When we get our wines in-store, placing them on the shelves is generally a very simple affair. Red wines go in the red section, whites in the white, and rosés on the rosé shelf. But this is becoming more complex. The latter has gone from a place to keep light pink Provence-style wines, to an experimental area full of bottles that don't fit easily within the red/white binary.
We thought it might be helpful to highlight and explain some of these deliciously unusual bottlings here, particularly as we move into the Spring when these fresh, bone dry styles are most readily consumed. For ease, we've grouped them into a number of categories:
Admittedly this a classic style in Italy and Spain, but still a relative newcomer to Britain's warm weather list. Traditionally made by keeping red grape juice on the skins a little longer before being drained off and fermented, think of this as "rosé+". All the juicy berry flavours you love, turned up to 11.
A good place to start would be the Rosado from Garcia de Verdevique. The Garcia family have had 22 hectares of land in the Contraviesa, the mountain range between Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean for generations. This is really far into Southern Spain, and by rights it should be far too hot to make anything fresh-tasting. But at between 1150 and 1400 metres above sea level this may well be Europe’s highest vineyard and its proximity to the Mediterranean makes the climate especially unique with the cooling influence of sea breezes. This fairly savoury rosado is made from a field blend, picked from old vines (some of which are unknown varieties) and vinified together. A juicy yet mineral wine with a relatively full body and flavours of wild strawberries plus a little earth and spice.
A more full bodied option would be Panic on the Boat (rather than at the Disco) from Austrian producer Wein Goutte!. Panic is a rosato that could almost be called a light red, made from biodynamically grown Pinot Noir and Zweigelt. The grapes were fermented on skins for 4 days before pressing off into old oak barrels to mature for 11 months. This is a beautifully complex wine, with heady souk spice aromas from time spent in oak and generous round fruit on the surprisingly long and powerful palate.
Co-fermenting red and small quantities of white grapes has long been common practise in some areas such as the Northern Rhone. However, many natural winemakers have been experimenting with blending red and white varieties in more experimental ways to create some really unusual wines with characteristics of both.
La Salada is husband and wife team Toni and Anna Carbo who make exceptional natural wines in Penedes from vineyards passed down by Toni's grandfather. Most of the vines are over 80 years old and have never been treated with chemicals. This is carried through to the winery where there are no additions whatsoever and all wines are bottled without fining or filtration. Con Barbas Y A Lo Loco is a delightfully hazy white/red blend of Xarelo and Sumoll that are co-fermented with native yeasts. Electric, mouth-watering aromas of cranberry, wild strawberry and white pepper with zingy citrus acidity and steely minerality adding serious complexity.
Or, how about a certified juice-bomb from Central Italy. Davide and Marco of Lammidia (pictured below) make wines of unadulterated, juicy pleasure in Abruzzo. Their slogan is 'uva e basta' which roughly translates as 'grapes and that's it', which sums up their approach pretty well. Miscela is a blend of red and white made without any fining, filtration or sulphur, just grape juice in the truest sense. An absolute joy to drink chilled down with zingy red fruit, plenty of citrus notes and a savoury complexity on the finish.
Meanwhile, in the South of France Jean-Louis Pinto, AKA Es d'Aqui, is a micro-negociant who works out of a small cellar underneath his family home. He works only with fruit from organic and biodynamic vineyards and has a minimal intervention approach in the cellar with all wines made without temperature control or added sulphur. M&M is a lifted and fragrant blend of red Mourvedre and white Muscat d'Alexandria grown near Perpignan. Great purity of fruit with exotic aromas of sweet spice and flowers.
We've seen some unusual wine that doesn't have a name yet (as far as we know) at some recent tastings, that we felt needed special mention here. A growing trend is fermenting white grape juice in a vessel that previously fermented red wine. Retaining more of the fresh citrus acidity and varietal flavours of a white, you also get some extra fruit flavours, colour and light tannins from the red skins.
In Comune is an experimental collaboration between Jacopo of Ajola, Trish of Gazzetta and their friends at Malauva. From a parcel planted over a clay, this is a direct press of Chardonnay fermented for three weeks with the skins and residue of Sangiovese grapes, before being pressed off again to rest for six months in stainless steel. Perhaps the most fruit forward of the Ajola wines, it occupies that sweet spot between rosato and rosso, pairing the stone fruits of Chardonnay with Sangiovese’s savouriness to great effect. Really, really fun and we looking forward to tasting more of these wines in the coming months!
These are incredible wines, funky yet hugely refreshing. But if the heart craves something more traditional, we of course have some more conventional roses. Check out this classic from Reserve de Gassac, or a lovely pink Sancerre-style Pinot Noir from Domaine L'Epinay. Have a look at the full range here.