A Rosé is a Rosé is a Rosé
Updated: Jun 27
"A rose is a rose is a rose" is among Gertrude Stein’s most famous quotations, often interpreted as meaning "things are what they are”. But this is never the case with wine, and especially with Rosé wine. Good, Quality, medium to high priced wine should be alive and ever changing, expressing no two vintages are ever exactly the same.
In celebration of International Rosé Wine Day, on Friday the 26th of June this year, I thought it apropos to focus this blog on the often maligned and misunderstood pink wine. Before I acquaint you with three very different Rosé wines of differing complexities and prices, a little history may be in order.
A significant number of the first known wines were actually Rosé. They were light drinks made by watering down mixes of white and red grapes. In antiquated Greece, it was actually viewed as enlightened to weaken wine. There was a far reaching conviction that only “barbarians—drunkards who raped and murdered”—drank undiluted wine.
During harvest, labourers would crush red and white grapes together with their feet. The juice would then be placed into huge earthenware pots for aging, bringing about a very oxidative style. This pink juice was marginally off-dry and tannic from contact with the grape skins, seeds, and stems. They were a long way from the delicious Rosés of today. The Greeks and Romans eventually began isolating grapes by colour, and separated red and white wines were first conceived. But, the early red wines were highly tannic and rather difficult to drink. Therefore the general inclination and preference was for an easier to drink, lighter-hued wine. This made Rosé the drink of choice for a considerable number of years.
In the 6th Century BC, the Phocaeans brought grape vines from Greece to Massalia (modern day Marseille) in southern France. The wines created here were, once more, mixes of white and red grapes. Normally light in shading, soon these lovely pink wines were being discussed all over the Mediterranean.
Later, when the Romans landed in Provence, and using their vast trade routes, they exported these special pink wines of Massalia, introducing them far and wide. It is because of this, the South of France is viewed as the origin of Rosé wine.
In the nineteenth century, wealthy French sightseers began rushing to places like the Côte d'Azur in Southern France. After a delightful day of playing pétanque and swimming, they would often unwind together with a chilled glass of Rosé wine. Suddenly, these rather simple local wines were elevated in status and became a symbol of glamour, leisure, and ultimately, summertime.
Over time Rosé wines also became known as vin de soif, a “wine to quench your thirst”, simply, a refreshing wine to drink while cooking or to enjoy as a before dinner drink. Many French parents would even allow their children to imbibe in small amounts as a special treat. It was because of this, that Jacques Pépin, one of today’s most celebrated French Chefs, first drank rosé at the young age of six. He is quoted to have said, “It was wonderful! My father would start putting a tablespoon of Rosé in a glass of water, just to change the colour a little bit and get a taste of what it is. You have to understand, back then, there was no soda or anything. There was water, and then there was wine. That was it.”
Today we are spoiled for choice when it comes to Rosé wine. It is now produced all over the world in many different styles and shades from a number of different grape varieties. Actually, until relatively recently the consumption of Rosé wine had been steadily increasing. As of 2015, Rosé wines represented 30% of worldwide still wine consumption, in contrast with only 16% in 2002. Presently, Rosé wine consumption has somewhat stabilised in terms of volume, in line with the overall consumption trends for all wines. Nevertheless, it slowly continues to increase its share of still wine consumption.
Here in the Languedoc we have a plethora of fabulous Rosé to enjoy. All the way from cheap and cheerful, easy drinking vin de soif, to slightly more complex and interesting well made medium priced wines to possibly one of the most expensive Rosé wines, and top rated Rosé wines in the world. So let’s start sipping!
First off let’s begin with the award winning (most recently, Gold Medal Concours Terre de Vins Millésime 2018), Ensedune Cabernet Franc Rosé, IGP Coteaux d'Ensérune. This delightful and simple wine is priced in France at under €6, at my local wine shop, (literally a 5 minute walk from my home), the recently and beautifully restored Le Comptoir de la Cité. This former “Palais de la Micheline” from the Belle Époque period, as of 2017 is now classified as a French Historic Monument. Le Comptoir de la Cité is the heavenly showroom of Les Vignobles Foncalieu, a union of cooperatives anchored in the heart of Languedoc.
This 100% Cabernet Franc, vinified by direct pressing rosé, has complex and yet subtle aromas of peppermint, redcurrant and violet. The mouth presents a nice concentration with hints of roasted red pepper providing a rather persistent finish. It is simply delicious and pairs beautifully with Mediterranean cuisine and summer dishes, or just on it’s own to refresh and enliven oneself on a hot summer afternoon or evening.
Interestingly, Les Vignobles Foncalieu’s Ensedune range provides 6 unusual single varietal wines. With a nod to the values of the cooperative, each vintage is signed by one of the members who was the author of that particular vintage. These wines are IGP Coteaux d'Enserune, an appellation dominated by the Roman Oppidum of Enserune near Béziers.
A cooperative with strong values since 1967, Les Vignobles Foncalieu’s 650 winegrowers cultivate team spirit, authenticity, innovation with a shared passion… all of which have led Foncalieu to be named as one of the 50 most well-known brands of wine in the world by the trade magazine Drinks International in 2017.
