine is made from red grapes; the grape skins are left to soak into the grape juice after the crushing for a controlled amount of time, during which the colour leaches out of the skin and into the juice. The colour and style of a Rose wine depends on five things:

    -         the type and quality of the grape
    -         the length of time that the grape skins are left to macerate in the juice
    -         the temperature of the wine vat
    -         the region
    -         the winemaker’s skill

    Whilst there seems a general pattern that paler coloured pinks come from cool regions, and the darker, cerised-hued ones from hotter regions, this assumption doesn’t always hold true. Take the sun-soaked, hazily-hot, dusty world of Southern Italy and Sicily – it’s hot there; seriously hot, with temperatures hitting 40 degrees mid summer.  Yet they produce Rosés of very different styles …

    Planeta, RoséSicily’s leading wine producer makes a delicate, peach and tea-rose hued pink Planeta Rosé 2014, from Syrah and Nero d’Avola grapes, which is silky, crisply dry and bursting with bright cranberry and redcurrant fruit; in contrast, just over a narrow strip of the Ionian sea,  the Candido ‘Le Pozzelle’ Salice Salentino 2014 is  bright pomegranate and dark coral in colour, with ripe, raspberry and red cherry flavours. Both equally delicious, but very different.

    The easiest way of understanding Rose is to look at them by style...


    Sparkling Rosé

    Cantina Cleto Chiarli, Rose Brut

    This is the exception to the rule that pink wines are made from red grapes. Many of them are, but with Champagne in particular, Rosé can be made by adding up to 15% of red wine, in Champagne’s case, Pinot Noir.

    But for easy, Summer drinking and entertaining, you don’t need to splash out on Champagne. One of the freshest, best value pink fizzes around at the moment is an Italian sparkler not from the Prosecco-famous north west, but from the north east. Cleto Chiarli Rose Brut NV, is a perky, strawberry-hued and scented fizz, made from the local Grasparossa grape and a dollop of Pinot Noir – fresh, bright, and juicy, it’s zesty, delicate and infused with gentle strawberry fruit.

    Light Pinks

    Comtes de Provence Rosé, La VidaubanaiseLight Rosés are those that have the most delicate colour – they are often from cooler regions, such as the Loire, but also are typical of southern France – Côtes de Provence Rosé is now iconic as ‘the Rosé for Summer’, and is a breath of sunshine and holiday memories.  Served icy cold, with its tremulously pale peach colour, it comes in various guises; easily recognizable by Provence Rosé’s  trademark hourglass shaped bottle  is Côtes de Provence La Vidaubanaise 2014, enchanting in its delicacy, with soft strawberry, redcurrant and citrus flavours.

    Château Sainte Marguerite, Grande Réserve, Organic Rosé, Cru Classé

    Equally charming, and a notch up in terms of quality and depth of flavour is Chateau Sainte Marguerite 2014, elegant & stylish with zestily fresh strawberry, peach and wild herb touches, and a bone dry finish.

    Ribafreixo, Pato Frio Cashmere RoséBut it’s not just southern France that produces the palest of pale pinks. Move south to Portugal, and you’ll find the most fragile coloured rose from the sun-baked plains of the southern Alentenjo region, east of Lisbon. Ribafreixo Pato Frio Cashmere 2014, is gossamer-light in both colour and style, with very delicate wafts of summer berry fruit and hints of lemon peel, with a delicate citrus finish.  Move to the far south of the Southern Hemisphere, and you’ll find a similarly light coloured, peachy-pretty pink, in the form of Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage Rosé 2014, with its delicate colour, but ripe-flavoured raspberries and cream-infused flavours, with a hint of sweet cherry tomatoes; very savoury, very pretty and a perfect lunchtime wine.

    Medium Pinks

    I find these some of the most elegant and enchanting of Rosés, with their pretty, rose-pink and crushed strawberry hues. They also have juicy, succulent flavours of ripe berry fruits, laced with cream, and hints of citrus and fresh herbs.  They also make excellent food wines.

    Château du Donjon Rose MinervoisMany of these are from Bordeaux and South West France, such as one of my current flavours, the intensely-fruity, red cherry and raspberry-stashed Domaine du Donjon, Minervois Rosé 2014, with its generous, yet squeakily clean style.  Côtes du Rhône rose is also highly popular, and exudes scents and flavours of the Mediterranean summer, ranging from pale to mid pink in colour, with the Grenache grape, most prevalent. Spain is another a top producer of quality Rosés, many of them from Rioja, Navarra, and the north eastern area of Catalunya,  with the Garnacha grape dominating.

    Massard, Más Amor Rosado

    For a bold, dry but flavour-packed style, try the modern, graffiti-labelled Massard Mas Amor Rosado 2014, truly vibrant and exciting in its intensity of freshly-crushed summer pudding fruit, and hints of pomegranates and rose petals.

    Darker, Fuller Pinks

    The longer grape skins are left on the juice, the darker the colour will be – this also means that many of these fuller pinks will be deeper and richer in colour; some even resemble light reds more than rosés.  Richer coloured pinks often come from hotter climes, such as Australia, Chile, and California.

    There is still far too much dominance of sugary, luridly-pink bubblegum wines from Californian, although, there are a few sweeter styles which are well made and work remarkably well with spicy Indian food, with lots of chilli heat.

    Leyda Pinot Noir Rose Loica Vineyard Leyda ValleyNew Zealand produce some delightfully vibrant, sassy, rosé from Pinot Noir, with elegance and perfume. Chile is developing a bit of a reputation for delicious super-ripe pink wines, which have fragrance, opulence and bold, fruity flavours.  Leyda  Pinot Noir Loica Vineyard has a delightful freshness, with a bold colour , yet remarkably fresh raspberry-infused flavours, due to the cooling breezes from the neighbouring Pacific Ocean.

    Skillogalee RoséSkillogalee Handpicked Cabernet Malbec Rosé 2013 is a dark cerise-shade of pink from South Australia. As owner Dave Palmer told me recently ‘it’s Rosé with attitude’. It certainly is – bold and laden with rich raspberry and dark cherry-scented fruit, it’s dry, but the ripeness of the grapes give it an added fleshiness and richness of style, with an intensely of crunchy cranberry, pomegranate and hedgerow fruit flavours.

    Serving Rosé Wines

    The first rule is to chill all pink wines. They will taste deliciously fresh, refreshing and vibrant; even the boldest and darkest of roses will benefit from being chilled, as this will bring out the delicious, fruity flavours.

    Serve delicate, lighter style elegant pinks as an aperitif, a picnic wine, or with simple seafood and nibbles. Riper, pinker wines are great food wines, especially with dishes such as char-grilled prawns, tuna niçoise, grilled vegetables and platters of charcuterie.

    I’ve always been a fan of big, bold, succulent pink wines with oriental and spicy food – this is where the darker coloured, richer pinks, sometimes with a hint of sweetness, come into their own, and are vibrant and characterful enough themselves to match up to the heat and exotic spices of Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisine.

    Whichever you choose, enjoy, alfresco whenever possible; don’t take  wines too seriously – it’s all about fun, enjoyment and supporting the occasion. Happy Holidays.

    By Angela Mount

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