The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - The Telegraph Magazine
Victoria Moore Rosé goes beyond the pale
The legendary American wine importer Kermit Lynch once described rosé as ‘red without the tannins’. The phrase now sounds out of place. Rosé is incredibly fashionable. One in 10 bottles of wine sold around the world is pink, according to Vins de Provence, and consumption is still rising. Yet most of the pink wine longed for and opened around the world, whether in Manhattan restaurants, superyachts on the Med or English homes, isn’t so much ‘red without tannins’ as ‘white with a bit of colour’.
Pale rosé is such an object of desire that Sacha Lichine, the man who created Whispering Angel, and, in doing so, helped to engineer a global rosé boom, now has a line called The Pale by Sacha Lichine. Many rosé drinkers pick their wine on the basis of colour alone, fastidiously seeking out the very lightest they can find. That barely-there colour does some heavy psychological lifting. Pale rosé is a state of mind and that state of mind is how you feel on holiday in summer, up in the hills somewhere with jasmine tumbling over an old villa wall and olive groves all around.
Or does it? I mean, does it still? I enjoy one, of course, but the timing has to be right. The sun really has to be shining. Instead, as April sunshine mingles with April chills, I’m pouring rosé that’s closer on the spectrum to Lynch’s ‘red without the tannins’: my fridge is full of unashamedly pink bottles.
Most grapes, no matter what the colour of the skin, have clear juice. The rare few – alicante bouschet is one – that have both red skin and red flesh are known as teinturier. For the rest, the colour lies only in the skin. This is how, by adjusting the amount of time the must spends in contact with the skins, it’s possible to use red grapes to make white wine, such as blanc de noirs Champagne, or rosé in varying shades from ballet-pump pink to deepest pomegranate seed. As the colour is extracted from the skins, so, too, are some flavour compounds so you end up with richer taste too. I know some associate mid and deeper rosés with sweetness but this doesn’t have to be the case, there are plenty of dry ones around and they’re incredibly satisfying to drink: rounded and lush with flavours of ripe raspberries, peonies, redcurrants and cranberry jelly.
One of the most unusual not-invisibly-pink rosés I’ve tasted this year is the Ousyra Fokiano Rosé 2021, Greece (14%, Maltby & Greek, £24), which is made from fokiano grapes grown in the Cyclades at three different altitudes. No, I’d never heard of fokiano either but the salmon-coloured wine, just offdry, is reminiscent of lemon-scented pelargoniums and wild strawberries.
Mostly, though, I’m aiming darker than this, to pinks that remind me of strawberry ice cream and glorious sunsets. These wines work extremely well with almost any food you throw at them, from vegetable tagines to barbecued lamb chops with chive-sprinkled new potatoes. Besides the three I’ve recommended in wines of the week, look out for the Domaine Maby Tavel (£16.25, yapp.co.uk), and the Alovini Basilicata Le Ralle Rosato 2022, Italy (13%, The Wine Society, £9.95), which is just (I really do mean just )off-drysocan more easily take a bit of chilli or fruit in whatever you’re eating.