The Rosé Revolution rolls on…

  • Jul. 5, 2018 1:30 p.m.

Our on-again off-again fascination with Rosés goes back more than 50 years.

Greek and Roman wines, in days gone by, were likely naturally pink blends of red and white grapes pressed off the skins after a day or two of fermentation.

After World War II, two Portugese wineries – Lancers and Mateus – introduced slightly sweet and gently sparkling pink wines in Europe and North America. Lancers is still widely available in the U.S. Here in British Columbia, today, we continue to sip and swirl Mateus.

According to San Francisco blogger W. Blake Gray, in ‘The Gray Report’: “Queen Elizabeth was at a private party at the Savoy Hotel in London in the early ’60s when she was dissatisfied with the wine selection and asked for some Mateus; the hotel manager had to send out for a bottle.”

Today, Mateus ‘The Original’ Rosé (166) $9.99 is a blend of traditional Portugese wine grapes, primarily Baga, Rufete, Tinta Barroca, and Touriga Franca. Prettily pink and still slightly sparkling, it teases our taste buds with cherry, strawberry and raspberry aromas. Cherry and red berry fruit flavours keep the wine seductively sweet.

The California White Zinfandel phenomenon began in 1972 when Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home discovered the fermentation had become “stuck” in a tank of Zinfandel meant to be a red wine. He released a pale, semi-sweet rosé coloured wine that he labeled as ‘White Zinfandel’. Sales soared from 25,000 cases in 1980 to more than 1.5 million in 1986.

Despite the popularity of White Zinfandel, sophisticated wine lovers failed to embrace the phenomenon… and the reputation of Rosés took another turn for the worse. Fortunately winemakers in France, Italy and Spain continued to make Rosés from whatever grapes were available.

Today’s Rosés are often deliberately frivolous. Beyond traditional methods – quickly pressing juice off with minimal skin contact or bleeding-off colourless juice from red grapes before fermentation – cunning winemakers are adding other fruits to their blends.

From Chile, Fresita Sparkling Strawberry (299404) $15.99 has Patagonian wild strawberries added to a sparkling white wine. The result is deliciously fruity and sweet, overflowing with aromas and flavours of candied cherries and fresh strawberries. Low in alcohol – a mere 8 per cent – this is a kinder, gentler style of easy- sipping wine. And it also comes in a cute little 200ml bottle!

Awash with Chardonnay and Shiraz, Australian winemakers seldom send us any Rosé. From their base in the Yarra Valley, Innocent Bystander offers a full range of wines. Sadly, only their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Moscato have made it to British Columbia.

Joie Farm began in 2004, opening with two high-toned whites – an unoaked Chardonnay, their ‘A Noble Blend’ of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Kerner, Muscat, Auxerrois and Ehrenfelser – and a sassy rosé from Pinot Noir. Winemaker Heidi Noble’s house style is bright, and ‘racy’, whether the wines are white, rosé or red.

Joie Farm Rosé 2016 (511469) $20.99 is a blend of 75 per cent Pinot Noir and 25 per cent Gamay. Just barely off-dry, beneath the strawberry and rhubarb fruit this medium-bodied rosé has underlying notes of dried thyme and dusty sage that add lingeringly complex notes to the finish.

Provence in south-east France is the world’s largest wine region specializing in dry Rosé. Most Provençal wines have flavors and aromas that echo the ‘bouquet garni’ spices of the region including wild lavender, rosemary and thyme.

Named after endless lavender fields in the region, Lavendette Rosé (52121) $20.99 is a Provençal wine from the Alpes De Haute department. Very pale pink with subtle notes of strawberry, raspberry and grapefruit. Very elegant and crisply refereshing.

From Navarra in north-eastern Spain, Principe de Viana Edicion Rosa 33939) $22.99 is a delicate dry wine made in the traditional ‘saignée’ bleeding method. Cherried, strawberries and dusty pink grapefruit are the predominant aromas and flavours of this 100 per cent Garnacha Rosé.

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