Brosé entered the wine lexicon a few years back via the U.S where sales of rosé wine are increasing at an astronomical rate (premium imported rosé is up 41% by volume since 2014 over there). It’s one of those annoyingly catchy hash-tag social media things that’s been propagated through twitter, though the main culprit in this instance seems to be Instagram. Search for #brosé and you’ll be confronted by a host of beautifully filtered images of metrosexual guys enjoying, nay revelling in their mutual sinking of the pink. The trend seems to be gathering pace here in London, though due to our shoddy summer will likely not hit its stride until next year (possibly).
The other day a bloke came into the wine bar/shop that I work in and walked out with a magnum of Triennes rosé, a decent Provencial drop from two Burgundy legends (Jacques Seysses of Dujac & Aubert de Villaine of DRC), fair play, if you’re after something pink that has plenty of pedigree.
He came back later that evening on the hunt for more with a couple of mates in tow, they polished off another couple of bottles of the pink stuff while loudly proclaiming how their various football teams would be dominating the soon to start premiership season. These weren’t pink polo shirt wearing, hoo-rah Henry types either, this was a bunch of lads that had decided to smash out a load of rosé in a wine bar rather than rounds of pints in their local boozer. O the times they are a-changing, indeed they are Bob.
This is no isolated incident and there seems to be a real increase in demand from heterosexual males specifically looking to drink rosé together. I would imagine that this has been spurred on by recent articles from a number of different media outlets.
Quick Rosé 101
There are two main ways to make rosé wine, the first is the most common and is much the same as normal red wine production. Grapes are crushed and then the juice is left in contact with the skins but for a shorter period of time than when making red wine, basically until sufficient colour/anthocyanins have been extracted from the skins of the grapes, giving a colour in between white and red. The other way is by blending finished red wine into finished white wine, this is really only ever practised in the making of Champagne and for some very basic rosé wines that will taste quite different to regular rosé.
Saignée is a third way of making rosé, a French term meaning ‘bled’, this is more rosé as an afterthought to making a more concentrated red wine than actually trying to make a high quality rosé. The winemaker will run off or bleed a certain amount of free run juice, this will increase the proportion of phenolics & flavour compounds to juice in the wine they are really concentrating on. This way of making rosé is often derided by serious rosé producers as it will make a light coloured wine that consumers often associate with quality that you are unlikely to find in what is produced, it’s basically opportunistic or miserly wine production. I’ve never bothered to do a serious comparative tasting of the differing production methods to see how big the quality differences are but it’s likely that there would be a significant difference as the wine maker isn’t really focusing on making the best possible rosé, just a more concentrated red.
The premier rosé region in the world is Provence (Champagne for sparkling), Taval in the Rhone Valley makes a deeper style and other regions that have a focus are the Loire Valley, Navarra in Spain and increasingly the West coast of North America due to a huge local demand.
Rosé & I
Personally I’ve never been the biggest fan of rosé, the reason for this has little to do with the colour (though I do feel many a rosé wine producer will happily sacrifice their wines character for a more popular, lighter salmon hue). To be honest I don’t blame them, depth of colour is a massive decider when people are buying rosé for some reason, 99% of the time the lighter the better. I can only assume that the reason for this is that many of the world’s best rosé wines come from Provence and are lighter in colour and that people associate darker rosé with cheaper, sweeter styles such as Gallo white Zinfandel.
The main reason I drink very little rosé is that they usually interest for me less than heavier whites or lighter reds. There are plenty of white wines that lean more toward red and lighter red wines that have far more character most rosé (and if you looked at them you might even be tempted to call them rosés). Having said that there are plenty of decent bottles of rosé out there and there’s a time and a place for all styles of wine.
My fondest rosé moment to date has been a bottle of Devaux Rosé Champagne, it was on a first date and we met for a picnic in Regents Park on a warm Summer’s evening as the sun set. I can’t imagine a better wine to have had at that moment in time, it was fresh, delicious and the perfect icebreaker (though I do remember enjoying the second bottle more – Sean Thackrey Pleiades XXII). Anyway, the date ended up lasting three days and we are now happily married with three children (Rose, Sean & Pleiades). Alright, that last bits not true, but it was an awesome date and a wine that I will always regard with fond memories.
Something I learnt many moons ago with wine is that there are always exceptions to the rule and opinions should be lightly held and experimentation welcomed. With this in mind I have gone out of my way to track down and taste (drink) some great bottles of rosé, the below are some of my favourite pink picks and wines worth tracking down regardless of their colour.
