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06 March 2022

Serious rosé

For those of us who enjoy (proper) dry rosé all year round, not just in summer (it's a good compromise for a white wine drinker and a red wine drinker sharing the same meal and bottle), it's no surprise that 'serious' rosé does exist. But some people in France and someone in Italy had the bright idea of creating the Rosés de Terroirs association as a collaborative marketing project to promote the regions and producers who are famous for making this type of full-on pink wine.
For example, Tavel in the southern Rhone valley has always been well known (as far as I know) for its dark pink full-bodied rosé styles, often based on the Grenache variety and weighing in at 13.5%-14.5% abv. Similarly Bandol on the Var coast (Provence-Côte d'Azur), famed for its meaty structured reds, although the rosés generally aren't as deep coloured but are weighty and age-worthy: perhaps it's the Mourvèdre in these. And certain wineries in certain parts of Côtes du Rhône looking to do something different, as well as elsewhere in the wider Rhone area.
What do I mean by 'serious rosé'? Richer colour for sure: 48 hours skin maceration in the case of Tavel, and the free-run juice can also be blended with a little press wine, normally a red-winemaking technique. Colour may seem a superficial way of judging, but rosé (or rosado considering certain regions in Spain excel in this style such as Navarra and Catalunya) crafted by this method, with much longer skin contact (relatively) or addition of some of the press wine (or barrel-aged even), is always more 'vinous', fruitier and richer-textured. Or where old-vine ripe structured red grapes are supplemented by earlier-picked red or white varieties or ones with higher acidity to hold the balance and boost maturation potential.
And what criteria does the Rosé de Terroir initiative apply to pick these worthy pink wines? Firstly, 'representing a wide variety of styles by their colour and flavour above all,' while 'each telling a story linked to: a natural place (characteristics), a winegrower (personality, skill) and a particular choice made.' In addition: 'At least one year old and conforms to French regulations on pesticide residues in the wine.'
The one-year-old rule doesn't necessarily follow through to what's available to buy now (understandably given the time-lag between tasting competition and commercial reality): I received several (rather good) 2021 vintage samples, presumably because those producers don't have any of the previous year's left. But I do of course get the point of it being about rosé that ages - I'm sure all of these wineries keep back some bottles just to show their potential over time. The 'ambassador' wines selected - the aim is 100 from around the world - are being promoted via tasting events, retailers restaurants and wine bars, and social media.
I've added a few other recently enjoyed rosés, which aren't (yet?) part of this promotional drive although include a tasty bottle from the Roussillon, of all places, also celebrated for producing statement-making pinks especially Collioure and Rasiguères: perhaps some of these wines will follow. Likewise a couple of Spain's great value full-on rosés from Navarra, and one from Abruzzo in Italy (I've been seeing more of this bigger style around from Italy, as opposed to e.g. wishy-washy sweet Pinot Grigio rosés). Outside of Europe, some wineries in Chile are making rosé like this as they are in Australia and the US.
Tavel La Forcadière 2021 Domaine Maby (14% abv): Grenache noir (39%), Cinsault (25%), Grenache blanc (10%), Mourvèdre (10%), Syrah (10%) and a couple of others (my maths isn't great but that doesn't add up to 100, and the tech spec mentions 'seven varieties,') from vines averaging 52 years old. Deep colour, closed nose at first revealing rose petal, ripe strawberry and raspberry, fruity full-bodied and chunky with quite structured palate, mouth-weight and a hint of dry grip even while there's freshness too, tight zingy finish with lingering red fruit flavours. Lovely rosé: the producer reckons you could keep it for 6 years (wishful thinking). Tried with salmon courgette and basil risotto. Cellar door €11.50; UK Yapp Brothers £15.50 (2020).
Tavel Prima Donna 2021 Domaine Maby (14% abv): 50-50 Grenache and Cinsault this time grown on more specific sites with pebbly soils. Even deeper colour, big ripe red fruity style with food-demanding weight and texture (e.g. king prawn Thai curry, Singapore noodles with duck), perhaps lacks the depth and/or structure of their other wine (above), or just a personal preference, but this is definitely serious rosé. €13.20; UK £12.50 The Wine Society; US $19.99: Wine Parity (2020), Liquors Inc (2019).
Tavel Tresor des Sables 2021 Les Vignerons de Tavel & Lirac (Grenache noir 50%, old Carignan 15%, Clairette 12%, Cinsault 11%, Mourvèdre and Syrah 8%, Picpoul and Bourboulenc 4%): This co-op winery rosé is a fascinating cocktail of red and white varieties grown in sandy soils (on limestone), hence the name. Slightly paler 'lighter' and fresher - but not much (13.5% abv as well) - with vinous rounded styling, tasty fruity full-bodied rosé with nice zingy finish. Good with anchovy pizza. Cellar door €8.15 (bargain); US $23.
