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The Rosé Revolution

The Rosé Revolution

The recent movement of rosé wine being consumed in masses, it has become one of the most exciting categories to discuss. Founder, Richard is contributing editor for wine at The Luxury Chapter and has covered the topic ‘the rosé revolution’, discussing its huge growth in worldwide drinking trends.

Read the piece below!

2018 was the hottest summer on record for England, and the Met Office is predicting that we are heading towards another glorious summer of sun, so just how do we keep our cool? With an ice-cool glass or rose, according to statistics, that also tell us that the ‘Rose Revolution’ is now worth over £600m in UK alone.

Let’s take a step back in history to understand just how this previously overlooked category in the wine world came to take centre stage, and what’s to come for this summertime companion.

A brief history of rosé 

We know that rosé production dates back to at least the Ancient Greek times – this is when a mention of light pink wines was recorded, but in all likelihood it started way before the Greeks even kept wine records, which is right back to the start of wine production (known to be as far back a 6000 years BC). We understand that wine from ancient times was made using “field blends”, effectively meaning that grapes were blended together rudimentary because producers were not able to (or did not care to) distinguish between grape varieties and so the resulting wine had a definite pink hue.

When a group of Greek traders founded modern day Marseille in the 6th century BC, they took the field blend method of winemaking with them, and the famed Southern French rosé wines were born. From there, the fame of the pink wines spread due to the Roman Empire’s trade network. Fast forward to modern-day sun, sea, and slurping lifestyle, rosé has been called  “the gateway to wine for young people” with 31% of rosé drinkers more likely than the average adult to ‘like to go to trendy places to eat and drink’ (compared to 6 and 9% for red and white wine drinkers respectively)*. 

Gen up on your grapes 

It’s my job to buy wine that I think will be a hit for our discerning customers, and whilst the job has its obvious perks it is about identifying what you like and why and there are some go-to basics.

Firstly, in a world which is increasingly concerned about sustainability, it is more eco-friendly to use grapes from local varietals versus ripping up vines and starting again. This is what you should expect as you look at different regions – they generally make rose with the grapes that they know, and can make well. 

In theory, any red grape can be used to make a rosé wine, but in practice many countries and regions start safe and mimic the famed French areas for vine planting and grape blending inspiration. French rosé is eponymously linked to the image of salmon pink Provence rosé and is respected for a profile of light red fruit and mineral bite. It is usually produced from a usual majority of Grenache due it the wide planting across the south of France and most of Spain. Just down the road in Bandol they have a predominant Mourvèdre focus, whilst the darker Tavel rosés (also nearby) are normally Cinsault heavy. Lesser known Rolle is a grape that is often blended in to add texture and mouthfeel. Go west, you’d be surprised that Bordeaux has its own take on rosé by using their Merlot and Cabernet Franc plantings, whereas the Loire naturally also takes the pinot noir is has to make Sancerre rosé.

Northern Spain’s climate is well suited to Grenache which is a different slant to the French version. America quickly discovered the nations sweet tooth easily extended to rosé wine with semi-sweet (and unrefined) zinfandel ‘blush’ contributing to its colossal industry numbers, however, it has taken time to make decent pink. Producers like Channing Daughters in Long Island (New York) make exceptional rosé from cabernet franc.

Rosé is made all over the world and the other grapes that are widely used for rosé production are wide and far. Also common for making lush and balanced rosé are syrah, gamay, carignan and even one of the grapes known for big reds; cabernet sauvignon.

5 Top Tips to a Rosé-ier future

#brosé is in

Never has the image of beer-swilling neanderthall man been further from today’s suitor, seen sitting in Cannes during film week, sipping 300 Euro Garrus and discussing skin care for the modern man. Wine drinkers are taking the rosé category seriously, with prices well into the hundreds for a 75cl bottle, and sales of large format rosé are on the up – 300% positive year-on-year.

Society has come a long way from age-old stereotypes, possibly because rosé wines did not used to be classed for the “serious wine drinker”, maybe from fashion taking its time, or simply down to quality producers getting it right. Either way, men are now tucking into pink more than ever.

“Paler the better” is not always the answer

The UK wine market has been conditioned in recent years to judge the quality of rosé wine from the stance of paleness.  Granted, Provence and surrounding areas are arguably the pioneers of modern rosé production and in years past deeper pink rosés meant mass-produced sickly-sweet examples. But no more. Rosé wines from all kinds of red grapes and made in different methods give a range of hues, so don’t be afraid to try the dark and mysterious Navarre or the lesser-explored gently pressed light cherry Romanian syrah.

Pink Fizz

The definition of what the market wants in rosé has led to sparkling wine producers adjusting their own products. Laurent Perrier had always set the bar with their iconic rosé Champagne but never more has rosé Burgundy cremant, rosé English fizz and rosé cava been as refined, posied and polished. If it’s traditionally (champenoise) made and produced by people that care about the product over profit you should not baulk to spend less and still have extra dry, thirst quenching quality sparkling options.

Food and wine pairing shifts a gear

Texture is something that is widely an unconscious thought for many wine drinkers but it’s something I’ve been mildly obsessed with for years since studying it as part of my Food and Wine Technology degree. White and red have their own production nuances to alter what you feel in your mouth, and so does rosé. Skin contact, maceration methods and oak are all vinification production considerations; and all go towards what foods might suit the rosé you choose. Yes, the rosés of the South of France pair beautifully with seafood, oily fish, or grilled chicken but quality rosés from further afield can be outstanding with pork, charcuterie, hard cheese, and even desert. Playing around with your wine choices means getting to play around in the kitchen; enjoy it!

Rosés are for all year round, not just for summer

If we only ever did things when the sun was out, we’d get nothing done in the UK! Well-made wines don’t stop being floral, fruity, and refreshing, and we don’t stop wanting floral, fruity, and refreshing. Roast salmon with celery and pine nuts and a bottle of Tavel are always a hit even deep into December. And you never know, you might be able to relieve some narrow-minded wine merchants of their “out of season” stock on the cheap.

The Pink Spectrum

It’s important to know that the colour pigments in red grapes are in the grape skins. So, when you want to make a red wine you need to give the juice contact with the skins and the pulp to extract flavour, colour, and structural components like tannin.  For white wines (which can also be made from the white juice of red and white grapes), you want no colour to be extracted and so remove the skins from the juice as soon as possible.

So, given that information, what do you think are the options to make a rosé (pink) wine?

1. To blend or not to blend

Production methods have moved on since the days of the ancient greeks, but there is still a limited number of wines produced by mixing a bit of red wine to white wine. This practice is only permitted in particular regional rules, most notably, Champagne.

2. Saignée (‘San-yay’) or quick maceration

Saignée is a method that those of you with a bit of French may know; it relates to the point where the pressed juice and skins are together and then to “bleed off” the tank to take juice early, when the red colour is not too extracted, hence a light pink colour.

If they choose, the rest of the juice can be left in the tank to have contact with the red grape skins and to go on to become red wine. Winemakers with a large portfolio of rosé and red wines will use this method.  The upside here is you have an extra wine, and your red wine is even more concentrated and gorgeous. It’s a win-win.

3. Direct pressing

This is the method of production used for specialist rosé producers, particularly in Provence and their beloved thirst-quenching wines. It is simply about pressing the red grapes hard and skipping the step of having the skins in contact with the juice in a tank to extract colour. Quicker and simpler yes, but it is also risky. The harder the pressing, the more colour comes out of the skins. But you only get one shot at it and if you get it wrong the colour won’t be quite right.

*Kantar Media TGI data