It is said that there are many shades of rosé, however, most people only think of one. That would be pink. Start reeling off all the different flavours of rosé, such as strawberry, peach, rose petals, and celery, even go on to mention the rumour that rock stars secretly drink it instead of Champagne. There is nothing about this pink drink that doesn’t make it seem, well, how can I put this… a touch frivolous, possibly tacky and certainly not as serious as a classic red or white.
But you’d be wrong. In fact, rosé is the classic simply because of the early methods of making wine. Early winemakers didn’t hang around much but used to press and strain the grapes as soon as they were harvested. This meant that the resulting juice never had the time to pick up any colour or tannin and therefore were naturally pink in colour.
Much as many would like to argue the French invented vines (in fact, the French invented everything except French Fries which they blame on the Belgians) it was actually the Greeks that introduced both vines and wines to the French whilst they were establishing Marseille back around 600BC. Due to the basic processing methods, the wine was pink or ‘rosé’ in French. The French actually got quite good at making wine and by the time the Romans pitched up with their new-fangled winemaking methods that turned the wine red, the rosé of Provence was very highly regarded. However, it wasn’t until the Romans were long gone and the monks got involved, that rosé wine really took off.
Forget rock stars, back in the day, rosé was the drink of Emperors, Kings and warriors. Even up until the Middle Ages, the most prized (and expensive) clarets in Britain were from juice that had had only one night to marinate before the grape skins were removed. This resulted in a very delicately flavoured pink wine that was thought to be refined, rather than the more common, harsher dark reds resulting from longer skin contact.
Over the years tastes have changed, but even so, every now and then rosé hits the headlines as the next big ‘thing’. Problem is that some people see rosé as just a colour and nothing else. They assume that it’s almost a gimmick and the actual wine itself probably tastes, well…. pink. It doesn’t occur to them that it might be different depending on the grape variety, the soil, climate, winemaking process, winemaker, temperature and all the other things they think about when drinking the equivalent red or white wine.
So, assuming that we can get our heads are over the colour prejudice, there is a world of choice when it comes to picking a rosé. The south of France is obviously the most famed (and most predictable choice) with Côtes de Provence, Bandol and Côtes de Aix-en-Provence to name just a couple of AOCs. Looking further afield to the Rhône, Loire, Bordeaux, Champagne: almost every major French wine region produces a rosé which, just like it’s red and white offspring, differ completely from its neighbour. Then you have the rosés from Spain, Italy, UK, in fact from all over Europe and even the new world. All different and yet, all pink in one way or another. That said, although it needs to be noted that for some reason some modern wine marketers have renamed it ‘blush’. Sounds a bit girly if you ask me.
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