Guide to wine tasting – part 2

Published by Sally on May 2, 2010

A version of this article first appeared in France magazine, February 2010.

France makes nearly 30% of the world’s rosé wine. And all the main wine regions in France make it. In most places, for example, Bordeaux and Burgundy, rosé comes under the catch-all Bordeaux AC and Burgundy AC, but in some areas it takes the same more specific appellation as either the whites or the reds, such as Sancerre rosé. 

Much rosé production is dry, but the Loire Valley, which is the second largest producer of appellation contrôlée wine, also makes off dry and medium dry rosés in the Rosé d’Anjou and Cabernet d’Anjou appellations.

Another big chunk of rosé is made all across the south of France.  Here in the sunny Mediterranean, most wine production is red. The story goes that people needed something lighter and fresher to see them through the summer months, and so they produced pink from their plentiful black grapes.  And in the south-east, Provence has made rosé a speciality all its own.

Wines reviewed below

Wines reviewed below

Making good rosé is actually a tricky task, and some argue it’s the most difficult style to make – judging the colour just right; maximising the flavour and aroma compounds and keeping these during the fermentation process; getting the level of freshness and ‘refreshing-ness’ just right.

To do this winemaking work needs to be done with the grape skins, which hold the colouring pigments, hence white wine is made from white grapes and red wine is made from black grapes. Rosés, which need just a little colour, are therefore traditionally made from black grapes.

The way rosé is made in France (and the rest of Europe) differs from many new world rosés.  In the new world it is possible to blend red and white wine together. But in France (with the exception of Champagne, which can blend red and white), rosés must be made using only black grapes.  And the black grapes used must be in accordance with the local appellation or vin de pays territory. So Bordeaux rosés are made using merlot and cabernet sauvignon; Côtes du Rhône rosés are based on grenache, and so on.  

With just black grapes being used to make rosé, the juice infuses for a short time in contact with the colour-rich skins. The more time in contact with the skin, the deeper the rosé will be. Once the desired amount of colour has been absorbed from the skins, the juice is pressed off the skins and ferments on its own. Vin gris is made with just a quick squeeze of the grapes for the faintest colour hue.

More usually skin and grapes are in contact with each other for a few hours up to a day, and usually at cool temperatures, to retain as much natural grape and floral aroma as possible.  The juice is then drained off (saignée) for fermentation to take place, invariably in inert containers, and again often at cool temperatures. New oak influence is rare for rosés, where the emphasis is on fresh, primary fruit character, and a refreshing palate enlivener, and an attractive creamy texture as extra substance in place of tannin.

Provence has made rosé wine something of a speciality, and indeed this one region accounts for 5% of all the rosés in the world, and some 80% of the wines it produces are rosé. It typically has a very pale, yet bright, salmon-pink colour, and the paleness is something of a hallmark of the appellation.

In recent years, rosé wine has become much more popular the world over, perhaps partly because of its ‘inbetween’ style. Maybe the various shades of pink, shown off in clear glass bottles appeal to a frivolous side (though some of the wines are far from frivolous). It’s not usually called pink wine, though even this may be becoming trendy especially in the UK, where about 10% of the wine we drink at home is rosé, and growing.  

Chateau Haut-Rian, Bordeaux Rosé, 2008
£7.49 Uncorked 
Screwcap 12.5%
This property makes consistently steady wines and the rosé this year is no exception.  In accordance with Bordeaux grape varieties, this one’s made from mostly merlot, with a big chunk of cabernet franc, which is fruitier than cabernet sauvignon, the latter which makes up just 10% of the blend.  The colour is a deep salmon pink and the aroma is of baked strawberries.  Spicy red fruit flavours come through on this medium bodied wine. It has a good volume of fruit and attractive slippery texture. 

Domaine de Poujol, Coteaux du Languedoc 2008
£7.95 Tanners   
Screwcap 12%
This is made from a typical Languedoc assemblage of grenache, carignan, cinsault and syrah, at a domaine just north west of Montpellier.  It has an attractive bright rose petal pink colour which gives way to a soft floral perfume. Fresh strawberries and cream abound on the palate blending with a tasty fresh bon bon character. It is nicely balanced with plenty of rich flavour; and has modest alcohol too boot. The rich flavour persists in the mouth as long-flavoured primary fruit with the faintest hint of complexing aromatic spice. 

Château Miraval, Pink Floyd 2008, Côtes de Provence      
£11.99   Oxford Wine Company 
Cork 13%
Not some punning name but so monikered in honour of the band who recorded their album “The Wall” in Miraval’s studio in 1979. A mix of 80% cinsault with the rest grenache create this wine of rose petal pink.  A Wimbledon strawberries and cream nose follows through on the palate, which has a rich, full fruit flavour with good substance and volume of fruit. It’s smoothly textured, with the faintest sprinkle of black pepper on those strawberries. This is really tasty.

Andre Dezat et Fils, Sancerre Rosé 2008
£13.20  Tanners
Cork 12.5%
This producer makes one of the best white Sancerres, and their rosé lives up to their reputation. The colour is a bright salmon pink, the aromas are of fresh and ‘boiled sweet’ strawberries, with a hint of sweet allspice. It has the deliciously slippery smooth palate texture ideal in dry rosé. This medium bodied wine packs a concentrated flavour punch which lasts in the mouth; its succulent fresh weight and volume of fruit fleshes out the acid backbone with excellent balance and focus. This is a serious rosé with a long finish; really very good indeed.

Préceptorie de Centernach, Coume Marie 2007, Côtes du Roussillon                                         
£9.95 The Wine Society 
Cork  14%
One from the warm Mediterranean clime, and just from the dark, almost ruby-rose colour, it stands out as something different. It’s also sold a year older than most. Made from Roussillon grapes grenache, carignan and syrah, but has some subtle oak influence, which adds an extra dimension of creaminess and spice. This has a mulled spice and strawberry nose and palate, and a creaminess of texture and richness of cinnamon and nutmeg-dusted stewed strawberries. Even a few smooth, supple tannins are included in this serious rose that edges just a little way towards red.


2 Responses to “Guide to wine tasting – part 2”

  1. Sheral Schowe Says:

    I really enjoy your writing. I learn so much and use the information in my wine classes. You are one of the few wine writers I trust for accurate information. Can you tell me more about the white Sancerre? Is it Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc? I have not seen it in all of my travels to Sancerre. Must have had my eyes closed as I am a big fan of French rose.
    Are there other producers of rose in Sancerre? I am familiar with Chinon rose but none other in the Loire. Thank you again for your research and interesting wine writing.

  2. Sally Says:

    Hi Sheral
    Thanks for your kind words about my work.

    A little pink Sancerre, about 5% of total Sancerre production, is made, from pinot noir.

    As it happens, something approximating to 15% of total Loire production is rosé, under the three main appellations of Rosé d’Anjou, Cabernet d’Anjou and Rosé de Loire. A few of the better known appellations also make a bit of rosé, and Sancerre is one of those.

    A small amount of red wine is also made in Sancerre, also from pinot noir.

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