GRAPEVINE: Liz Sagues has something special for rosé lovers
There are, it seems, two sorts of rosé lovers: those who go for the deep, shocking-pink-toned glassfuls, with big fruity flavours and often more than a hint of sweetness, and the ones who prefer something altogether paler, drier and more delicate. And th
There are, it seems, two sorts of rosé lovers: those who go for the deep, shocking-pink-toned glassfuls, with big fruity flavours and often more than a hint of sweetness, and the ones who prefer something altogether paler, drier and more delicate.
And the more I drink Provence rosé, the more firmly I fall into that second category.
Provence produces close to eight per cent of all the rosé in the world. But its sales here don't represent anything like that proportion of the British pink pool, where California dominates. The half million bottles which the vignerons from France's far south sent here last year were less than half a per cent of our total rosé quaffing - which continues to rise astoundingly, up almost 30 per cent in the last year and 70 per cent since spring 2005. But change should be on the way, as the region makes a determined marketing effort in Britain. I just hope it succeeds.
Enough of statistics. Let's enjoy the wines, lovely as aperitifs but also perfect partners for a whole menu of summer food.
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To prove the point, I gathered together an array of bottles and a tableful of food, from salads to paté and including some ingredients - spinach, for example - which often aren't wine friendly. And we had a splendid time, even though it was probably the wettest and coldest evening of early summer.
First, a little background. Provence rosé comes from three appellations, Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence, and, although a variety of grapes can go into the bottle (much more frequently now a conventional bordeaux shape rather than that old curvy style), those which appear most frequently are grenache, syrah, mourvedre and cinsault, plus tibouren, a Provencal speciality.
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With the Mistral wind whistling through the vines, disease and pests are less of a problem than a lot of other areas, so organic grape-growing is big in the region, another plus in these green times.
But on to the wines (you're most likely to find 2006 vintage). Some need searching out - but the effort is rewarding. Some are easily found: Chateau Saint Roch-les-Vignes, for example, is in Majestic (£6, or £4.80 if you buy at least two rosé bottles in your case of 12). It's scented, light and easy, but you do get more stylish wine if you pay a bit more.
Majestic should also have Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cru Classé 2006 (£10/£8 for two or more), which is altogether smarter - a lovely pure-fruited wine, highly recommended - and Chateau Pigoudet La Chapelle (£8/£6.40), rather deeper in colour and flavour. The Sainte Marguerite is organic, as are two other of my favourite Provence rosés.
Every time I've tasted Saint André de Figuière vieilles vignes I've been swept away by its quality - and it's a splendid food wine. It costs £9 from The Grape Shop in Clapham (020-7924 3638, dpwines@ thegrapeshop.com - they'll sell a single bottle but you'll regret not buying a case). And very nearly as good is Domaine de la Grande Pallière (Nicolas, £7.95 - Nicolas has others, too, and seasonal offers), delicate yet full of flavour.
The other wines in that tasting session all came from a single producer, the Canadian Faulkner family at Domaine de Grand Cros. Julian Faulkner makes two near-identical cuvées under each of his main labels, Jules (£6.40) and Le Grand Cros L'Esprit de Provence (£8), one paler and more delicate (LF for feminine), the other just a little deeper and fuller (LM for masculine) - the first more a sunny day aperitif, the latter intended for food.
Tasted together, the differences are obvious. But both are appealing - just choose according to weather and occasion. There's also a spicy, very food-friendly oak-fermented and aged wine, Nectar (£9.30), but that's a very different style. Grand Cros stockists include Selfridges and Noel Young Wines (01223 844 744,www.nywines.co.uk).
And one final recommendation, Chateau Miraval (£8.95 from Ten-Acres Wines, 01992 618 017, www.ten-acre.com).
All we need now is for the rest of summer to turn out as long and hot as the predictions promised.