Wine: Prettier, fresher bottles herald the rosé revolution

PUBLISHED: 08:00 04 April 2016

It's the rose revolution

It's the rose revolution

Archant

This, said Angelo Peretti, holding up a card banded in three shades of pale pink, is the rosé revolution.

The softest shade matched the prime of Provence, but we weren’t in southern France.

The location was a wine resort in the hills on the eastern edge of Lake Garda, deep in the homeland of bardolino chiaretto.

Traditionally, bardolino chiaretto has been a very deep pink wine, quaffed in generous quantity by the many tourists frequenting this delightful part of Italy – “the Mediterranean in the Alps” as Peretti happily put it. But since the 2014 vintage there has been a startling change, and one which does deserve the title revolution.

It all came about, explained Peretti, communications manager for the bardolino wine consortium, because of a search for quality, for better expression of the varying soils and microclimates of the planting region, for a wine which would be longer lived. It needed to be fresher, prettier, more in line with modern demands – “French colour with an Italian taste”. “But we didn’t want to copy anyone else, we wanted to make only our style,” he stressed.

What seems extraordinary to anyone used to the near-endless wrangling over formal changes in wine is how quickly the this rosé revolution happened. I suspect Peretti is simplifying things a little when he says: “We sat down together and decided to do it.” That was at the moment of the 2014 harvest – a difficult vintage, and because of that easier for the revolutionaries to win their argument.

The new chiaretto is well on the way to reaching its colour goal, that palest band on Angelo’s card. To achieve that, grapes – corvina is the dominant variety – intended for rosé are designated much earlier on and picked at the optimum moment. Once in the winery, they now spend much less time in contact with their red skins. The result is a light and attractive food wine, aromatic, elegant, dry, savoury rather than sweetish, often with an almost salty tang.

The benchmark for the new rosé style is Bardolino Chiaretto Classico 2014 Vigneti Villabella, from the domain of Franco Christoforetti, president of the consortium, but sadly that is not available here.

Other wines which follow this pale and interesting route can be found, however – for example Cavalchina, a pioneer of the pale shade. The 2014 vintage is £11–£12 (dbmwines.co.uk, henningswine.co.uk) and I drank it with great pleasure with perfect tortellini just a few kilometres from the vineyards a couple of weeks back. The price, though, demonstrated the gap between Italy and England – there, in a smart restaurant, a bottle cost just €13.50.

More chiarettos available in the UK include Santa Sofia and Santi L’Infinito (£9-£9.25, mondialwinesuk.co.uk), Fortnum’s (£12.50, fortnumandmason.com) and Bolla (£8, ocado.com), but I haven’t tasted any of them.

Angelo and his consortium colleagues have one clear aim: to see bardolino chiaretto become Italy’s pink equal of prosecco. “If this project works we will produce half the rosé bottles in Italy,” he predicted. They’re already well on the way: current production is some 12million bottles, up from 4million six years ago. But while it will be huge for Italy if the hoped-for 20million figure is reached, 141million-bottle Provence still won’t feel the chill.


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