The rosé renaissance

I was recently invited to a garden party taking place in mid-June. My first thought (cynic alert) was that the “garden” element of the party is extremely ambitious. British weather is notoriously temperamental – the classic state of affairs in June is wet barbecues and suspended Wimbledon matches. However, it turned out that my scepticism was uncalled for – not only was it the longest day of the year (16 hours & 38 minutes of daylight recorded in London) but also one of the sunniest days of the year.

There is a point to this story – this hasn’t turned into a blog about meteorology. I’d be hopelessly unqualified to do that.

On my way to the party, it crossed my mind that the uncharacteristically flawless weather makes it the ideal day for some chilled rosé. You can imagine my delight when I arrived and set my eyes on six magnums of AIX (Provence) and Sancerre (Loire Valley) rosé chilling on enough ice to make an eskimo smile.

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According to research conducted by Nielsen, rosé accounts for one in every eight bottles of wine bought in Britain’s shops. Last year, sales of rosé in supermarkets and off-licenses almost hit the £650 million milestone. The rising trend isn’t limited to Britain either – rosé outsells white wine in France – and in 2012 the French consumed over 8 million hectolitres of it. That’s a lot of pink!

In spite of this “pretty in pink” trend, however, there are a number of misconceptions about rosé that batter its reputation.

1. “Rosé is made by mixing red and white wine together”
Generally not true. The pink drink is made by crushing red grapes and letting the juice (the nerdy/technical term is “must”) stay in contact with the skins for a few hours to a few days – this process is called maceration.
Separately, rosé is also made as a by-product of red wine – the winemaker siphons off some of the juice from the red wine after a short period of time and ferments it on its own. This is called saignée (“bleeding”), resulting in the production of a rosé alongside a more concentrated red wine (two for the price of one!).
In some wine regions, blending (i.e. mixing red and white together) sometimes occurs, but it isn’t common. In fact it’s illegal in France – the one exception to the rule is pink Champagne.

2. “Rosé is just for girls”
To all the men that shy away from drinking rosé, know this: real men don’t just wear pink, they drink pink too.
On a serious note, rosé is an extremely versatile wine for food pairing. It has the fruit to stand up to complex-flavoured dishes such as tapas; it has the delicateness to complement lighter dishes such as seafood and shellfish; it can have the body to stand up to robust meat dishes, it has the acidity to cut through creamy sauces; it has the refreshing dryness to beautifully balance Mediterranean dishes…
You get the point – rosé is a great (yet underrated) food wine.

3. “Darker rosés are of a lesser quality than lightly-coloured rosés”
The colour of a rosé wine isn’t an indication of quality or price. For example, Rioja rosé and Malbec rosé both tend to have a deep colour, but that doesn’t make them inferior to their lighter-coloured counterparts. The colour simply demonstrates the amount of time the juices have been in contact with the skin during maceration – sometimes it is just a few hours, sometimes a couple of days.

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I don’t think I’m wearing rosé-tinted glasses (sorry – I had to get one pun in there) by saying that rosé’s poor reputation is undeserved. What’s produced today is nothing like the sickly sweet stuff that used to be all the rage in the US (most of it White Zinfandel produced in California). The trend is very much in favour of dry, complex, fruity, delicate wines that are absolutely delicious paired with food or on their own as an aperitif.

Some call it the “rosé rennaissance”. Wine snobs, take note!

Grapeful is a mobile app that helps you pair wine with food, discover new wine styles, view wine lists of certain restaurants, share wines with friends, impress a date with fun facts about wine, and much more. The app is available to download for free from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store

5 thoughts on “The rosé renaissance

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