Rosé for….Cool Kids
Jérôme Prévost – La Closerie Fac-simile Extra Brut Rosé
France, Champagne, Montagne de Reims (Pinot Meunier)
Simply put, rosé champagne doesn’t get much cooler, better or harder to find than Prévost’s Fac-simile bottling. The Luke Skywalker to Sellosse’s Obi-Wan, he coaxes lazer sharp wines from his fossil heavy vineyards to the west of Reims. The blend here is dominated by Champagnes often maligned, later ripening Pinot Meunier grape (around 90%), the remainder is made up of Pinot Noir, pinot Gris & Chardonnay. One of only a handful of Champagne producers applying biodynamic practices, he never tops up his barrels so they develop a protective flor of the kind you may find in Jura or Sherry though the oxidised character of these wines are not found here, umami is a descriptor often used. Less than 3000 bottles are produced each vintage so if you ever come across this wine in a shop or on a restaurant list do not hesitate as it will be a rare occurrence. This wine is built for the cellar and will reward extended ageing, 2008 & 2009 are vintages to be sought out though due to labelling laws (he releases his wines too early to be allowed to state a vintage on the label), you will need to check a serial number on the back of the bottle. This code will start with LC and will have the last two digits of the vintage stated.
Rosé for….Orange wine lovers
Viña Tondonia Roasado Crianza 1993
Spain, Rioja (Tempranillo, Garnacha, Viura)
I’ve always been a huge fan of the white wines made by this most traditional of Rioja producers, the reds are good but not quite up there with the whites that they make, if you can ever track down a bottle of their rosé be sure to snap it up. This is the anti-thesis of most rosé wine, released only after extensive ageing in barrel & bottle, the most recent release at the moment is the 2000 which is 60% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo & 10% Viura and the wine spent four and a half years in oak and six years in bottle. Not for everyone this wine will appeal to orange wine lovers, it’s unique and singular.
A gentle yet caressing nose of dried rose petals, dried cranberry and fresh red grapefruit with a touch of smoke, quite meaty with a flighty stone and soil character.
In the mouth this would be hard to gauge, age wise, herbal and still quite fresh, firm, classy with some dried red berry fruit and a slight nutty note. This reminded me more of an orange wine rather than any rose I’ve ever tried and is a great food wine that would work well with everything from charcuterie to more spicy Asian dishes.
Rosé for…. Pinot-philes
Antica Terra Angelicall 2014
U.S.A – Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola-Amity Hills (Pinot Noir)
Winemaker Maggie Harrison worked at California cult producer Sine Qua Non for almost a decade before heading north to Oregon to start her own project focusing on Pinot Noir. Her wines are awesome and the rosé is no exception, made from Pinot Noir with the same care and attention and in the same way as her top Pinot wines. After about a week of skin contact or until the aromatics are exuberant enough to warrant it, she will syphon off the juice and then ferment with indigenous yeasts in barrel for a year. This is a wine made from an intense passion, it takes the same amount of grapes to make one barrel of her rosé as it does to make four barrels of her (more expensive) Pinot Noir. The wine is not cheap at over £90 a bottle but when you consider that her mentor at Sine Qua Non recently had a single bottle of his 1995 Queen of Hearts rosé sell for over £27,000 it’s not that crazy!
Rosé for….Foodies & the patient.
Domaine Tempier Rosé 2014
France, Provence, Bandol (Carignan, Grenache, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre)
The wines of Domaine Tempier are world renowned and if you’ve not read it I’d strongly recommend searching out a copy of ‘Adventures on the Wine Route’ by American wine importer Kermit Lynch whose strong links with the family have made this an incredibly popular wine in the states, it is arguably one of the greatest rosé wines of Provence and not only incredibly food friendly but built for the cellar and capable of significant bottle ageing.
Wild strawberry with sprigs of thyme, quite tight at this early age but a restrained floral character starts to come to the fore with a bit of air. There is a really attractive, broad palate weight here while still managing to be super fresh with a great acidic cut to the firm red berry fruit and mineral character. Needs a long decant if drunk so long, love to see where this goes with 5-10 years in bottle.
Rosé for…. Sipping on the Yacht darling.
Chateau Léoube – Secret de Léoube
What do billionaire business men spend their spare change on? Well, wineries in the South of France of course, you can’t let Hollywood celebrity couples have all the fun now can you! Chateau Léoube is owned by Lord Bamford the chairman of JCB who bought the run down 560 hectare estate that currently has 65 hectares planted following organic winemaking practices. Lord Bamford made the savvy decision to employ Romain Ott who is the son of Jean-Jacques Ott of the celebrated Domaine Ott. He grew up in the area and has a great feel for the place and passion for the wines that really comes through when you talk to him. The Secret de Léoube is their premium rosé and they also make olive oil and white & red wines with big aspirations. The bottle is beautifully etched and really is a thing of beauty, the wines not too shabby either with wild strawberry fruit and a glycerol richness that is very appealing.