It may have escaped many readers, but last Saturday was National Rose Wine Day – one of those promotional wheezes designed to beef up business in almost any consumer sector, which also does give an excuse to journalists, now and again, to focus on the product itself.
Well, I’m glad that I didn’t on this occasion, since much of the weekend was a bit gloomy and was followed by some pretty wet weather in the early part of the week: not the obvious time to open a bottle of iced rose in the garden.
As I write in midweek, it’s pouring down again and the heating is on… but, the forecast for next week, which also heralds the official first day of summer, is much better and suggests we might be getting a few warm evenings.
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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Therefore, with fingers crossed, we are looking at food-friendly, easily approachable rose wines. And for this column we are skirting round the luxe end of rose, ie Provence, which has set the trend for both jazzy bottles and higher prices, and focusing on the rest of France with some wines for everyday drinking – that screw-topped bottle you grab out of the fridge to plonk on the garden table with some tumblers and a bowl of pasta, take on a picnic or buy for a barbecue – and also, since rose is now a more grown-up drink than before, we have some slightly more serious wines for the dinner table.
And, to avoid repetition, all these wines are ideal with almost any kinds of foods, but particularly tomato-based Mediterranean cuisine, whether it’s a simple salad or a fish soup, lighter barbecued foods, particularly something like grilled mackerel or sardines, as well as lightly spiced Asian dishes.
While we may not be in Provence, its influence is felt through the pale but interesting styles, with tangerine/orange, herb and citrus-inflected flavours and the sculpted “look at me” bottles. It is even apparent at the relatively budget end in such wines as the crisply refreshing La Dame En Rosé 2018 (£6.00 marksandspencer.com), with its typical light-blush colour, made from a characteristic lightly spicy carignan/cinsault/grenache blend, which could easily be mistaken for a Provencal rose but actually hails from south of Bordeaux in the Gironde in southwest France.
In a very similar vein from the same producer is the Cruset Rose 2018 (£7.00 sainsburys.co.uk) which is largely grenache with syrah and cinsault in the mix.
M&S has a generally very decent range of summer roses, which also includes the a non-Provencal-style Gold Label Rose Pays de L’Aude 2018 (£7.00 marksandspencer.com), made near Beziers in the Cathar area of the Languedoc from a shiraz/grenache blend and therefore a little beefier, fruitier and darker in colour.
All three are great little party/barbie/fridge-door kinda wines, made from typical southern French-rose grape combinations. For an interesting alternative, the Les Vignobles Foncalieu Griset 2018 (£8.95 albionwineshippers.co.uk; £8.99 affordablewine.co.uk), from one of the best cooperatives in the Languedoc, derives from the relatively rare sauvignon gris grape and is bone dry, with very light and fragrant red-and-citrus fruit character and a slight smokiness about it.
Recognising that rose is great for parties and all kinds of summer gatherings, more producers are producing magnums, which do have a bit of a “wow” factor when you pull one out of the fridge. So, moving up the price bracket just a little, heading east across France and available in two sizes, the La Balade de Coline Rosé Les Coteaux du Rhone 2018 (£9.25 for 75cl; or the 2017 is £15.95 for 150cl; davywine.co.uk) is a local cooperative-produced vin de pays from the Vaucluse; a very pale pink, light, delicate syrah/grenache combination; while with more citrus-inflected grenache/syrah, the Roséfine IGP Méditerranée 2018 (£11.00; or £23.00 for 150cl; oddbins.com) has a bit more spice and body about it.
Once, it was hard to spend much on rose, but now there are opportunities aplenty if the occasion calls for something more sophisticated, with perhaps some lobster, langoustines or crab on the menu.
Staying in the south, the Jardin de Roses 2018 (£14.95 sohowine.co.uk) from usually excellent producer Paul Mas ticks all the P-word boxes with this syrah-dominated blend from the foothills of the Pyrenees: the elegant stippled bottle, romantic name and pretty label enclose a wine of pale, orange-tinted pink, with complex and spicy red-fruit flavours.
To get something different from these syrah/grenache/cinsault etc combinations, you have to move north to the wider Burgundy area and the Louis Jadot Coteaux Bourguignons Rose 2017 (£12.99 noblegrape.co.uk), made from the signature beaujolais grape gamay and, while still a very pale pink, with creamy complexity added to the juicy red-berry fruits. Rose from Beaujolais itself is even more of rarity, but the newly arrived Le Rose De Bel Air (£9.60 tastebudswines.co.uk) is, again, stylishly pale, but quite full-flavoured, with aromas of tangerines and mouth-filling red-fruit flavours.
And, er, the stylish label speaks more to the P-word than it does to normal beaujolais wines, of which there is no mention on the front. Finally, to Sancerre, which of course is also not widely known for its roses, although there are some excellent light reds in the whole Loire area. Here, the key red grape is pinot noir and the Joseph Mellot Sancerre Le Rabault 2017 (£19.99 northandsouthwines.co.uk) is a perfectly elegant dinner-party rose, its brighter red colour reflected in precise pinot cherry-fruit flavours, in a reassuringly normal bottle. That’s enough rose to get the summer started, but let’s just check the weather forecast…