Pale Rose without the hefty price tag
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
The rose fashion seems to have a life of its own, with every wine producing region, every style, still, semi sparkling, sparkling and even fortified Port. Sweet, medium or dry, dark almost red to pale almost white. From being less than 5% of sales in the UK fifteen years ago, rose is now nearly a third of all wine sales.
To say it is confusing for the consumer is an understatement! So let me try to provide a simple guide, and some recommendations from my own tasting, although I have to admit that the plethora of new pink wine appearing has left me having only tasted a fraction of what is available.
First some ground rules. Don't be put off by screw caps, as there are some very good wines using them, they make great bottles to keep in the fridge for an occasional slurp, and in fact there is a strong argument that they form a better closure for a wine to be drunk youngish than a traditional cork.
Secondly, don't be put off by colour, even though the fashion is for very pale pink wines. Some people think of pale as dry and dark pink as sweet. This is by no means the case with sweeter versions in all shades. Generally darker roses like Tavel or Bandol and some Italian wines are just as dry but have a bit more intensity of flavour, more towards red than white. Tavel and Bandol produce some of the very greatest roses.
Thirdly, generally rose wines are best drunk young and fresh, the exception being the more substantial "meaty" Tavels and Bandols. This is particularly the case for the less expensive more everyday wines, so choose the latest freshest vintages.
Fourth, I think all rose is best drunk chilled, not so chilled that you can't taste or smell all the character and flavours. Most roses have a lovely bright summer fruit character often underpinned by ripe citrus or current brightness. This is best brought out by chilling.
Fifthly, roses tend to be one of the most versatile wines to pair with food, be that a simple sandwich, cold meat salads, grilled fish and barbecues. They also make excellent aperitifs and to drink on their own.
Let's run through the main categories.
Firstly fizz. Pink Champagne is expensive, it is a luxury, and it is fun. I am not really sure why the Champagne Houses believe they can charge so much more for the pink than the white Champagne, it is not that more expensive to produce, often with a little red pinot noir, one of the grapes used, blended when they always blend to give some colour. But consumers certainly accept the premium, and most wines are excellent. One House I really like, and which I think is reasonable value is Bruno Paillard but hunt around for a good price as it can vary between £30 and £40 a bottle.
Also, a tip if your fizz is in a clear glass bottle. If you let a lot of sun-light or neon light get to it, the Ultra Violet rays will damage the wine and rapidly make it smell a bit sulphurous and pongy. It is the same you may have discovered with a pint of beer sitting in bright sunlight outside a pub, So on a sunny summer's day try to keep your fizz in the shade. Many producers use dark green UV protective glass bottles, at the expense of showing off the colour. One such producer is an English, Cornwall producer, Camel Valley, which now has the Prince of Wales's Royal Warrant and is well worth the £32 that Waitrose charge for it.
Hush Heath Estate Balfour 1503 Rose is another excellent English sparkler, this time made in Kent and on sale in Morrisons for an excellent value £19.
Next I have to mention one of the first pink wines to captivate the British public, Mateus. Made famous because Princess Margaret used to ask for the fizzy pink wine in the pretty bottle. If you like a touch more sweetness, Mateus is for you, although it is skilfully balanced with lovely crisp acidity and the hint of bubbles. I taste it periodically, and it really is a well crafted and enjoyable wine. Mateus Original is sold in many retailers for between £5.50 and £6. Try it again, I think you might be surprised how good it is for this modest price.
Whilst there are good pink wines from everywhere - Australia, South America, South Africa, Spain, Italy and Portugal, the main production area for pale pink wine is the South of France, with the best and by far the most expensive coming from Provence, better value from the Coteau d'Aix en Provence, and sometimes even better value from the Languedoc Roussillon area.
Of the top Provence and Cotes de Provence Roses, Whispering Angel, Domain Ott, Chateau Minuty, Mirabeau and Miraval, I am keen on Chateau de Berne Rose at £9.99 in Waitrose. I am probably biased as I was invited to stay there when I was a trainee back in the 1970's and fell in love with the beautifully restored Chateau, its Belgian owner, designed the winery with stained glass, like a sort of Chapel or Temple of wine, and of course the pale elegant summer fruit flavoured wonderfully refreshing wine, with a hint of minerality and a tiny refreshing bite of tannin on the finish.
If you feel like splashing out on a more full bodied meaty wine, Bandol Rose, from Domain Tempier, and Tavel Rose can be fabulous also, but these are £30 a bottle plus for the best.
Sancerre Rose from the Loire can also be wildly expensive, but Tesco's have an own label Sancerre Rose for £12, which is fresh and crisp. Anjou used to produce sweeter styles of pretty ordinary rose, but in recent years have upped their game. Aldi have a good "Specially selected" Rose d'Anjou, made traditionally from a blend of the Grolleau and Gamay grapes, an off dry style fresh and fruity for £6.99.
I finish back in the South of France where there are some good fresh fruity crisp wines being made in the Coteaux d'Aix en Provence. Pale and good value, I like Morrisons L'Escarpe for £8.75, Waitrose Blue Print own label Coteaux de Provence 2020 for £8.99, and Tesco's Finest own Label for £7.20.
Most of these roses are not too high in alcohol either, which is a huge attraction for a hot summer's day, normally around 11%, and so much lighter and fresher for it.
Christopher Burr, MW,