Rosé now accounts for around 11% of wines sold in the UK. Although growth has been flat for the last year or so we are still talking about 175 million bottles, a statistic that was unthinkable 20 years ago. To put it into perspective, rosé outsold sparkling wines in 2015 by 35 million bottles and that is despite the huge rise in popularity of Prosecco.
Whilst a third of rosé wine sold is from USA, reflecting the power of brands like Blossom Hill and Echo Falls, the country on the march is France with strong sales growth last year. I have always enjoyed the dry, pale coloured rosés from the south of France. I have a particular affinity with them from years of summer holidays camping in the south of France and a previous job importing wines from small producers in the Languedoc. They work well as aperitif wines and are good food matchers so you can happily carry on drinking them with your barbecue grilled meats, fish dishes and summer salads. Olives, garlic, tomatoes, goat’s cheese and lamb are all good partners with a south of France rosé. And sunshine of course, something we seem to enjoying more of in UK summers these days. The classic and most elegant rosés are from Provence, a wine region that has been specialising in rosé wines for over 2,000 years. They take rosé seriously here and it accounts for 88% of wines produced in the region. The dry, delicately fruity taste and pale colour are achieved by the juice of a blend of usually Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre grapes macerating on the skins for between 2-20 hours before fermentation continues in a separate tank. Areas to look out for on the label are Cotes de Provence AOP, Coteaux Varois AOP and Coteaux d’Aix en Provence AOP. The latter area allows a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. My local Majestic store manager tells me that Majestic sell almost half of all Provence rosés in the UK and given the wide range available I can believe him. Magnum formats are particularly popular as indeed they are in France. My recommended picks are AIX in magnum at £19.99 or Chateau de Berne Rose 2015 at £9.99 if you buy two bottles.
Still within Provence but technically from a wine region point of view in the southern Rhone is Luberon AOP, a green hilly area north of the Durance river made famous for holidaying Brits by Peter Mayle and his Year in Provence book. Wine estates are thinner on the ground here but there are some excellent producers of rosé, red and white wines. They are harder to find in the UK but William Chase of Tyrells and Chase vodka fame is making some lovely rosé at Chateau Constantin just outside the ridiculously pretty village of Lourmarin. I was in the Luberon and Coteaux d’Aix en Provence regions earlier this month researching wine estates and this was in the top 20% of the many rosé wines tasted. You can buy the 2015 closer to home at The Secret Cellar for £14.50.
Other southern Rhone regions that do rosé very well are Tavel AOP and Lirac AOP. Further west along the mediterranean in the Languedoc and beyond the dependable good value Pays d’Oc IGP rosé wines I would look out for rosés from Minervois AOP, Saint Chinian AOP and Cotes de Roussillon AOP. Many of these are available in M&S, Oddbins, Waitrose and Sainsbury as well as the two stores mentioned above. Happy hunting.
Jonny Gibson is a wine educator and runs regular tastings and courses including WSET Levels 1-3 with Sussex Wine School at Hotel du Vin in Brighton.