Monthly Archives: May 2015

Eye Candy

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.

A fabulous selection of top Rosés

The selection of Posh Pinks

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.

A colorful line-up

A colorful line-up

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.

Vinolock closure on some of the bottles

Vinolock closure on some of the bottles

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……

London Cru

What a surprise to find a winery when I was strolling around the streets of London last week. There I was on a blustery morning, looking for a rosé tasting in an attempt to feel summery (more of which in a later post) when a friend pointed out a winery to me in an 19th century gin distillery. So we knocked on the door of London Cru and the rather surprised wine maker, Gavin Monery, was kind enough to show us around.

Winemaker Gavin shows off the Mural at the entrance to London Cru

Winemaker Gavin shows off the Mural at the entrance to London Cru

My first question was where do the grapes come from and the answer was surprisingly Italy, France and Spain. Within 36 hours of hand picking they are delivered via refrigerated truck to the urban winery, packed in plastic crates.

The SW6 Label of London Cru

The SW6 Label of London Cru

Production started small in 2013 with just 1 300 cases, in 2014 it was up to 2000 cases. Plans are to go up to 3500 cases for this year’s harvest which means processing about 50 tonnes of grapes. The immaculate winery has five temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks for the red and 50 French oak barrels from 6 or 7 different coopers for ageing the reds and for fermenting the Chardonnay.

The temperature controlled fermentation vats

The temperature controlled fermentation vats

Why London? London is awash with micro breweries and gin distilleries, so why not a winery? This is where the consumers are and the idea is for Londoners to get a hands on, first person experience of wine making. Wine drinkers interest in traceability and artisan foods and wines inspired this first central London winery. As well as making a range of 3 reds and 1 white wine under the SW6 London Cru Label, visitors can also join in the wine making experience learning how wine is made and participating in bending; creating their own blend to take home afterwards.

And the barrels

And the barrels

The Grapes are sourced by Gavin and Roberson Wine’s senior buyer Mark Andrew. Gavin has designed the winery and has obviously put to good use his wine making experience in Australia, Burgundy and the Rhone and has had a lot of fun taking the best of many worlds to create this gravity fed winery.

Chardonnay samples reading for blending

Chardonnay samples reading for blending in the laboratory at the site

The fun element can be seen in both the funky new labels and the mural near the entrance under Roberson Wine’s head office. You can buy the wines online from http://www.londoncru.co.uk/wines or on the sister company’s web site and their shop in Kensington.

London and the wine world are full of surprises.