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The Pink Pound

Published:  11 August, 2009

With rosé in double-digit growth and bucking the general slowing-down of wine growth in the UK, it seems everyone is keen to jump on the pink bandwagon. Producers are speedily bringing out new wines, and both the on and off-trades are cashing in on the public's seemingly insatiable demand for the stuff.

With rosé in double-digit growth and bucking the general slowing-down of wine growth in the UK, it seems everyone is keen to jump on the pink bandwagon. Producers are speedily bringing out new wines, and both the on and off-trades are cashing in on the public's seemingly insatiable demand for the stuff.

To assess the quality of the plethora of rosés hitting the market, Harpers Wine & Spirit gathered together a group of trade people from independent stores, restaurants and gastropubs to taste through a representative sample of 20 of the latest rosé vintages from around the world. The sample covered all price bands from a £2.97 supermarket buy to a premium £25 Languedoc rosé.

The Tasters are : Paulo Brammer (ETM Group gastropubs), Jamie Hutchinson (The Sampler), Ian Harris (WSET), Phil Crozier (Gaucho Grill), Jade Koch (consultant), Ray O'Connor (IWC), Jenny Mackenzie (writer), Carol Emmas and Claire Hu (Harpers Wine & Spirit).

For Phil Crozier, wine buyer at the Gaucho Grill, rosé is an easy way for customers to get into wine. "We have groups of people coming in who don't know what they want to drink and rosé is perfect because they don't seem to get intimidated by it", he said. Paulo Brammer, buyer at the ETM Group of gastropubs, believed the message needs to be spread that rosé can make a great accompaniment to food.

The tasting was also aimed at exploring regional and stylistic differences between rosé - and whether such differences would help to break the perceived glass ceiling on pricing.

Meeghan Murdoch, of the Wine Circle in Virginia Water, admitted premium rosé is initially very much a handsell, but pointed out that one of her top selling pinks is Whispering Angel from Château d'Esclans at £17.

The general verdict:
The tasters were pleasantly surprised at the quality, in particular the complexity of some of the French rosés. The standard was generally good, with sweetness and acidity in balance, although any complaints centred around inadequate acidity to balance the sugar and a bitter finish which Jenny Mackenzie believed betrayed "old-fashioned" winemaking techniques.

The French performed best overall although Crozier believed some lacked the upfront fruit that consumers want and which were more evident in the two South American examples, which were voted Best Buys.

There was a surprising level of debate and differing opinions. Some of the most rigorous discussion was around the white ?infandel from Gallo, which also owns the UK's biggest rosé in its White Grenache. Crozier thought: "It's a good commercial wine and people like it. You can't knock it it's what people want to drink." Hutchinson believed it was a "rosé for people who don't like wine. It's offensive" while Murdoch said, "it tastes like alcohol, water and sugar." Harris pointed out: "Like it or not, we live in a world where big brands rule."

Star Buy (two joint winners)

Château de Sours Bordeaux Rosé 2008 (£8.99-£9.25, Majestic, Private Cellar, Bon Coeur Fine Wines)
It seems the hype when it comes to this Bordeaux star is justified. It had a "lovely vibrant fruit and a dry, long finish" (CH); "well-balanced" (RO); "lovely texture in the mouth, creamy red fruits" (PC); "well-made with a crisp, clean fruity palate" (JM) and "good minerality" (JK).

Bandol Domaine La Suffrene 2008 (£11.99 trade price including VAT, Caves de Pyrene)
This intense and complex pink from Provence, made from hand-picked Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan, was an instant hit. Hutchinson liked its "elegant, fresh" character and thought it would make a great food wine. Others said it was "slightly herbaceous with a generous palate and excellent length" (CE); "steely, spicey and mineral" (JK); "quince and ginger on the nose, ideal for Asian dishes" (RO).

Best Buys

-Domaine Pique Roque Côtes de Provence 2008 (£9.85, Lords Wines)
A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah with "lively acidity, generous flavours and a long finish" (CE). "White peach nose, sippy acidity with lovely fresh red fruit finish" (JK); "very delicate" (JH).

-Château Gassier Côtes de Provence 2008 (£8.50-£9.50, Enotria)
"Bright and fresh, peachy in the mouth, clean and fresh on the finish" (PC). "Wild strawberry aroma" (PB); "a nice balance of fruit and body and good for the on-trade" (RO).

- Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Rosé, California 2007 (£7.45, Constellation, Co-op, Makro)
"Full body with baskets of summer fruits, decent length - just what the public wants" (RO). "Fresh cream abd strawberrries with a hint of white pepper, the acidity shows the fruit off well" (JK); "a tad of syrup" (MM); "elegant with good balance" (PB).

- Septima Rosé Mendoza, Argentina 2008 (£5.99, Codorníu UK)
Tasters were pleasantly surprised to discover this new 100% Malbec rosé was from Codorníu's Argentinian winery. "Stone fruit and good, clean finish" (PC); "rich, herby and fruity nose, red cherry fruit and complexity - like a very light Pinot" (RO). Brammer found the fruit over-ripe.

-Amaral Pinot Noir Rosé 2009 Leyda Valley, Chile (£6.97, Enotria)
This new 100% Pinot rosé from MontGras properties won favour for its "bright, clean fruit" (PC); "savoury and complex" (PB); "good definition" (JH); "mineral nose, complex and elegant" (JM) but Koch complained of a slightly bitter finish.

- Abadia Raimat Rosé 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo, Costers del Segre, Spain (£6.99, Codorníu UK )
Another well-performing pink from Codorníu. "Creamy strawberries, good acidity and good with food" (CE); "red berries, creamy" (JH). "very bright, juicy fruit - not complex but fun!" (CH) "good commercial drop" (JK).

Domaine Cazes Le Canon du Marechal 2008 Syrah-Merlot (£25, Waverley TBS)
Most of the tasters had an issue with the price. "Slightly herbaceous, green nose" (JK); "clean, mineral palate" (JM); "a bit flat" (MM); "decent weight on the palate which could work in the on-trade but the fruit a bit tight" (RO).

Franc de Pied Extrodinary Vin des Sables Gris de Gris 2008, Languedoc France (£11.99, Listel)
"Early evening wine that rises in depth and intensity" (PB; "sweet and textured in the moth, but balanced acidity, and a bit of saccharine on the finish" (PC); "oxidised" (JK)

Château Beaulieu Côteaux D'Aix-En-Provence 2008 (£7-£8, Constellation)
"Fresh, fragrant raspberry nose. Lighter on the palate but still fresh" (RO); "simple" (JM) "good wine but could be a bit more elegant on the finish" (JH); "lacking in fruit" (PB).

Robert Skalli Côtes de Provence Grenache-Syrah, France 2008 (£8-£10, Wine Studio)
"Lively palate, strawberries and raspberries, good acidity" (CE); "simple but good" (JH); "clean in the mouth - very commercial" (PC).

Gallo Family Vineyards White Zinfandel USA 2008 (£5.86, Gallo)
"Lively, deep and sweet black fruits in the mouth" (PC); "Ribena!" (CH) "boiled sweets" (JK) "confected" (MM); "Hubba Bubba" (JM) "sweet and unpleasant" (JH).

Seven Hills Rose Vino da Tavola, Ramgna Italy (Asda Smart Price £2.97)
This 100% Sangiovese was the cheapest we could find. It has five hours cold maceration and uses a "unique in-house yeast strain that maximises flavour extraction and glycerol production", says Asda. "Confected and bubblegum nose, characterful and sweet but pretty horrible" (JH); "there's a limit to how much you could drink of this" (RO); "nail varnish finish" (PC)

Lamura Rose di Sicilia 2008 IGT (£5.49-£5.99)
An organic rosé made of Nero d'Avola. "Some bitterness but otherwise elegant and a good food wine" (JH); "good glugging wine" (RO); "a bit neutral on nose but clean" (CH).

Rosé Cerasuolo 2008 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC, Italy (£6.99, Marks & Spencer)
"Crisp palate, good balance and weight" (JM); "clumsy" (JK); "quite austere and elegant - slightly strange saltiness on finish" (CH); "not much complexity" (RO).

Las Falleras 2008 DO Utiel-Requena, Spain (£3.99, Marks & Spencer)
"Dilute and astringent" (JH); "some synthetic flavours" (RO) "good commercial wine" (PC)

Bodegas Pittacum tres obispos 2008 (Bierzo, DO, Caves de Pyrene, DPD including VAT £8.79)
"Strange" (MM); "a bit of manure on nose but fresh in the mouth" (CH); "sulphurous" (JK); "interesting perhaps, but not enjoyable" (JH).

Climbing Pink 2009, Central Ranges, Australia (£10.99, Cumulus Wines,
Made from Shiraz. "Lots of fruit jam on the nose, confected" (RO); "very ripe" (PB); "very fruity - almost verging on blackcurrants" (CH).

(All prices rsps unless otherwise stated)