Things are looking rosé.
While it has taken our wine industry two or three decades to finesse its sparkling offering into a world class beast and, of course, there is much more to come, the still rosé sector is a toddler, just finding its feet. Having said this, the last three years have seen a marked uplift in the wines released and I can report that preview samples of a handful of top 2017 vintage wines look absolutely fascinating.
It is interesting to see that the light-red-wine-style-rosé is losing ground in favour of the pale-pink-style wines. This doesn’t surprise me because you can deliver masses of flavour in the palest of wines and if deeper-coloured wines seem to be perpetually out of fashion then why do we persist in making them? You only have to ask buyers which style is the top seller and there is only one answer. I think that these darker style wines represent an outdated yearning to make a red wine and coming up short with a robust rosé. Now that we have proved that it is possible to make a handful of decent reds, we need to allow our rosés to relax back into their own delineated bracket. We are in a transition period where some wineries have embraced the future, while some cling onto the past. While colour intensity is always going to stir passions, my main gripe is that I would like to see more truly dry wines appearing. We need to get away from grape flavour integrity hiding behind unwanted sugar.
I have picked three contrasting styles for my recommendations overleaf, but it is worth lining up a few bottles to highlight the variety of rosés we already have within our shores. A pre-bottling sample of 2017 Camel Valley, Pinot Noir Rosé (£13.95, www.camelvalley.com) looked to be very successful indeed. A further incremental finessing on the superb 2016, this is a wine with enviable white wine freshness and vitality on its finish. A bright finish is an essential element of a top flight rosé. 2017 Lyme Bay, Pinot Noir Rosé (£15.99, www.lymebaywinery.co.uk), already on the market, is the archetypal, pale coral, summer style with a sea spray tang overlaying a restrained and stylish redcurrant theme. 2017 Off The Line, Dancing Dog Rosé (£15.00, www.offthelinevineyard.com) uses Regent, Pinot noir and Rondo in the mix and while this is a deeper-hued, fuller-bodied wine it has enough herb notes to break up the red fruit and bring welcome levity to the finish. Two 2016s were still hanging on well. 2016 Tuffon Hall, Pinot Noir, Medium Dry Rosé (£13.00, www.tuffonhall.co.uk) is a very pale creation and it is propped up with some generous juiciness but there is more than enough acidity to balance this exuberance and as off-dry styles go this is a winner. 2016 Sharpham, Whole Berry Rosé (£15.95, www.sharpham.com) is made from Dornfelder and this is my favourite of what I call the historic rosés. It is darker, fuller and plumper than I would ordinarily go for but it is made from such good fruit it gets away with it.
Organic, Silent Pool Rosé
Albury Vineyard, Surrey Hills
I have been waiting for this wine for a very long time. We already have a fair number of delicious rosés in this country and most of them appear on these two pages. But we have yet to confidently graduate to the next level. This wine, which will be released in early May, is alone in delivering not only a stunningly appointed nose and palate, but it also has the X-Factor. Silent Pool Rosé has layers of minerality, grip and texture plus what I call ‘anti-fruit’ elements, which add immeasurably to the complexity on the palate while at the same time doing a perfect job of highlighting the unquestionable calibre of the biodynamic Pinot noir and Pinot meunier used here. When you add to this heavenly liquid a bottle, screwcap and label redesign which must be one of the most impressive packaging transformations I have ever seen, this is a wine which is operating at the very highest levels of world rosé production. Oh, did I mention it is a tiptoe light 10.5% alcohol. It is near-perfect in every respect apart from the limited 4000 bottle production.
2017 Pinot Rosé
Woodchester Valley Vineyard, Cotswolds
I am more than happy to admit that I favour pale pink rosés over the more robust ‘light red’ styles and with thirty years’ experience of all sectors of the wine trade, I have never found any one who disagrees with this mantra. But very occasionally a full-blooded rosé comes along and it impresses greatly. Made from Pinot noir, but extracting more colour and depth of fruit than I would have been initially comfortable with this wine works beautifully. The cranberry and cherry notes are pure and sonorous and the palate is buoyant and succulent. It is an accomplished piece of winemaking and this is not a fluke because 2017 Woodchester Valley, Rosé (£10.99), made from Regent, shows that using a more ‘confected’ variety, with the same amount of care and attention can result in a red apple-skin-perfumed beauty which I would demolish a glass of with a flavoursome rare roast beef sandwich as fast as I would with a combative lamb curry! Released in mid-April.
Hush Heath, Kent
Hush Heath manages to do the rosé thing very well indeed, with Balfour Brut Rosé a market leader, but translating sparkling skill into still wine is not easy. Nanette’s English Rose has been the preeminent Pinot Rosé since the 2015 vintage and my sneak preview 2017 sample maintains the high standards already set. To be released on 6 April in bottles and magnums, this is a gentle, honed, unhurried style with a ravishing, pale coral colour and a languid, satisfying finish. Everything from the red-cherry-scented nose to the last, lip-smacking flavour memory is calm, composed and complete. I am certain that one of the reasons behind this wine’s success is the wise addition of Chardonnay to the Pinots noir and meunier. This technique is used by elite Provençal rosé producers, where Rolle lengthens, glistens and brightens old vine Grenache, calming a powerful wine into a shimmering diva. A nerdy detail is that 2000 bottles have been sealed with an ArdeaSeal as seen in the image – the rest use wondrous screwcaps!