In a wine market that’s generally flat to falling, rosé has been the exception. From not much more than a niche ten years ago, it’s grown in the UK to the extent that, according to figures I saw in the press earlier this year, we are now the fourth largest consumer of rosé in the world, buying over 100 million bottles a year.
Provence, of course, is the darling and has spawned many imitators of its pale and dry style across the globe. Some of these provide serious alternatives whilst others are just a serious disappointment.
Certainly it can’t do any harm to look elsewhere. Partly because it’s always good to champion diversity, and partly because of the prices of Provence pinks, which have risen significantly of late. Many of them are positioned at ‘serious wine’ level on a list now, rather than something inexpensive, pale and zesty to glug in the sun.
“Annoyingly quality doesn’t always keep pace with the price.”
I have been disappointed with several popular, larger volume Provence rosés. Too often they fail in fruit ripeness yet excel in tartness and dilution. Frustratingly, a higher priced rosé from these regions does not necessarily indicate better quality either.
Head elsewhere in France, however, and there are some excellent pale, dry rosés available that mimic Provence styles without the hefty price tag. Consider other regions near Provence around the Languedoc such as the smaller IGP Cotes de Thau. This benefits from the twin influences of the Mediterranean and Etang du Thau. The IGP Mediterranée (formerly Vins de Pays) surrounds Provence, and it too is finding success with rosé being made in the Provence style.
I have tasted a number of wines from these areas – with their Grenache or Grenache-dominant blends rounded with Rolle and Cinsault; their flavour profile is similar to Provence, yet you’ll find them on a merchants list around £6-9 ex VAT as opposed to the £15+ of many Provence pinks.
This is the reason why the rosé we blend for St JOHN’s Beausoleil comes from the Cotes de Thau. It is fresh and linear, can be enjoyed on its own or with many types of food, and is significantly cheaper than an alternative from Provence.
If these are well-priced Provence lookalikes, could there be a case for going a step further? Perhaps now, while Brits are asking for pink, perhaps this could be the time to expose them to some genuinely different styles of rosé. Wines that might have a similar dryness, structure and palate weight, but are flavoursome and different. Wines that will set your list apart. Wines, too, that deliver a bit more for the money.
I’m thinking here of Cabernet Franc from Saumur – I have been impressed with Chateau de Chaintres, and Pinot Noir from Sancerre or its counterpart from cooler climates of Tasmania and Yarra Valley in Australia.
Closer to home Italy provides a wealth of styles with often drier and ‘more serious’ versions coming from the middle of the country down towards Sicily. Keep an eye out for Ramato styles too such as Specogna’s Pinot Grigio Ramato.
And, there are an increasing number of rosés that are dry and interesting from Spain and Portugal. No doubt now seen as a classic since it was first made just over 20 years ago and serves as a benchmark is Niepoort’s Redoma Rose. This is often darker, and has been in oak yet offers a dry, thirst quenching rose that also is a joy with food.
From the point of view of both your wine list and value for money, the case for broadening horizons is pretty strong. But there is a caveat. Bear in mind that there is no small amount of ignorance surrounding pink wine on the part of your average consumer.
Most consumers, I’d say, don’t consider the region, only the colour and the price. And the paler a rosé, they assume that the better (and drier) it is.
This perhaps isn’t surprising. Even to the trained eye, trying to establish what that ‘branded’ pale ‘chateau vino pinko’ rosé tastes like is no mean feat. In most pinks there are no indicators of sweetness, and rarely any grape varietals, just a region or newly unearthed IGP. So we shouldn’t be too critical if customers have latched onto colour as a guarantee of a style or quality.
The fact that there is interest in rosé is a significant step, and to capitalize on this interest, especially with the warm weather, post lockdown, think about tapping into this market and offering several rosés. If you only have one (or two) by the glass, open another and offer it by the glass. It is a talking point! Or use it as a focus for the week.
If you have a darker rose that is fuller bodied, try pairing it with food, something that will allow the wine to ‘freshen up’ and know the story behind the wine, the varietals and the flavour those grapes give to the wine. Once people are engaged with the wine it flows from there.