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Most winemakers have a little secret – a wine they make just for friends and family. What’s surprised me over the years is what that personal stash very often turns out to be. It’s not, as you might guess, experimental, or esoteric, or a skim of the very best grapes, but a wine style that for ages had zero status in winemaking circles: rosé.
Yes, I’ve been to bodegas in Rioja and castles in Tuscany where the rep is built on magnificent reds, but when friends come round they crack into the chilled pink. ‘It’s very hot in summer,’ they always say, ‘So we make this just for ourselves.’
It makes perfect sense. The rest of us love rosé, too. It’s refreshing. Also, in terms of relaxation signals, the sight of a glass of rosé is right up there with the toes-on-sunlounger selfie and the smell of sun cream. It says summer and sunshine, and, ‘Oh, is that the end of the bottle already? Do we have another in the fridge?’
It was the voluptuous bottle shape and almost impossibly pale pink of the rosés from Provence that initially got me hooked. You can now find pale rosés from almost anywhere because everyone is at it – trying to out-Provence Provence.
The gold rush to produce pale pink wines has led to a few eyebrow-raisers. Among them, a new wine simply called Pale Rosé, from Blossom Hill, whose country of origin (Spain) is hidden in small print on the back label. No mention of a grape, either – the colour is all that counts.
There’s also a pink sauvignon blanc from New Zealand – Peter Yealands Sauvignon Rosé 2018 (£9.99, Waitrose). So, wait, someone said, ‘Sauvignon blanc is popular and rosé is popular, let’s have both in one bottle.’ How does this work? Sauvignon is a white grape, here ‘blushed’, it turns out, with a little merlot.
The wine tastes almost exactly like a white sauvignon blanc (perhaps slightly softer, with a warmer tang of pink grapefruit and passion fruit). But we drink with our eyes – literally, because seeing pink in the glass has been scientifically shown to change our perception of a wine’s taste – so it does make sense.
For me, there is something special about rosé from Provence – a gentle caress of sandalwood, and a subtle sophistication. Many cheaper bottles don’t have this – they just taste insipid – which is why if I’m going to drink Provençal rosé, I want it to be a good one.
I love Corsican pinks too, though they’re harder to find. One rosé specialist that does both Provence and Corsica brilliantly is Yapp Brothers – you could order a mixed case and not have two bottles the same.
For more budget wines, I often look elsewhere. One great rosé from this year’s new crop is the Exquisite Collection Touraine Rosé 2018 (£5.99, Aldi) – a crisp, dry, fragrant pink that is made in the Loire in France from gamay, malbec and cabernet franc, and smells like a bowlful of red summer berries on a table in the leafy shade of a sunlit garden. Absolutely delicious.
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Victoria Moore is an award-winning wine columnist and author. Her most recent book is the The Wine Dine Dictionary (£20, Granta).
All prices correct as of May 2019.