A friend of mine once said that rosé is rosé, and they’re all crap until you find a good one; and when you do, that’s the one you drink! According to him, no matter the grape, style, price or country of origin, they couldn’t be judged like other wines because they were not deserving of such serious treatment. This fellow is a wine professional, and to a degree, I agree with him.
How is Rosé made?
Rosé is made from red grapes; the juice being allowed to settle with the skins for a short period. Just enough to absorb colour, flavour and texture. Rosé can be dry, sweet, or bubbly. And if that weren’t enough, nowadays there is such a plethora of styles, flavours and textures to make further generalisations difficult. Winemakers are blending red and white grapes, experimenting with skin contact (white grapes!) and through lees contact, enhancing the creaminess.
Traditionally, fine wine of any stripe was made using only the ripest grapes. Avant-garde wine producers, used to pushing boundaries, are using multiple harvests to enhance freshness, fruit complexity and textural sensations. Style aside, the prices here can be a bit rich and are sold and marketed to those with money to burn and for whom ‘drinking cool’ trumps class.
Rosé styles and tastes
I can still remember when sweetness was typical in rosé. Most, if not all, wine professionals wouldn’t give the time of day for off-dry rosé, but I happen to believe that it has its place. What better wine to match with a variety of dishes from the local Chinese takeaway? Pizza, thai, meat cooked over wood, middle eastern, antipasto, Indian (works best with very spicy dishes, such as Vindaloo) and pasta dishes. The other bonus of sweeter rosé is that they’re cheap. The fact that they are not taken seriously, as if dryness signals sophistication, ensures you pay a fair price.
The best rosés are, of course, wines of supreme refreshment. When I imagine a session wine, I need a wine that is fresh, but doesn’t tire the palate, and has enough interest to keep me coming back for more. I was a heavy smoker once, so I am used to compulsion and the need to be constantly sipping and eating. Rosé is perfect.
The most famous rosé in the world is from Provence, no doubt elevated by the glamour and fantasy lifestyles. They can, however, be magnificent and although much of it is pleasant and well made, there are bottles to be had that are said to age for many years. I’ve put a few in the cellar, but will have to wait a few more years to draw any firm conclusions. Bandol rosé is the epitome of Provence rosé. Textural, layered, spicy and rich – if you want to have lobster bisque or bouillabaisse without pink fizz, look no further. Luxurious comes to mind and there really is something grand about a fine bottle of Bandol. Like staying in a beautiful hotel or tucking into an expensive meal, Bandol rosé is a wonderful, affordable splash of Hollywood.
So was my friend right? Is rosé just rosé? Find one you like and who really cares, just drink it; don’t think about it? Not quite. Rosé like any wine has its place and with a diversity of styles and price points there is something to suit most wine lovers’ tastes and budget. Affordability and versatility is perhaps a wines most important quality, unless it purports to be particularly fine or grand, and even the most expensive rosé can be slugged by most of us. Ave it!