Les Gourmandises Tavel, Rhône, France 2016 (£6.99, Lidl) One of the jobs of rosé wine, I’ve always felt, is to act as a warm weather red wine substitute – a style for that moment when what you’re eating demands something more robust than a white wine but the heat of the day means you can’t face the weight and structure of a red. Despite being more popular than it’s ever been, much of today’s rosé isn’t quite up to this task: the fashion everywhere is to make rosé in a light, pale style that is closer in spirit to white wine than red. Well, not quite everywhere. The southern Rhône Valley’s rosé specialist appellation, Tavel, continues to make rosés of a darker hue and greater density that work brilliantly with meat, oily fish, and heavier, big-flavoured salads – as seen in the aptly named, well-priced Les Gourmandises with its delicious ripe strawberry-and-spice flavours.
Zafeirakis Limniona Rosé, Thessalia, Greece 2017 (£16.50, Bottle Apostle) One complaint that rosé sceptics have about the style is that it lacks the diversity of red and white wine – that winemakers are operating with a much more limited palette of flavours and textures when they’re making pink. This is undoubtedly true – the distance from, say, a souped-up 16% alcohol Californian Zinfandel to a feathery cool-climate pinot noir is many times further than that between the pale pinks of Provence and even the most robust of Tavel rosés or Spanish rosados. But just because the stylistic differences are less extreme, that doesn’t mean they’re not significant. Rosé is to red wine what watercolours are to oil paints, trading for the most in subtlety and delicacy rather than the bold or the primary. Certainly, that’s the best way to judge Zafeirakis’ Greek pink, which uses the local variety limniona to fashion something stony-cool, wild strawberry-scented and rather beautiful.
Marks & Spencer Marlborough Rosé, New Zealand 2017 (£11) Much of the flavour and texture of wines made from red grapes comes from the skins. But given that rosé wines are made by keeping the juice in contact with the skins for a matter of hours rather than days, weeks or months, as is the case for reds, it’s not perhaps surprising that varietal character – the taste of the grape variety – is rather more elusive in rosé wines. One exception is pinot noir, which can impart a similar kind of silkiness to pinks that it does to reds. It forms a mere 50% of the blend (along with 40% white grapes) but makes its presence felt in M&S’s delightfully red berry tangy, light (9.5% abv) Marlborough Rosé. And it makes the effortlessly refreshing, fragrant, gently complex Bird in Hand Pinot Noir Rosé, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2017 (£14.95, Old Bridgewine.com) all by itself.
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