We live in a time of rosé. The number of rosés in the shops is multiplying at an alarming rate. There are Greek rosés, English rosés, Malbec rosés, Sangiovese rosés, I’ve even spotted a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc rosé made by adding a little Syrah to a white wine. Most of these are ghastly so it’s comforting to know twas ever thus. Writing just after the war in the New Yorker*, A.J. Liebling observes: “In the late thirties, the rosés began to proliferate in wine regions where they had never been known before, as growers discovered how marketable they were, and to this day they continue to pop up like measles on the wine map.”
Then as now the reason these wines were not any good was not down to anything intrinsically wrong with the style and everything to do with how cynically most were produced: “The wines converted to rosé in the great wine provinces are therefore, I suspect, the worst ones – a suspicion confirmed by almost every experience I have had of them.” Note that Liebling suspects that the rosés are not so much made directly from grapes but concocted from inferior wines. Reminds me of that Sauvignon Blanc rosé.
For Liebling there was only one that would do, Tavel, a beefy Southern rosé made from Cinsault and Grenache. When he lived in Paris in the 1920s, it was his stalwart companion: “the taste is warm but dry, like an enthusiasm held under restraint, and there is a tantalizing suspicion of bitterness when the wine hits the top of the palate.” Part of what makes Tavel so good is that it’s almost a red wine, it’s a deep pink with some tannic bite.
Here are a few nice roses that I recommended in my Lady column this week. I hope Liebling would approve:
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Negrette Rose 2013 (£7.99)
Very simple wine packed with lots of strawberry fruit.
Sevilen Kalecik Karası R Rose (M&S £9.49)
This is from Turkey and comes in a silly bottle. It has a very herby nose and is quite full-bodied with some nice crunchy refreshing fruit.
Pizarros de Otero Bierzo Rose (Majestic £9.99)
So dark it’s almost a red wine, it smells like it’s going to be rich but it’s actually extremely dry and piquant with a whisper of tannin.
Domaine Houchart Saint-Victoire Rose (Wine Society £8.50)
My rose of the year so far. It has a lovely smell – honey, herbs strawberries – and it’s tangy with plenty of fruit but not overblown.
*Article is Just Enough Money taken from Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris.