In a midsummer made for pink wine drinking, the Wine Wanderers have challenged themselves to reconsider roses made outside the South of France. It was a wrench; it’s hard to turn away from the beautiful golden-pink wines which characterise Cotes de Provence and have a quality mostly absent from pinks made elsewhere. It’s what Jean-Michel Deluc, former head sommelier of the Paris Ritz, speaking of the Clos de l’Ours CdP he sells through Le Petit Ballon, so aptly describes as “a stony minerality”.
Our prejudice against deeper-pink wines which often lack any hint of minerality has been fed over the years by some horrid Rose d’Anjou and even nastier “blush” zinfandel first encountered when the Wanderers lived in California. It was a shock to return to these shores and find that white zinfandel had followed us – but we were close enough to France to pick up endless five-euro bottles of Cotes de Provence in French supermarkets which never disappointed, despite the bargain basement price.
CdP has now made it on to UK supermarket shelves, riding the crest of a wave of Brits’ preference for pale pink roses, but costs twice as much here as it does in France, thanks to the duty. The Wanderers enjoyed Laithwaite’s gorgeous golden-pink Domaine Les Gres(£10.99 or £9.89 if buying 12) but felt it was a bit pricey. At least both Sainsburys and Waitrose, whose own label CdP’s are decent value on promotion if also pricey otherwise at £8-9, have ramped up their range of pinks in light of sales of tens of million bottles every year and made some good finds elsewhere.
It’s not only in Provence where a preponderance of grenache makes for a great drop. Having established on a visit to Langedoc-Roussillon how good winemakers there are at blending this grape with syrah(viz. the excellent value L’Or du Sud by Foncalieu, £5.49 at Lidl), we ventured further north, enjoying a £6 Winemaker’s Selection Cotes de Rhone from Sainsburys, which also blends grenache with Syrah. Ditto an £8 Barrihuela Rioja Rosado – here the grenache is spelled garnacha – perhaps a little finer than the excellent value £4.99 Rioja rosado from Lidl.
Laithwaites’ Pillastro Rosato from Puglia presented the first challenge to our prejudiced palates, not only because it was a slightly suspect strawberry pink, but because the grape was primitivo, the progenitor of zinfandel. While not as sweet and nasty as the “blush” zinfandel we used to drink in California, the Pillastro was still too jammy for our taste, and a reminder that primitivo/zinfandel does have an inherent sweetness which is subsumed by the alcohol when it appears as a joyous red. Similarly, we love red pinot noir, but not the New World pink pinot noirs tasted from various sources – a bit sweet and a bit fizzy for our tastebuds.
Specially worth mentioning is a great rose from Greece we approached with anticipation, remembering a wonderful cheap as chips rose enjoyed with barbecued pork in a remote corner of Mykonos. Twin Sails, a Waitrose exclusive, is made from the xinomavro grape, another variety usually reserved for reds but this one performing perfectly as a fragrant pink with not a hint of unwanted sweetness. Fabulous value at an everyday price of £5.99, all you should really have to pay for a wine that looks and tastes like summer in a bottle.