Tavel 2021 Château d'Aquéria (Grenache 45%, Clairette 20%, Cinsault 15%, Mourvèdre 8%, Syrah 6%, Bourboulenc 4% and Picpoul 2%). Large on everything - rich light-red colour, sweet strawberry cherry and raspberry fruit and again that trademark high alcohol (14% abv) - but it's very well made and dangerously drinkable, full rounded fruity and creamy finish yet good freshness and dry bite too. Delicious. Cellar door €13.50. UK £17.50-£19 Wine Library, Hay Wines, Theatre of Wine (2019); Caviste, Quercus Wines (2020); Thorman Hunt wine shippers. US $20-$25 Kobrand wine and spirits, Shop Wine Direct (2020).
Bandol 2020 Domaine La Suffrène (40% Mourvèdre, 30% Cinsault, 20% Grenache, 10% Carignan; 13.5% abv): Lifted almost grapefruit nose with zesty aromatic red fruits and yeast-lees tones vs deceptively full and rounded, although still fresh, structured and quite closed up for a 2020 rosé, concentrated lingering flavours too; looking good with further ageing potential. Tried with 'lightly dusted' sole, roast spuds and veg; also a good match with smoked salmon and spicy rice. Cellar door €17; widely exported: UK £19.50 Joseph Barnes Wines; US $24-$27.
Bandol 2020 Domaine de Terrebrune (Mourvèdre 60%, Grenache 20% and Cinsault 20%; 13% abv). A little shy and unrevealing at first, gently aromatic cranberry, pink grapefruit, almond and yeast-lees notes, zesty crisp and tight while fairly full-bodied, still rather closed up (Terrebrune has a reputation for sincere rosés that age well). Seems good although it's expensive: France €20. UK £25-£29 AG Wines, Fine Wine Direct, Hic Wine Merchants, Hennings (£60 magnum!). US $33-39 Kermit Lynch, Blackwell's Wines, Cree Wine Co., Merchant of Wine, Thief Shop, BR Wine, Bounty Hunter Wine, Lincoln Fine Wines etc. (well-distributed). Aus $69.99 World Wine.
Bandol 2017 Domaine de Terrebrune (Mourvèdre 60%, Grenache 20% and Cinsault 20%; 13% abv): Almost golden pink/orange colour, yeast-lees-y and surprisingly subdued on the nose at first (was quite cold though), turning fruitier rounded and oilier in the mouth, marzipan nuances mix with still zesty lees texture. Nice with coquille saint-jacques, although not convinced the few years' bottle maturation has added much to it?
Bandol 2020 La Bastide Blanche (organic, 13.5% abv) - The varietal blend comprises 44% Mourvèdre, 33% Cinsault and 14% Grenache noir with, like some Tavel rosés, a couple of white grapes: 6% Clairette and 3% Ugni blanc. Orange pink colour, aromatic spicy kirsch red berries yeast-lees and almond, concentrated juicy ripe fruit vs more serious structured underbelly of oomph, dry bite and fresh acidity, lingering tangy nutty vs red fruity; fairly intense, still seems youthful and promising more. Very good. Try with salmon and spinach gnocchi with garlic and olive oil sauce. Cellar door €16. UK £17-£19 Vinatis, Advinture. US $25-$27 Weygandt Wines, Artisan wine shop, 67 Wine, KL wines, Empire Wine, Zachys, Great Grapes (NC) etc. and Verve wine $62 for a magnum. Aus $59 World Wine.
Rosé d'Automne Côtes du Rhône 2020 Domaine de l'Odylée (100% Grenache, carbonic maceration): Seriously deep pink / light cherry colour, wild and wacky real cider nose with cassis and morello cherry leading into a full dry palate with refreshing bite. Quirky for sure, a glass with well-flavoured food (e.g. baked sole, roast spuds) was good although sufficient. For the more adventurous 'natural' wine enthusiast.
Expression Costières de Nîmes 2021 Château Beaubois (60% Syrah from Clos Pouperasse - Clos Victor, 30% Grenache from Clos Pierre, 10% Cinsault from Clos Pierre; organic and biodynamic farming): Produced 50% from juice 'bled off' and 50% direct pressing with four months in tank. Aromatic elegant style, floral peach and redcurrant, crisp tight palate with subtle lingering finish and juicy zesty texture. Should be more, erm, expressive after a couple months more in bottle, although doesn't come across as super exciting at the moment? France €8.50; UK £12.70 Cava Vin wine stores; Ireland €16.99 The Wine Buff; US importers: Natural Merchants, Serendipity Wines.
Other producers and wines picked for Rosés de Terroirs are found on the campaign website HERE.

Some other serious rosés include:
Mas Cristine 2021 Côtes du Roussillon (13.5% abv): Made from free-run juice of Syrah and Grenache grapes, this is fairly pale (relatively speaking) for a classic Rouss rosé (like Collioure or Rasiguères) although deceptively full-bodied while surprisingly crisp at the same time; aromatic rose petal, yeast-lees and cranberry, zingy refreshing finish with lingering tart red fruits and a bit of oomph. A tad closed up when I tasted it in that not been bottled long kinda way, so should blossom nicely. €9 cellar door; UK £13.99 De Burgh Wine Merchants (2020). There's more about Roussillon rosés and Mas Cristine in, you've guessed it, my book!

Lots of retro Bandol stuff HERE.
And beyond France elsewhere on WineWriting.com:
Viña Zorzal Garnacha Rosado from Navarra. Señorío de Sarría rosado is similar and terrific value.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.