In the pink

 

It’s thought of as a sunny day drink, but rosé is a versatile wine that comes in many styles and goes well with certain foods, writes JOHN WILSON

ROSÉ NEEDS SUNSHINE. Every effort to get us to drink pink has been stymied by our belief that you need a warm sunny day before you can crack open a bottle. As we don’t get too many of those, we don’t drink a lot of rosé in this country. This sun/rosé connection is a little unfair, as you can certainly drink it instead of most white wines and it goes really well with certain foods.

Some parts of Europe have a long tradition with rosé – the Loire Valley (Rosé d’Anjou, Chinon), Provence (remember those skittle-shaped bottles), the Rhône Valley, and much of northern Spain are the best-known. The latter two traditionally produced wines pale in colour, powerful in alcohol, and sometimes aged for a few years, too – the complete opposite to our idea of rosé today.

In Ireland, our first experience with rosé was Mateus, familiar to anyone who visited student flats in the 1970s and 1980s, when the bottle made a handy lamp base or candle-stick. Mateus, from Portugal, is still going strong, but nowadays, most of the rosé we drink is sweetish white zinfandel or blush wine from California.

In recent years, many predicted a big increase in sales of rosé worldwide, and virtually every wine-producing country tried their hand at it, with mixed results. Rosé can be made by a variety of methods. Possibly the easiest way, until recently banned in the EU, is simply blending red and white wine together. This was considered inferior by the EU powers, and therefore prohibited, although strangely Champagne, where the practice is widespread, was exempt. The alternative is to gently crush red grapes, and leave the juice in contact with the skins for a short period, usually 12-48 hours. After that, the wine is made in much the same way as a white. So technically, rosé is a very light-bodied red, but in most cases, tastes more like a white.

I still see rosé as a summer drink; perfect sitting in the sun, or better still for sipping on a balmy summer’s evening. Although one or two regions make some very smart versions, it shouldn’t really be expensive. If you do want to get a little more serious about your rosé, the 1601 off-licence in Kinsale stocks no fewer than 22 of them, and rosewine.iehas a selection of Provence rosés available.

For this tasting, I was joined by a group of tasters from The Irish Times staff. I asked them to imagine they were sitting out on a terrace in the summer sun, maybe with a nice salad in front of them. Creative types that they are, this did not cause any problems on a grey Friday evening. All of the wines below are dry or almost dry.

Collection 2011, Fiefs Vendéens, J. Mourat, 12.5%, €13.75Jean Mourat is a talented and innovative winemaker, based in the Vendée, a region not noted for wine. This rosé, made from 40 per cent Pinot Noir, 40 per cent Cabernet Franc, and 20 per cent Negrette (a grape usually grown around Toulouse in southwest France) is a beautifully aromatic wine with refreshing, light, strawberry fruits, and a crisp finish. Stockist: Wicklow Wine Co, wicklowwineco.ie, tel: 0404-66767

Château Haut-Rian 2011, Bordeaux Rosé 12.5%, €10.30(down to €9.37 until June 30th) This has featured in summers past, and went down very well with the tasters. “Love this – definitely one for lunch al fresco” said one. Light, fresh, juicy red fruits with a dry finish. Stockist: Wines Direct, winesdirect.ie, tel: 1890-579579

Château Bauduc 2010, Bordeaux Rosé, 13%, €12.99Several tasters loved the colour of this wine; some also liked the medium-bodied redcurrant fruits and crisp acidity. A dry rosé that would go down well with a summer lunch, or possibly with Thai food too. Stockists: Red Nose Wines, Clonmel, rednosewines.com; Curious Wines, Cork, curiouswines.ie.

Domaine Félines Jourdan 2011, Coteaux Béssilles, Les Fruites, 13.5%, €9.85“Easy like Sunday morning. A must for the beach bag,” said one taster. Another remarked, “Very cute label. I could see myself outside on a terrace, en fète, enjoying this”. Well-made and good value too, this has juicy, ripe strawberry and cherry fruits. Stockist: Wines Direct, winesdirect.ie, tel: 1890-579579

La Vieille Ferme 2010, Ventoux, 13.5%, €11“Smells really fruity, and is a bit more robust, has a bit more body than your usual rosé,” said one taster. This was the most popular of all the wines tasted. Medium-bodied with plenty of ripe but tangy cherry fruits. Stockists: bubblebrothers.com; Morton’s, Galway; Harrington’s, Beara, Cork; JJ O’Driscoll’s, Cork; Uruu, Bandon; Wilde Green, Dublin 6; John R’s Deli, Listowel; O’Keefe’s Deli, Cork; Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; The Stuffed Olive, Bantry.

Domaine d’Aupilhac Lou Maset 2010, Coteaux du Languedoc, Montpeyroux, 13%, €13.75This divided opinion a little, and seemed to go down better with the males in the panel. Pale, onion-skin colour with off-beat dark cherry and damson fruits, and good acidity, finishing dry. I would try this with a seafood stew, cold meats or a more substantial salad.

Stockist: Wicklow Wine Co, wicklowwineco.ie

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