A cool glass of rosé may not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning your meal for Christmas day, but there's actually something rather wonderful about drinking pink at this time of year. There are many styles to go for, but my heart's in Provence...
The Prima Ballerina of Rosé Wines
Pale, dry rosés, especially those from Provence in France, make very food friendly wines. These are not your disco dancing, sickly pinks; they are more like Darcy Bussell, the prima ballerina! Powder pink satin, pale and delicate to look at, there is hidden power in those legs as they perform complex twists and turns. Don't let the colour make you think that these are not serious wines; they are. Surprisingly savoury with a moreish saline tang, this style of rosé is silky soft, elegant yet powerful and incredibly versatile.
Subtle, yet substantial
The subtle red fruit and licorice flavours won't overwhelm food, but their weight and structure (that they get in part from their unique soils) mean they can stand up to many different dishes and not get in the way. They handle subtle food flavours, interesting textures and gentle spices with ease and yet are not diminished by heavier textures and richer flavours. It's worth noting that wines from the appellation of Bandol within Provence's production area will generally have more power, so they would provide a particularly good match for more flavourful dishes such Christmas turkey with all the trimmings. At a time where you often need to get a wine choice that will suit everyone and go with lots of different dishes, Provençal pink could very well be your crowd-pleasing one stop shop to cover every element of Christmas imbibing.
Provencal winemakers have been perfecting the art of fine rosé for 2600 years and is the only wine region that concentrates mostly on pink wines; 88% of production to be exact. It stands to reason therefore that they have become rather good at it. It takes time and considerable effort to make it well and that's because in Provence, rosé is not a by-product of red wine like in many other places. Here, it can truly be a fine wine.
Provençal Rosé Facts:
- The classic grape varieties that are bended to make Provençal rosé are red grapes: Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah amongst others.
- The wines get their pink colour from a short maceration time on the skins, not by blending red and white wines together.
- The classic bottle shape for Provençal pinks is a curvy bottle that looks a little like a bowling skittle. The french call this the 'flute a corset' but more and more producers are now using standard, 'Bordeaux-shaped' bottles.
- Sparkling Provençal pink is now being produced to help promote the region!
Here are Winebird's perfectly poised pinks to try at home:
Definition Provence Rosé 2014, Majestic, £12.99, or £9.74 each when you buy two.
Start with this very good example of good quality provencal pink with soft strawberry notes tempered by a more savoury cranberry kick.
Mirabeau Pure 2014, £12.99 Waitrose or £34 in magnum from Mirabeau Online Store.
A proper foodie rosé is this. Super pale and pink with a lovely aromatic, orange blossom nose and a more serious, savoury, saline palate on top of raspberry fruit. This wine is also available in a beautiful magnum. Yes please!
Lafran-veyrolles Bandol Rosé, Waitrose Cellar, £14.99
If you're feeling the need for a slightly heavier rosé, then Bandol is where you need to head. Still elegant and strawberry scented, it packs a little more punch on the palate.
Chateau La Tour de l'Eveque Rose ''Petale de Rose' AOC Cotes de Provence 2013, corneyandbarrow.com, £15.95
This rosé really looks the part in its elegant bottle and oozes class once in the glass with silky, savoury, saline flavours.
Originally written for the Country Gentleman's Magazine, December 2015.
Helena Nicklin is 'Winebird': a wine writer, presenter and author of Winebird's VINALOGY - wine basics with a twist! She also runs tasting events around London. For more information, see winebird.co.uk.