There’s no denying the notion that every wine connoisseur dwells in some degree of geekiness to understand their wines. More you understand them, greater their appreciation becomes. While some elements can be understood, some are to be accepted as they come. With no traceable evidences confirming its first siting, origins of Rose wines is one of them. Some believe they’re as old as wines’ origin itself, some put the onus of its introduction on the Romans. Regardless of who wins the debate, roses continue to be a great offering and a convenient option for the Indian denizens the year-round.
Once called the ‘wine of one night’, rose has matured in to a liaison for many evenings, brunches, and social indulgences. The tittle suggests that the skins of red grapes were macerated with the juice only overnight and fermented in to an intoxicant the next afternoon to be consumed that very night, implying its short-lived existence and early-drinking character.
Roses are as serious as red and white wines, and it’s the ease of producing them from nearly any red varietal that makes it further more interesting. Introduce a white varietal to the mix and the subject’s complexity further deepens. Old World countries definitely take their Roses seriously, looking upon the New World countries while they’re still learning. Nearly every region has a rose to offer, marking it an integral part of their vinous arsenal. In France, examples from Champagne are based on Pinot Noir and Pinot Meuniere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot duo contributes to Bordeaux’s roses, Loire Valley’s Rose d’Anjou are primarily Gamay Noir-centric, Rhone Valley’s Tavel and Lirac, and famous Provencial roses are usually a blend from the Cinsault, Grenache, and Mourvedre trio. Italy produces its own share in Emilia Romagna and Tuscany from Sangiovese, while Montepulciano is the varietal of choice in Abruzzo and the southern region. Grenache in Spain, with a local accent becomes Garnacha, contributes to Navarra and Catalonia’s ‘pink wine’ success in Spain. Such an array of options open windows for experimentation, resulting in a spectrum of styles on offer. New World roses are usually based on local varietals of the better-known international grapes like Zinfandel, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, especially from Australia, South Africa, and California. They boasts their Rose styles based on sweetness – from bone-dry to off-dry blush wine, and mildly candyfloss-like to sweet liquid-lollipops. Offerings are endless and a study in itself.
Appreciating a rose needs an alternative approach. Complexity of flavours, terroir and winemaking influences, and developing characters from ageing doesn’t separates one from another. It’s their amiability and simplicity that makes them invigorating. Scents of fruity aromas, lifted with the red florals’ liveliness, mouth-watering acidity, kiss of soft tannins, and soothing low alcohol is its identity. No winemaker would boast his skills with a Rose, not because it’s a cheap or uncomplicated drop like its counterparts and doesn’t deserve detailing, because its transition from vineyards to the table has minimal intervention and oak is nearly redundant. In its true sense, rose is as natural as a wine could be, with freshness at its peak in its youth. Lacking high alcohol, tannins, colour, and depth of flavour, roses rarely become a good cellaring proposition.
Roses connoisseurs are split in two, the curtain of difference being not the country (or world) of origin but sweetness degree in wine. While there is no connotation of sugar being fanciful in roses, the point of argument is as basic as the wine-style itself. Those liking drier styles of rose turn towards Tavel, Lirac, and Provence rose from France, or take the Tuscan or Aussie route. However, those who enjoy a tad melliferous touch appreciate the Loire Valley Rose and Cabernet d’ Anjou roses, those from Portugual, Catalonia, or the Californian Blush wines made from Zinfandel, often called White Zinfandel. The degree of dryness also opens another chapter of their compatibility with food. Due to their sweet and fruity notes, their affinity towards barbecue and Mediterranean food is highly appreciated, similarly amongst soft Goat Cheeses, creamy pasta, and white meat dishes.
With the introduction of sparkling wines and their rapacious popularity in the 1800s, rose sparklings were en-vougue and poised as a preferred aperitifs over cocktails and other boozy drinks. Nearly every country produces sparkling roses now, pleasing the palates who consider white bubblies a tad unilateral and uninspiring. Lambrusco from Italy, rose Champagnes and Cavas, and numerous New World examples fill up the shelves offering a unique experience, and a perfect toast for a romantic evening. Personally, I fail to appreciate rose Champagnes due to their heavy yeasty, mushroomy, and musty undertones. It mars the lavish varietal flavours and highlights yeast’s contribution in winemaking, making it redundant a style in its first place.
Indian wines are catching up on the global scene and roses’ growth is paralleled. Our climate and culinary preferences make rose an uncomplicated and obvious choice. It pairs well with our mirage of spices and complex cooking techniques and pose as a single drink that spills over from aperitifs to a partner throughout the meal. While York Vineyards and Sula Vineyards make playful blush style wines with Zinfandel, Fratelli and Grovers Zampa have taken the dry Shiraz route, making Vallonne Vineyards India’s lone-ranging Cabernet Sauvignon rose. Other producers like Nine Hills, Turning Point, and Four Seasons are yet to define their identity. Chandon, Sula Vineyards, and Grover Zampa offer rose bubblies, each making a delectable pick and a great evening sipping wine.
