By Rose Murray Brown MW Published by The Scotsman 13 June 2020
‘The ugly duckling of the wine world is emerging into a beautiful swan’.
That is the verdict of rose wine expert Liz Gabay MW, whose new in-depth study ‘Rose: Understanding the Pink Wine Revolution’ (£30 Infinite Ideas) is one of the first books highlighting the dynamism of rose’s fast evolving modern style.
Gabay, who lives in Provence, has been studying pink wine across the world for over two decades. She believes that it is now time to take it more seriously.
“Roses are often considered simple, fresh and undemanding, appealing to young, first-time drinkers”, she says. “It has benefited over the last twenty-five years from a boom in quality and volume….and winemakers are now getting creative”.
Skills for producing good rose have been mastered and winemakers are starting to do something different. Experimenting with oak, amphorae, lees stirring, maceration and different grape varieties is all very well, but there is a snag. ”Often the new styles are so different to rose wines most people know, that they have been difficult to sell…darker roses are considered unfashionable and complex roses can be too demanding”, says Gabay.
Pale pink rose is currently the height of fashion – popularised by celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie who bought Chateau Miraval in Provence marketing rose as a premium life-style wine – now so popular, they buy in grapes to satisfy demand.
But as Gabay shows, as she skims through the history of rose winemaking, dark roses have been popular in the past. Like dark coloured, cherry-fruited, silky tannic structured Tavel rose in southern Rhone, made with longer maceration (anything from 10 to 72 hours) than in other regions. During her dip into rose history, she details lesser-known historic wines like Rose des Riceys in Champagne’s Aube region, Cigales Rosado in Spain, Schiller in Germany and Cabernet d’Anjou in Loire.
Premium roses are now popular abroad - a good example is Sacha Lichine’s Chateau d’Esclans. “Lichine marketed his wine as the most expensive rose in the world, bringing in Bordeaux winemaker Patrick Leon and using techniques more akin to white Bordeaux with temperature controlled barrels”, says Gabay.
He had huge success with the Cote d’Azur yatching crowd, then took the American market by storm with his $95 Garrus rose – proving so popular he introduced Whispering Angel brand, from bought in grape, selling a phenomenal 4 million bottles of this alone. Provence rose is very fashionable in USA - 43% of Provence’s exports head across the pond.
Gabay believes that with our infatuation with pale pink styles, we are losing originality, creativity and regionality. She urges us to look for lesser-known varieties like Hungary’s Kekfrankos, Greece’s Xinomavro, Italy’s Lagrein Kretzer, Croatia’s Darnekusa or Moldova’s Rara Neagra.
Her writing style is conversational and easy-going - with plenty of tips for gourmets with interesting food matching ideas such as Slovakian roses with beetroot, Portuguese rose with salt cod and Greek’s pink retsinz with mezes. She studies bottle shapes, the problem of lightstrike (the damage caused by sunlight filtering through light coloured bottles) and winemaking – although it would have been interesting to hear more about the suitability of certain grapes used for rose making and colour management winemaking techniques.
For those who like statistics – she highlights the big boys of the rose wine world. France is the biggest rose producer with 31% of the world market, with Spain at 20%, USA 15% and Italy 9%.
Another interesting fact she notes is that 60% of Provence rose is made by cooperatives, but she is keen to point out they are very dynamic businesses
Gabay mentions the cash flow benefits of rose. “Franz Schneider of Artisan Wines in Austria doubled his rose production, reducing the red wines he made, so he could tap into the increased Austrian demand for rose and improve cash flow”. But – other producers warn – rose is fragile and if you don’t sell your rose, it can quickly deteriorate.
This is a worry this year for Philippe and Lynne Raimbault in Sancerre in Loire (pictured right). Due to the current Covid-19 crisis, they have two large US orders for Sancerre rose on hold – and worry they could be left with trying to sell 3000 bottles of 2019 rose back home.
However – it is possible that popular pink wine could play a big role in 2020. Many cash-strapped wineries in this current crisis, with limited tank space available due to delays on bottling lines, may increase their rose production. So we just might find that rose wine is the saving grace for some wineries in 2020 vintage.
ROSES AROUND THE WORLD:
Szekszard, Hungary: SEBESTYEN ROSE 2018 (11.5%)
Pretty pale pink blend of Kekfrankos and Zweigelt made by Szaba Sebestyen and his sister Csilla. Pink grapefruit, lime and cranberry, sleek elegant and dry.
Cotes de Provence, France: CHATEAU ST PIERRE TRADITION 2018 (12.5%) ***STAR BUY***
Fashionably pale pink, hints of herbs and spice, lovely balanced fruits and crisp dry length.
Rioja, Spain: MARQUES DE MURRIETA PRIMER ROSADO 2018 (13%)
£25 -£24 www.gourmethunters.com; www.selfridges.com
Surely Spain’s most stylishly packaged rose made from tricky Carignan grape – peppery, wild berry scents, strongly flavoured style, quite savoury with firm tannins. Definitely a gastronomic rose.
Bandol, France: DOMAINE DE TEMPIER ROSE 2018 (13%) ***STAR BUY***
I could not find a mention of this excellent domaine in Gabay’s book, but it does produce stunning age-worthy rose from low-yielding Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan. Rich peachy, intense, floral, spicy with fine long length.
Tuscany, Italy: CASTELLO DI POTENTINO ‘LYNCURIO’ ROSE 2016 (14.5%)
Light amber-coloured dry pink which is effectively a Blanc de Noir. Cranberry fruits, full flavours and bitter almond notes – made from Pinot Nero made beneath Monte Amiata by Englishwoman Charlotte Horton.
Join Rose’s 'Small French Wine Growers Virtual Wine Tastings’ in association with Sevslo Wine Thursdays 16 & 23 July: www.rosemurraybrown.com