Monday, 10 October 2016

A Rosé Fit for Angels

Producer: Château d’Esclans

Is it time for rosés in Singapore to bloom? Statistics from the Vinexpo/IWSR market study this year revealed that sales of rosé wine here grew by 24.2% between 2019 and 2014. However this was from an extremely low base and rosé still represents a drop in the ocean compared with sales of white and red wine (an exception being in the sparkling wine category where rosé champagne is doing quite well). “People in Asia are maybe five to ten years late to rosé,” asserts Alex Diard, Brand Ambassador for Château d’Esclans. “Now in Europe, and even in UK and the US, rosé is everywhere. It’s insane how many people drink rosé now – not only women, everybody is drinking rosé.”

Château d’Esclans played an important part in revitalising the rosé category. Owner and winemaker Sacha Lichine traded in a successful Bordeaux enterprise for a winery in sunny Provence and within a decade Whispering Angel became the most successful rosé brand in the world, rising from a production of 160,000 bottles in 2007 to 3.5 million bottles today. The consummate marketer, he created waves when releasing the world’s most expensive rosé, Garrus, prompting fine wine lovers to take a second look at the category. Distributed in Singapore by Magnum Spirits & Wine and Richfield Brands, Garrus retails for close to SGD200. Especially in the USA, rosé has become synonymous with the hard-partying, jet-setting lifestyle. Alex related a story where a yacht supplier contacted Château d’Esclans to obtain the exact dimensions for the 3 litre Garrus bottle to ensure that it would be able to fit inside the wine fridge they were constructing.

What are the elements for a great rosé? According to Alex, rosé should be refreshing, with not too much acidity, and critically, it has to be dry. The dryness gives more freshness to the palate and results in a better taste. This may come as a surprise to those whose first introduction to rosé (myself included) was that sweet confectionary known as White Zinfandel, but Provençal rosés generally contain little to no residual sugar. Château d’Esclans even excludes the use of Syrah, feeling that it adds too much of a candied note to the wine.

The labelling of the wines have recently been changed for better clarity. In ascending order of quality, the Château d’Esclans portfolio is now comprised of Whispering Angel, Rock Angel (previously called Esclans), Les Clans and Garrus. The Les Clans and Garrus brands have also been given greater prominence on their respective labels. With the exception of Whispering Angel, all the fruit comes from the winery’s own vineyards and are vinified in 600 litre oak barrels. An optical sorting machine scans each grape coming into the winery and discards those that do not meet pre-programmed requirements.

Consumer perception of rosé as an unsophisticated ladies drink has been a thorny issue in its adoption, but things are starting to change. In the past year #brosé has trended on Instagram and Twitter, and the success of Eddie McDougall’s Rosé Revolution wine festivals in Asia show that rosé has finally acquired that elusive chic factor. Two factors in particular hint at a successful future for rosé in Singapore – a savvy, well-travelled populace and a warm climate that practically cries out for something light and refreshing. The success of Garrus shows that quality in winemaking, whether in producing white, red or rosé will be recognised. Says Alex, “When we started ten years ago [with Garrus], people thought we were nuts, but now we are sold out every year.”

Tasting notes:

Whispering Angel Côtes de Provence Rosé 2015 – Produced by Caves d’Esclans from bought-in fruit. Primarily Grenache, Rolle (a synonym for Vermentino) and Cinsault. The wine shows a barely-there salmon hue and a lightly aromatic nose of red fruits and blood orange. Medium acidity and length. It’s a well-made dry rosé, consistent and straightforward.

Château d’Esclans Rock Angel Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013 – Why the name Rock Angel? According to the winery, “It all started with a whisper… Now it’s time to rock”. Very light pink colour. Slight vanilla and smokey aromas, blossoming on the palate with notes of cream, tangerine and lemon. A notable step up in body and concentration from the Whispering Angel. Very impressive with attractive flair and confidence.

Château d’Esclans Les Clans Côtes de Provence Rosé 2008 – The wine went through 10 months bâtonnage (lees stirring) twice a week. Unfortunately the weakest wine of the tasting, past its drinking window and showing tired fruit with oxidative notes. In fairness, surely any rosé would struggle after eight years.

Château d’Esclans Garrus Côtes de Provence Rosé 2010 – Should this even be considered a rosé? It smells like a top-end white Burgundy. From the best quality lots of Château d’Esclans, given loving treatment by the winemaker. Creamy and mid-bodied with zippy acids that tingle the cheeks. A refined palate of lemon and grapefruit, bone dry with great fruit intensity.

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