Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Through Rosé Tinted Glasses

Looking through the articles on this blog, I see that coverage on rosé wines has been rather sparse.  This is due to two reasons, the first being that rosé wines are not that popular in Singapore, and also because I have not come across many particularly exciting wines of this ilk. Wine connoisseurs tend not to take rosé very seriously, regarding it as a simple thirst-quencher for the summer months. Considering that Singapore is perpetually swathed in hot and humid conditions, it is a head scratcher why we don’t drink more rosé locally. Too wimpy a drink to be seen with perhaps? The rosé-themed parties I have been to were well-attended, but the gender skew towards women was plain. Yet when opening a bottle rosé at private dinners, both sexes are up for a glass. It seems that men like drinking rosé too, they are just loathe to openly admit it.

There are several ways to make rosé, but all of them require the use of black grapes, as it is the skin of the grape that provides colour for the wine. One method is to bleed off some of the juice during the early part of the fermentation, which will result in a light-coloured rosé from the juice that is extracted, and a more concentrated red wine from the juice that remains in contact with the skins. This is called the saignée method and is popular in California. If the winery only intends to produce rosé wine, then the crushed grapes will be macerated together with the skins for a short period before the juice is separated (through draining or pressing) to continue fermenting. This direct press is the usual method by which rosé wine from Provence is made.  The third way of making rosé wine is to simply blend both white and red wine together, but in Europe this is only commonly practiced for sparkling wines. The method of production has an impact on the final taste. Rosé wines made via direct press are lighter and fruitier, with higher acid levels as the grapes will have been picked earlier. The saignée method generally results in a rosé with more varietal character and riper fruit.

There is great disparity in the quality of rosé wine available in the market today. Cheap, sugary stuff such as Arbor Mist White Zinfandel (made with high fructose corn syrup!) bears more resemblance to soft drinks than to wine. On the other hand, Provence in the south of France has made a name for high-quality rosé made from Cinsault and Grenache grapes. Full-bodied versions are to be found in Tavel in the Southern Rhone region. Australia has embraced the rosé revolution with examples made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Grenache and Tempranillo.

How does rosé fare in the food pairing stakes? Surprising well in fact, due to its refreshing acidity and low tannins. It is a delicious match with Chinese cuisine such as dim sum and steamed fish, and is versatile enough to handle spicy Indian food such as tandoori chicken. Rosé champagne is a terrific aperitif, while off-dry rosés go well with fruit platters. A splash of chilled, refreshing pink is also welcome at a party or outdoor barbeques.

If you’re dipping your toes into rosé wines for the first time, listed below are some reliable and wallet-friendly examples. Younger vintages, if available, are preferred as most rosés do not age well.

TarraWarra Estate Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 – Crisp, light and bone-dry, this wine from the Yarra Valley conveys savoury red fruit and light herbal notes. A valiant attempt at a serious rosé through dedicated vineyard plots that are picked early to maintain natural acidity. Try it with a garden salad or selection of cold cuts.

Available from Wine Directions.
Château Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013 – Produced by the Perrin family for celebrity couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Once Wine Spectator ranked the 2012 vintage as one of the top 100 wines of 2013 (coming in at number 84), wine lovers couldn’t get enough of it. It’s easy to see why this blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Rolle is popular – it is well-made, clean and fresh with attractive notes of pomelo, strawberries and a touch of whipped cream. The transparent, bulbous bottle allows the coral-pink colour of the wine to show through, making for an eye-catching display.

Available from Wine Exchange Asia.

Château d’Esclans Whispering Angel Côtes de Provence Rosé 2014 – Winemaker Sacha Lichine, son of legendary wine salesman Alexis Lichine seems to have inherited his father’s knack for marketing. With the singular goal of raising the image and reputation of rosé wine, the ex-owner of Bordeaux property Château Prieuré-Lichine has created a range of Provençal rosés that span all price points, and its wood-aged Garrus sets the record for most expensive rosé in the world. Whispering Angel is the winery’s basic offering, made from estate-grown and bought-in fruit. Showing a very pale salmon colour, the wine is delicate, light and refreshing with notes of tangerine, cranberry and forest berries. Although I wish that the wine would speak a little louder, this is a competent standard-bearer that has the added benefit of wide distribution.

Available from Richfield Brands.

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