The odd column and blog post asks the question Can Rose Wines be Fine Wines? The conclusion always seems to finish up saying that some rose wines are genuinely great but only in a limited sense. Comparisons are always made with fine red and fine white wines. I've never been comfortable with this. After all the whole idea behind making a very good rose is to only take some of the richness that the grape has to offer. The skill here is knowing which bits to leave behind and very, very often the less a winemaker takes into the wine the more nuanced, enticing, gentle and intriguing the wine will be. A terroir driven rose therefore, needs to be made with great precision. A fine wine rose may need to be tasted by looking at what's not there almost as much as what actually is there.
I tasted three rose wines recently that are widely available and keenly priced. I compared these to two that are considerably more expensive and pretty well confined to quality hotels and restaurants.
- Trapiche Varietals 2010 Rose Mendoza, Argentina. Widely available
- Arrogant Frog Ribet Pink Syrah Rose 2010 Pays d'Oc, France. Dunnes Stores
- M de Minuty Rose 2010 Cote de Provence, France. Hotels and Restaurants
- Minuty Prestige Rose 2010 Cote de Provence, France. Hotels and Restaurants
So What Happened?
While colour defines this category it is unimportant as to whether a wine is fine or not. To a large extent it is stylistic. My feeling is that consumers tend to favour onion skin through salmon these days rather than rich pinks. Beauty of course will always be in the eye of the beholder and to be fair every hue is on sale and being sold. I took the following photo of an O'Brien's Wines Rizzardi Chiaretto Bardolino Rose recently because the colour was so completely pink! The wine is excellent.
Inexpensive Rose wines tend to express fruitiness in a gushing and ripe-fruit sort of a way. This is perfectly acceptable as this promotes enjoyment and makes excellent picnic and casual drinking wines. In addition where the primary grape in the bottle is tannic residual sugars will often be used to soften the wine out. This makes the fruit feel fatter on the palate. Once again, if this is done well, it is perfectly acceptable. With a bit of sugar peeking onto the palate, though, food matching must take into account sweetness.
Does expensive equal a higher quality? In this example it does. Is this a general rule? I think so. Don't get me wrong here. Quality and enjoyment are not mutual bedfellows. All of these wines are very enjoyable. Most Rose Wines need to be drunk young. Something expensive that does not smack of quality on the palate will be left to fester, unsold, past its best by date! Over time then, this will dictate a sales reality which states the time fashioned phrase that you can fool most people once but that all of the people, all of the time, is another matter altogether if the Rose is priced too highly!
So, if the first three wines are well made, very acceptable and worth recommending what makes the next two 'better' wines? What defines 'Higher Quality' and are they indeed 'Fine Wines'?
Well, M de Minuty has true depth to its flavours. This is noted on both the nose and the palate. Light rose with distinct earth, and a gentle ripeness, shows a wine attempting to define itself in terms of geography and style. Minuty Prestige brings all of this into sharper focus where it not only succeeds in defining itself but also the category of Fine Pink Wines also! While there are endless levels of detail to the wine it is all expressed with an exquisite leanness and austerity. The wine maker has made his choice and has managed to capture all of the elements required of a fine wine while at the same time he has had to keep out everything that would have made this a red and not a pink wine. Skill indeed. Both wines have perfect structure in terms of acidity etc and will age for a few years but really they each have a new and ripe delicacy that says, with great deal of charm, 'Drink me Now!
Minuty Prestige is a Rose and it is a Fine Wine. It ticks all the boxes and yes, it is expensive and yes, it is worth the money!
Last week I had a further opportunity to discuss all of this at a Louis Roederer Tasting hosted by Cassidy Wines. Domaine Ott was showing off its brilliant Rose wines out of Provence while Cristal Rose strutted its stuff on the other side of the room. Expensive? Oh yay. Fine Wines? Absolutely no question about it. Indeed one leading sommelier described Cristal Rose to me as the DRC of Pink! More of that tasting later but believe me, this is the table that Minuty Prestige deserves to sit at. There is indeed a category out there of Fine Wines that are Pink, Proud and quite brilliant.