The sun is now peeking through the clouds more frequently and temperatures are nudging higher. It’s a sure sign that summer is almost here. And that can only mean one thing – it’s time to crack open the rosé.
The history of rosé wine is a bit sketchy but what we do know is that it dates back to the Middle Ages. And another thing that’s certain is that, in recent years, it has become the wine of choice for many drinkers, especially on balmy summer days. The methods can vary, but the common factor in rosé production is that it involves early pressing of red grapes. This usually takes place after less than 24 hours of contact with the skins – a much shorter period than when it comes to making reds (typically several weeks). The shortness of the process leads to less colour and makes rosé wines less suitable for laying down. In other words, they are light and perfect for drinking right away.
As with any popular trend, rosé winemaking has gathered momentum this millennium. There are some areas where pinks outnumber reds and whites, particularly in parts of Southern France. L’Art du Vin figures for last summer showed a 15% rise in overall demand for our rosés. The summer heatwave no doubt played a part in that, but we expect the popularity to continue. Within the numbers we spotted a move to drier, more elegant rosés, with our customers favouring bottles in the £10 to £15 range.
The top seller was Le Paradou, an organic wine from the family-owned Château Pesquié in the Ventoux region of the southern Rhone. The domaine dates back to the early 1970s, when Odette and René Bastide took on what was then an area of rundown vineyards. In 1985, the ownership passed to Edith and Paul Chaudière, who moved things along by creating an independent winery – the area had previously been dominated by cooperatives. Since 2003, the estate has been run by their two sons, Alexandre and Frédéric, who have taken advantage of the favourable conditions to create organic wine. This dry and fruity rosé is refreshing when served chilled and is great with food. More recently, the brothers have taken on a new project a little further south in the rosé heartland of Côtes de Provence. The vineyard sits in the shadow of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, the imposing peak that is a recurring feature of Paul Cézanne’s paintings.
The Cotes de Provence wine is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Vermentino grapes. All three bring their own characteristics, with the Cinsault providing flavours of raspberries and strawberries, the Grenache being a source of colour and spice, and the Vermentino delivering freshness and acidity. Together, they create a wine that is a little lighter in colour than the Pesquié from Ventoux. Both wines from Le Paradou are well balanced and have all the hallmarks of a fine rosé. Although best enjoyed in the better weather, they are equally satisfying when conditions are not so kind – just close your eyes and dream that you’re in the South of France.