Next up, I present the elegant, sophisticated, fresh and mineral Château Maris’s Rose de Nymphe Emue. Château Maris is an iconic biodynamic domain, located in the heart of La Livinière, the first Classified Crus of the Minervois, Languedoc. The estate is certified Organic (2002), Biodyvin (2004), Demeter (2008) and BCorps since 2016. This cuvée, Rose de Nymphe Emue, is a 100% blend of Grenache grown in the Château’s numerous and special parcels of land in the Minervois. It takes its name from La Cuisse de Nymphe, is a pink rose variety with a very pale pink colour and a slight hint of mauve. Today, Château Maris, which has repeatedly been awarded by some of the greatest wine critics, including Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, is one of the pillars of Languedoc biodynamic wine production. Wine Spectator recently heralded Château Maris as “One of the five most environmentally friendly wineries in the world”.
Rose de Nymphe Emue opens with an exceptionally fresh and mineral bouquet with notes of maraschino cherries, apricot, eucalyptus, and raspberry. Vivacious and based on wonderful acidity, its elaborate taste begins with fragrances of raspberries and orange pizzazz. Its exquisite and flavourful completion continues your journey with notes of zesty fruit. This wine pairs well with pasta, vegetarian dishes and lean fish, with appetisers and snacks, or simply on it’s own as an aperitif. It retails in France at around €12.
For a previous vintage, Wine Advocate awarded it 90 points commenting that it "boasts a slightly peachy-pink hue but real rosé flavours. Peach, strawberry and citrus avoiding the overly confected notes present in so many of today's rosés, finishing clean and crisp."
Whenever possible, I have included this wine during one of the wine tasting moments on my Chocolate & Wine Tasting Walking Tour of Carcassonne. It has always proven to be a firm favourite and has never disappointed. The bottle is beautifully designed complete with a glass cork seal, which of course just adds to the wow factor of this alluring wine. It is available to purchase in Carcassonne from Vins et Vinos.
"It ain't over till the fat lady sings!"
As a side bar, this expression appears to originate from the world of opera and the stereotype of the plus size female singer. Specifically, it refers to the great german composer, Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” or more popularly known as the Ring Cycle or simply The Ring. During the last musical number from Twilight of the Gods: the "fat lady" is none other than the Valkyrie Brunnhilde, whose goodbye scene lasts about 20 minutes and finishes the entire Ring Cycle. Since The Twilight of the Gods ends with the apocalypse, or the end of the world, everything is finally over when the fat lady sings.
But I digress with shock and awe, when I should be ending with bewilderment and glee! Clos du Temple by Gérard Bertrand is truly an exquisite rosé, with precise aromas of ripe apricot and peach complemented by hints of spice. Its is perfectly balanced with extraordinarily perfumed brilliance, it’s rich and creamy texture is beautifully interwoven with minerality, leading to a long and exquisite completion. This wine pairs beautifully with scallop carpaccio or lobster.
This wine, a dazzling assemblage of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, (sometimes Mourvédre) and a white grape variety, Viognier, gives this Rosé a truly unique character. It is aged for 6 months in new French oak barrels.
Award-winning winemaker Gérard Bertrand possesses diverse vineyard estates, many of which are amongst the most renowned Crus of Languedoc-Roussillon. Gérard's vision for Clos du Temple is to make a Grand Cru Rosé from the Languedoc. Situated in the heart of the region, Clos du Temple comes from the extraordinary terroir of Cabrières, where eight hectares of vines are partitioned into a mosaic of seven little plots, cultivated with biodynamic methods. Exceptionally old Cinsault, Grenache Noir and Syrah vines are perfectly adapted to the well-draining, well exposed schist soils, while Viognier and Mourvèdre add complexity to the wine.
The terroir draws its peculiarity from its topology: schist and limestone soils have joined with the hilly terrain to make a complex underground water network that makes for an outstandingly natural and unadulterated water supply to feed the vines. The vineyard's elevation of 240 meters brings harmonised freshness to the southern/southwestern exposure which prompts great organic concentrated fruit. Following biodynamic standards, horses and donkeys are utilised to reinforce the association between minerals, plants, animals and people. Each plot of vines, including old vine Syrah and Grenache (30 years) and Cinsault (50 years), is manually harvested at the optimal moment. The grapes are picked at dawn exploiting lower temperatures, consequently diminishing any oxidation. They are promptly moved to the winery which is in the heart of the vineyard to retain the highest caliber of the organic fruit.
This exquisite wine won Best Rosé of the world 2020 at the Global Rosé Masters of Drinks Business. It retails in France at around €200 per bottle, elevating it to quite possibly the most expensive Rosé in the world. It is available to purchase at, or export from, Vins et Vinos in Carcassonne, France.
Voilà!, there you have it, my longest blog thus far, just barely touching on the subject of Rosé wine. I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave any comments and share it with your family and friends.
Exploring through rose tinted glasses can often be a beautiful and rewarding experience. Happy Tasting!
“Roses do not bloom hurriedly; for beauty, like any masterpiece, takes time to blossom.”
- OIV Focus 2015 - The rosé wine market
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