Rosé beyond the latest vintage - analysis
The world of rosé is vast – and while consistency and young vintages suit some styles, there’s a case for flexibility elsewhere, finds Lucy Britner
Provence continues to lure consumers with its iconic pale pink hue. And there’s no doubt that the popularity of this style has proved a rising tide for all pink ships.
For Mark Jarman, head of wine operations at Morrisons, the trend is still very much towards the lighter, drier, elegant styles of rosé and at a recent portfolio tasting, of the 18 rosés on show in the summer drinks section, five were from Provence and all were a similar shade.
“We’ve seen other countries that do it very well, without taking on a pure Provence style but moving more towards the Provence style in their own way,” he says.
“What we’re trying to show is that we can move closer to the style customers are expecting – ie, a Provence style – but also celebrate what those countries are able to do in their own right.”
He says consumers buy rosé on colour, taste and image.
“The Provence bottles are very appealing,” he says of their shape. “That’s an important part of the customer experience.”
However, Jarman says grapes are less of a part of it, which he believes is probably a good thing “because it could get very complicated with the various varieties that are in those wines. And that would be unnecessarily complicated from a customer’s perspective”.
Not to mention, it’s not always the same grapes in the same quantities.
At Maison Mirabeau, for example, co-founder Stephen Cronk says that, generally speaking, part of the appeal of Provence is consistency.
“We’re a brand and if someone wants Mirabeau Classic and follows it every year, they don’t want to go on the same journey as they would if they were following a Burgundian estate, where vintage variation becomes a sort of intellectual journey.
“For Provence rosé, we need to present a style that is recognisable each year. And so, every year, the Grenache and the Syrah and the Cinsault give us a different profile. This year, we used more Grenache than we normally would in the Classic because it has the right profile,” he explains.
Though it has the pale salmon colour in common with Provence rosé, Accolade’s recent launch, under the Mud House brand, hails from Chile.
To provide distinction on-shelf between the existing Mud House ranges, the latest wine features Chile’s national bellflower on-pack in the same spirit as the traditional Mud House New Zealand design, which features the native nikau palm.
While brands such as Mud House will also strive for consistency, when it comes to vintages, the shelves aren’t awash with Chilean rosé – and there’s a pretty logical reason why.
Michael Awin, owner of wine agency Awin Barratt Siegel, says the challenge with rosé from the southern hemisphere is the timing of when the vintage is ready, since grapes are harvested in UK springtime.
This puts countries such as Chile about six months behind in terms of what the trade needs to meet summer drinking demand, he explains.
“Rosé is an all-year-round wine, but summer is when most rosé sales are, and the trade is very demanding in terms of the vintage – they want the latest vintage,” he says.
However, Awin believes retailers should look beyond the latest vintage for southern hemisphere rosés, especially when it comes to quality producers.
“We always try to find rosés that will last – they’re good into the next vintage. But the gatekeepers of the trade demand the freshest vintage and really they should taste first.”
He says the shuttered on-trade during lockdowns has inspired some to reconsider earlier wines that they still had in stock, and looking forward, shipping issues might also mean the approach to the latest vintages “softens a bit” among buyers. But ultimately, he says, it must always come down to taste.
Paul Daniell, head of off -trade at Ehrmanns Wines agrees. He says 2020 Malbec rosés, “something with a bit of body”, are “drinking fantastically and will be great for a year or two longer”.
As with all things wine, Dan Farrell-Wright, director of online retailer Wickhams, says the answer to the question of older vintages is: “it depends.”
“Most pale rosé wines we see on the shelves are made to be fruity and youthful: the grapes are picked early, the fermentation is at a cooler temperature. If you tasted a 2021, 2020 and 2019 in this style side by side the 2019 would most likely be spent, with very little fruit remaining,” he says.
“However, take a look at Bandol and there’s ageing potential in those wines. Or an English rosé made with Pinot Noir and allowed a malolactic fermentation – the profile will be very diff erent, smoother and creamier. Or Garrus from Château d’Esclans – which is made to be aged.”
He says in order to sell older vintages, merchants need to guide customers to those rosés that have the potential to be aged, which means paying the right price.
He says Garrus is around £100 per bottle, while good English rosé will be between £20 and £30. “There are always older rosés available at incredibly cheap prices, but if the quality isn’t there, it’s not a good strategy for returning custom,” he concludes.