In the Pink
Come summer, it’s time to indulge in some rosé one upmanship. There’s some divine wines out there
Column by Elizabeth Moore
Summer is upon us. London and most of the country are sticky in the heat and we’re all in need of quenching libations to make life more bearable before we head off on staycations or to sit in the park with a bottle, which is almost a staycation in itself. Time then for the squashed middle, who can no longer compete with the uber moneyed classes, to indulge in their favourite summer pastime, Rosé one upmanship. There are many degrees of this. You might start out with a bounce in your step, straight from university, having gratefully tied down a job, by impressing friends, partners and colleagues with a Marques de Riscal or Marques de Caceres full of jaunty cherry hot pinks and fruity hellos, but sooner or later you are going to be at a dinner with someone who becomes Rosé specific while discussing the wine order with the sommelier or barman.
The questions you are likely to hear being asked are, ‘How pink is it?’ which in itself is dryly amusing as rosé is pink in French and the question is usually delivered with a slight grimace. What you are actually looking for here is greyness, a salmon skin blush meets a fleshy subtle gris, which is considered much classier than your disco lumo pink type of wine. From this point you can either choose to stick, and take the platform as a wine buff at a low level, who understands the subtleties of summer drinking or progress to an even more specific bunch of sub categories.
Sub categories include bottle shape. A curvy bottle is always a plus amongst the rosé drinking classes as it indicates that the wine in question is from Provence which is considered a major plus. From there the one upmanship route usually winds upwards through Chateau de Minuty, via magnums of Aix, to Miraval, until, if your bank balance can take it, you eventually arrive at the gates of the Chateau d’Esclans. At this point you might think you can put your platinum card away and relax under a row of plane trees, but I’m afraid that even at this level there is a choice, albeit an esoteric one. You can very respectably stop right here unless you want to take the game to its ultimate round and examine what happens within the Chateau d’Esclans range. You will probably have heard of Whispering Angel, retailing at around 20 pounds a bottle if you can even get your hands on it, and which features in many an Instagram picture doing what it does best which as Serena Sutcliffe said is being ‘loaded onto yachts on the Cote d’Azur and consumed in quantity by connoisseurs.’ Whispering Angel will win you admirers, glances of envy in restaurants and is a fine thing to drink, I love it, along with its cellar mate Rock Angel and its ultimate, almost white, perfect, subtle, delicious, ultimately over achieving sibling Garrus, which as James Suckling says is the ‘Greatest Rose ever.’ The plaudits are incredibly impressive, Matthew Jukies gave it 19.5 out of 20 and said “I cannot believe rose wine can get any finer nor more captivating.”
It is delicious, the pinnacle, but here it is worth noting that rosé is a seasonal wine. There are other wonderful rosés out there that impress by taste and not by label, and when you see ladies who lunch preferring to spend their money on a bottle of Miraval, again delicious, but owing some of its cult status to the fact that it is made on the estate owned by the now defunct Bradgelina partnership, instead of on a bottle of Meursalt, then much as they entitled to spend as they choose, in my opinion they are also missing a trick. Rosé has climbed a ladder from what used to be a relatively simply made, quaffable summer drink to an object of desire and status symbol. Winemakers such as Sacha Lichine and Patrick Leon have elevated the art of rose making beyond all expectations, and I happily and greedily drink more than my fair share, but I don’t lay it down in my cellar, this is a hello, goodbye sort of a drink, and is none the less of a pleasure for all that. Personally though, I am always happy when the party is over and I can go home and pull the cork out of something with gravitas and bottle age and a few centuries of viticulture behind it.
Rosé asks all those questions of trend and fashion and beauty of bottle and label and answers them all, but if I had to choose between paying a hundred pounds for Garrus or a bottle of Montrachet I know where my money would go, to a friend for all seasons.