Be it the reluctance from educated palates and serious drinkers, or its positioning as a frolic, beach or picnic wine, Roses are left degraded, now incorrectly looked upon as a non-intellectual entity. But who said all wines are suppose to be complex and mystic? For times when you’re exhausted from decoding the big guns, and pause to sip on a simple wine to re-energise and refresh, Roses are your best bet.
York Vineyards, White Zinfandel, Nasik, INDIA – INR550 – Delhi
Ravi and Kailash Gurnani had been producing wines commercially for other brands at their Nasik based setup before they introduced their own labels. Their blush wine is a good blend of serious structure and playful flavours. Dry wine with a moderate refreshing acidity, gently extracted soft tannins, and balanced alcohol. Ripe cherries, dried plums, and cranberry skin fill the palate, with cloves and black pepper spice and touch of herbaceousness to follow later. There’s a touch of residual sugar balancing the spice and acidity and making an easy-drinking proposition.
Vallone Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nasik, INDIA – INR630 – Mumbai
Being the only Cabernet Sauvignon rose fills the curiosity quotient with excitement and inhibitions. Refreshing scent of sweet raspberries, dried sweet cherries, and currants followed with a touch of sour cherries, ripe plums, and currant leaf, finishing on a crushed floral bitterness. The wine has a velvety texture with a hint of creamy mouthfeel. A good pairing with roasted kebabs, Thai curries, and tempura dishes.
E Guigal Tavel, Rhone Valley, FRANCE – INR3790 – Delhi
Amongst the most refined and serious gathering of roses, Tavel leads from the front. Epitome of rose wine-styles, Tavel is often Cinsault-centric, delivering structure, body, tannins, and masculinity, with Grenache adding fruitiness and acidity. Hailing from a warm region, the wine has a cranberry skin colour, moderate tannins, alcoholic warmth, and balancing acidity, often lacking a refreshing jolt. Ripe dark fruit notes paired with earthy and animally touches and an underlying spiciness makes it one of the most masculine and serious rose in the world. Teppanyaki dishes, sushis, seared Tuna, pan-seared Pork Chops, makes a worthy pairing with the wine. Serve chilled and drink when two to five years young.
Boekenhoutskloof, The Wolftrap, SOUTH AFRICA – INR1991 – Mumbai
A South African homage to Southern Rhone Valley styled rose with Syrah, Cinsault, and Grenache. Deep coloured wine with a trio of serious and bulky varietals contributes to its off-dry, with fruit-rich palate filled with notes of sweet cherries, ripe plums, beetroot, bubblegum, tropical fruits, hint of warm spices, and crushed stoney mineralogy. Balancing acidity with warmth from the alcohol and a dry finish. A good staple for brunch and tapas fare. Pairs well with Mezzo Platters, Chicken empanada, caramelised onion tart, Kadhai preparations.
Bird in Hand Rose Sparkling, Adelaide Hills, AUSTRALIA – INR2840 – Mumbai
Blanc de Noir are white sparkling wines made solely from red grapes. Given their delicate attribute, round palate, and soothing acidity, they make a soothing aperitif and a great companion for mildly flavoured dishes. This Pinot Noir based bubbly promises finesse, delicate creamy mouthfeel, and ripe acidity with under-ripe flavours of strawberries, cherries, raspberries, hint of stoned fruits and earthiness. Crisp, minerally, and Granny Smith apple tang leaves a clean aftertaste. A great aperitif wine and summer companion.
Schlumberger Rose Sparkling, AUSTRIA – INR1800 – Delhi
Amongst the forerunners in the Austrian bubbly production scene, Schlumberger rose is produced from the trio of local varietals – Zweigelt, St Laurant, and Blaufrankisch. Sweet fruit aromas of ripe plums, strawberries, raspberry compote, with lifted florals, and fresh rose petals. Sweetness is obvious but structure balances it with gripping tannins and minerality. It pairs well with roasted Duck breasts, cream cheese, melon and prosciutto, and sautéed seafood dishes.
Grovers Zampa Soire Brut Rose, Nasik, INDIA – INR1100 – Delhi
I find rose sparkling to be a difficult proposition, both to produce, and to market. Grover Zampa’s Syrah-based Soiree Brut is undoubtedly the most consistent sparkling wine label in the country, and hence amongst the most respected. The varietal contributes dark fruit flavours, favourable body, soft acidity, and mild touches of spiciness at the back. Long-lingering limey acidity, under-ripe raspberries and strawberries, mouth filled with a persistent mousse and creamy palate, finishing on a minerally tone. A safe bet for any occasion.
Chandon Brut Rose, Nasik, INDIA – INR1400 – Delhi
Moet & Chandon entered the Indian winemaking scene with lots of promise. An interesting East-meets-West approach of blending Syrah with Pinot Noir is quite a gamble and has paid off well. The wine has low intensity of under-ripe flavours of cherries, strawberries, and raspberry crush coupled with finely lifted cranberry skin tannins, lemony acidity and minerally bite. A good pairing with canapes, evening aperitif, roast chicken, and steamed fish dishes.