Tag Archives: rose wine

Summer in a bottle – gorgeous golden pinks from Provence and surprises from further afield

5 Jul

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.

Spuntino – Spectacular rose, but gruesome grits!

16 Sep

Spuntino is so hot with the Soho crowd, people are queuing for seats as its counter and solitary booth before 6pm.  But it’s puzzling they can get decent pink wine right, when most lists fail to do justice to rose, yet some of the basics utterly wrong.

Take grits, for example – a great thing to see on the menu of any restaurant claiming to purvey the best of American classics.  One of the USA’s finest regional dishes is shrimp’n’grits, as served in the Carolinas – but they are a far cry from the grits served with sausages and cheese at Spuntino.  It’s not that grits don’t go with sausage, it’s just that there’s no point featuring grits unless you are going to start with good ones rather than the “genuine Quaker” instant variety our server so proudly told us we were getting.  The only grits worth eating are stone-ground, easy to find in US whole-food stores, and they are as different from the insipid white variety as steel cut oats from instant porridge.

Spuntino does best when it sticks to the kind of Italian-inspired fare served at its sister, Polpetto – like wonderfully crispy pizzettas, here topped with finely sliced zucchini and mint – and truly eclectic dishes like the truffled egg toast which has become its signature.   Imagine a doorstop of white bread with runny egg at the centre, judiciously scented with truffle(no sledgehammer overdose here, thank goodness) and the edges running with melted cheese; possibly the yummiest snack in London for £6.

The pink wine also derives from the owners’ expertise with Italian wine – it’s a rosato Bardolino Monte del Fra 2010.  Not cheap at £9 a glass, but fruitily dry and delicious.   Shame about the tumbler, which like the chipped enamel mug my delicious coffee came in, did nothing to enhance the contents.  But grunge seems to be part of the Spuntino/Polpetto ethic, more’s the shame.