Sunday, 4 June 2017

Different Shades of Pink

Eight years ago, a group of us were at the Barton & Guestier Wine School in Bordeaux, where the facilitator presented us three glasses of wine to taste. The twist being that these wines were served in opaque black glasses so as to remove any preconceptions that colour might give. While most of us were able to pick out the red wine, a surprise was that most of us mistook the rosé for a white. Did this suggest that taste-wise there was very little difference between a rosé and a white wine? Would our tasting notes have been different had we been able to see the colour? Research certainly indicates so. A study by Frederic Brochet and Denis Dubourdieu in 2001 found that tasters perceived a white wine as having the odour of a red wine when coloured red.

Rosé is definitely closer to a white wine than a red. It should be served chilled and is prized for its refreshing quality rather than dense tannins. There is however more than one way to make rosé wine. The winemaking method chosen, along with the grape variety will influence the final colour of the wine. An article in Decanter magazine written by Richard Hemming MW indicates that the current vogue is for pinker shades that are not too orange and not too dark. It should also be noted that modern rosés are for the most part dry rather than sweet.

The first method of making rosé is via direct press. Red grapes are picked then sent to winery, where the skins are broken by a crushing machine and gently pressed to yield a pale pink wine.  Some producers may allow the crushed grapes to soak for a few hours in order to extract more colour, a process known as maceration. This is the common method used in Provence. The second method of making rosé, widely practiced in the California, Bordeaux and other regions where red wine is the primary focus, is the saignée, or bleeding method. A proportion of wine is drained off during the red winemaking process before it has completed fermenting. The drained-off wine becomes the rosé, while the remaining red wine becomes more concentrated. A third method is to simply blend red and white wine together, but this is seen as the lazy man’s way to make rosé. It’s the method used to make rosé champagne though, so I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.

What’s the main difference between the first two methods? Purists would argue that the direct press method yields a better rosé as the grapes are harvested for the express purpose of making a rosé rather than a red wine, as per the saignée method. This means that the grape varieties, as well as the harvest time, will have been selected to emphasise freshness and light fruit character. Rosés made using the saignée method tend to be darker with more fruit character, and no doubt this will also find some fans who prefer a meatier rosé. Grenache, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Zinfandel are some of the more common grape varieties used for rosés.

The recent Rosé Revolution tasting held at Fort Canning Hotel provided a great opportunity to compare rosés from around the world. The majority of wines hailed from Provence in France, but there were also rosés from Italy, New Zealand, Spain and Australia. The tasting was part of a series of annual events in Asia celebrating the pink drink organised by Flying Winemaker Eddie McDougall and his team. If you missed out on it and don’t want to wait until next year, there will be another event called Rosé by the Beach coming up on 22nd July.

Tasting notes:

WineNot “Les Enfants Terrible” Côtes de Provence AOP 2016 – Possessing a very pale salmon colour, this cheerful wine nonetheless exhibits plenty of red berry fruit. The blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah is light and balanced, making for a refreshing sip.

Chateau Montaud Côtes de Provence AOP 2016 – This is a very classic Provençal rosé, brilliantly defined with savoury notes of peach and tangerine. Goes down a treat. The wine is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Tibouren.

Pont des Arts Chêne Bleu Rosé Vaucluse IGP 2016 – Part of the Pont des Arts collection, this wine features artwork by Spanish painter Miquel Barceló. The palate is as abstract and textured as the label, a shifting landscape of flavours starting with grapefruit, then showing mandarin orange, lime, cherry and starfruit. The vineyards are located in the Vaucluse IGP which lie on the western end of Provence bordering Southern Rhône. 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah.

Domaine Tournon “Mathilda” Victoria Rosé 2017 – Despite the French-sounding name, this winery is actually located in Victoria, Australia. It was set up by one of Rhône’s biggest names, the pioneering winemaker Michel Chapoutier. The wine is named after his daughter and is made entirely out of Grenache. Deft winemaking is in evidence here, combining the fruit-forwardness of Australian wine with refreshing acidity. It’s a perfumed wine with notes of honey and red apple, yet so balanced that it never seems cloying.

McDougall & Langworthy Margaret River Rosé 2016 – This wine is a collaboration between Eddie McDougall and Julian Langworthy of Deep Woods Estate. It’s a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache and Vermentino from Margaret River. There is real persistence of flavour here, showing raspberry, red cherry and mandarin orange. A beautifully delineated and light-bodied rosé.

Ammiraglia Estate “Alìe” Toscana PGI 2016 – This Italian rosé, part of the Frescobaldi stable, is made out of Syrah and Vermentino. Earthy and round with notes of barley sugar and peardrop, this is a charming, easy-drinking wine with a clean finish.

Champagne E. du Moustier Grand Cru Rosé – Tasting this wine after so many still rosés is like coming across a MMA fighter in a room full of fashion models. Owner by Hong-Kong based Eric du Moustier, this wine is in a different category, showing ripe, crushed cranberries, savoury toast and gingerbread. An expansive palate is lifted by fine, creamy bubbles and a chalky texture. There’s not a lot of information about this wine – as far as I can tell it is made by an Avize-based cooperative union using fruit from vineyards rated as grand cru (the best vineyards in Champagne). Good stuff.

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