Rose is no longer considered a girly wine, it’s becoming mainstream. Don’t believe me? Well sales and production figures are increasing, even in ‘classic’ regions such as Bordeaux, where the rosé production increased 39% in 2014 and Clairet by 25%.
Clairet is a Bordeaux speciality that represents about 15% of Bordeaux rosé production. The difference between Rosé and Clairet is determined uniquely by colour. A dark rosé is usually obtained through a longer maceration time or in a really ripe vintage, when skins release their colour quickly. Bordeaux producers cannot market the wine as rosé after a certain depth of colour but must sell it as Clairet. Little known outside of Bordeaux, this light red wine is a secret reserved for summer drinking by the locals and is worth searching out.
This lack of recognition may be behind the current trend in Bordeaux to produce much lighter rosés. I think however it has more to do with the success of Provence rosés and a desire to appeal to their consumers.
Bordeaux rosé is made from the same grape varieties as red Bordeaux: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The trick is to macerate the skins on the juice for a short period before too much colour is transferred from the grape skins to the juice. Some specialist producers use continuous pressing machines under inert gas, which allow for a short maceration in ideal conditions.
Traditionally Bordeaux rosé production would be more important in cooler years as running off some juice after a short maceration would allow for a concentration of the must in these lighter vintages. More grapes skins for less juice gives a more concentrated extraction.
Now however most Bordeaux rosé producers are concentrating on picking their grapes at an ideal level of ripeness and acidity specifically for Rosé, it is no longer a by-product and can happily hold its head high in comparison with Rosé wines from other regions.
This was clearly demonstrated in a recent tasting in London of 36 international rosés selected from 9 different countries by Richard Bampfield MW assisted by Laura Clay. Under the banner ‘#Posh pinks’ (the cheapest wine in the selection was £11.50 and the most expensive £59.40) France made up the majority of the samples, and Provence was unsurprisingly the leader (there were 3 Bordeaux). There were also wines from Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal, Sancerre, Sicily, Chile, South Africa, Australia and even England.
The first impression was of the wonderful range of colours from really pale, to dark (Clairet?) pink via onion-skin and salmon pink. It was an eye opener and probably one of the most visually pleasing tastings I’ve ever done.
Descriptors such as rose petal, raspberry and bubblegum made perhaps light of this fabulous range of products. The different oak treatments were really interesting to taste side by side; not something we always associate Rosé wines.
We tasted blind but could see the beautiful colour range, which does influence perception and expectations – sometimes wrongly. Afterwards, the line up of bottles showed that Rosé producers take their packaging as seriously their wine making with a range of bottle shapes and closure, with screw cap and Vinolok, with colours showing to their best advantage through clear class.
The Provence wines scored highest for me but I did spot one of the Bordeaux Rosés, that tasted very familiar, and I loved the sample from Chile too. Over 45 tasters submitted scores and 13 of the top-scoring 14 wines were from Provence or nearby, the only exception being Château Brown from Bordeaux. In fact, in the top 20 wines, only one other wine was from outside the south of France – Turkey Flat from the Barossa Valley in South Australia.
You can see a detailed round up of the tasting notes from Jancis Robinson
Summer must be just around the corner……