Rosé is perfect for summer…
Al fresco eating is one of the many delights of summer, and be it a BBQ, picnic or just lunch outside on the patio, the perfect drink for the occasion is a cold glass of pink wine. This might surprise those of you who were introduced to wine drinking via a glass of sweet, slightly fizzy Mateus Rosé from Portugal or the eponymous and dull “Rosé d’Anjou” from France. Until a few years ago, these wines were just about the only pink ones you could find in England but if you look in any supermarket or off-licence today, the range of rosé wines is impressive – and increasing in both size and quality. We are slowly coming into line with France and Spain, where much more rosé/rosado wine is made (and drunk) than white.
What makes Rosé different from white or red wines?
A short description of winemaking is needed. Some people might be surprised to learn that all grape juice is white. The colour of red wines comes from the skin of the grape, not the juice. So to make a red wine, the winemaker has to crush the red grapes and then leave the whole lot – juice, skins, pips – for about a week, not just to ferment but also to extract colour and body from the skins.
White wines do not need colour from the skins so the grape juice is run off after pressing and fermented on its own, giving the right colour and also producing a wine that is lighter in body than a red. To make a Rosé, the winemaker uses red grapes and starts fermenting with all the skins and pips. But after a short period (sometimes only 12 hours, never more than two days) the juice is run off the skins and is fermented on its own, just like a white wine. Not surprisingly this gives the end product a bit of a hybrid character – the wine is crisp, dry and refreshing but at the same time has enough structure and fruitiness to go well with food. Drink them fairly young which today (May 2013) means vintages from 2011, and 2012 as they become available.
You could try to make a rosé by blending white and red wines, but the result is usually the winemaking equivalent of a dog’s dinner. The practice is actually banned in the EU – except for Champagne (Champagne seems to have many unique rules!) where pink sparklers can be made as a blend of red and white – in reality white with a teensy dash of red. A few drops of red in a glass of white will turn it a nice rosé colour.
All wine-producing countries now make pink wines, but for the New World (principally USA and Australia) it is rather a case of getting on the bandwagon rather than continuing a local custom. In our opinion the best rosés come from France and, especially, Spain where they have been making and drinking them for centuries. Instead of a Rosé d’Anjou (how can a wine made from a grape called the Grolleau ever taste nice?) try the far superior Cabernet d’Anjou, made from the noble Cabernet Franc grape.
Our House Rosado is from Spain, Peregrino Rosado 2011 (DO Tierra de Léon, £7.25). It won a Wines from Spain Top 100 Award in 2012 (100 wines selected from over 900 entries). It is a dark pink colour, made from the very local Prieto Picudo red grape, and has a lovely strawberry/redcurrant nose and is the perfect all-through-the-BBQ wine. We also like it with fresh tuna and, like most rosés, with oriental food and grilled meats. Get some in case the BBQ season arrives this year!