Do you remember the heady days of the 1970’s? Some of you will, but for those not yet born or not yet imbibing wine, the phenomenon of rosé wine came upon us when the historic brand Mateus Rosé flooded the market with their iconic green flask-shaped bottle home to a slightly petillant rosé wine that was certainly not dry!
History of Rosé
This phenomenon was based on rosé wines of the past as the original rosé wines probably came from the middle east where co-harvesting both red and white grapes was the norm. Crude, foot trodden, pressing created a light pinkish coloured wine that became a common beverage throughout the ancient wine-making world.
Fast forward to the movement of trade into the Mediterranean when first the Greeks and later, the Romans, used the Port of Marseilles. Here they discovered the local wines were also pink but, importantly, of a better quality. By using thick-skinned red grapes from the local vineyards these erstwhile vignerons created a high-alcohol pink wine of distinction.
Provence, Style Defined
This style of wine was unique to Provence for many years until other parts of France also started to develop a lighter-coloured wine. Bordeaux with its Clairet and Anjou with its ubiquitous rosé were two such regions.
But it was Provence and its environs that benefitted the most as the fashionable Mediterranean resorts became synonymous with its development.
Portugal and California were next as the pink craze hit the big-time. Mateus was a truly global brand with the USA being ‘top-quarry’ for sales. Sutter Home from California had ‘accidentally’ created White Zinfandel (actually rosé) to great acclaim.
Europe too became fascinated with this better-quality pink wine and duly started (albeit on a small scale) to create rosé wines in and around wine making regions.
A New Revolution
We are now in the middle of a new rosé wine revolution as most winemaking countries have perfected their own versions of a dry or off-dry style. Sparkling wines have also delved deeply into this popular style of rosé wine with top, stylistic samples on most wine merchants shelves.
My three choices of rosé couldn’t be more different.
Wild House Grenache 2021 - £8.09
Starting with a food-friendly grenache rosé from Paarl in South Africa. This is a hot part of the Western Cape perfect for the gnarly grenache vines. With its copper hue Wild House Rose 2021 offers the taster a glimpse into a single varietal style of modern winemaking showing complex red fruits and spice. Great with Marinated Mackerel or BBQ’d Herby Chicken alike.
Lyme Bay Pinot Noir Rosé 2019 - £18.45
Next to Devon and the eponymous Lyme Bay Winery. This has been an excellent year for them as they have scooped loads of national awards for their range. Pinot Noir Rosé 2019 shows off a most gentle stylistic style with hints of Strawberries and cream. This is truly elegant and easily paired with summer salads or soft English cheese.
Sacha Lichine Single Blend Rosé - £12.99
Lastly a French rosé from Sasha Lichine (the winemaker behind the successful Whispering Angel), but this time offering a blend of cinsault and grenache from the stony vineyards of Herault in the Languedoc. Brightly coloured and floral to the nose at just 12% abv it’s a gentle sipper that lasts well into the palate. Try this with grilled halloumi or grilled Cornish sardines!
First published in the Western Morning News on 6 August 2022
Stephen Barrett is a wine writer and educator, learn more at stephenbarrett.com