rosé history

How rosé took over the world: A history in six bottles

The Wine Show's Joe Fattorini recounts the highs and lows of rosé - and what to be drinking now

Scan through history and you’ll find that every time has its wine. For the Romans it was ‘Falernian’. By the time of the Georgians they were drinking three bottles of Port a day. The Roaring Twenties was fuelled by Champagne. Ours? Ours is the age of rosé. Not any rosé. But the pale, dry, fresh pink of Provence. It’s become the wine of our times. But when historians of the everyday look back, what will these wines say about us? And what should we be drinking now?

Whispering Angel Cotes de Provence Rosé 2019

Whispering Angel Cotes de Provence rosé 2019

What makes Whispering Angel “the world’s best rosé”? (Their words, not mine.) The tasting notes could be any good Provencal pink: delicious, clean, peach-scented, wild-strawberries, grapefruit zest, refreshing. But the name — that’s one of a kind. “Whispering Angel”. It flows off the (British) tongue more easily than, say, the (critically acclaimed) Château la Mascaronne. Names that flow easily off the tongues of shoppers mean their wines flow easily onto their tongues. The bottle is broad-shouldered, with a distinctive, eye-catching, tapering neck. And it’s embossed with a handsome “prunt” — the glass seal standing proud over the label. Sure, Whispering Angel tastes great. But it’s a wine that proves that the first tastes are with the eyes and ears.

Whispering Angel Cotes de Provence rosé 2019

Whispering Angel Cotes de Provence Rosé 2019

£22

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Prêt-à-Porter Canettes Rosé to Go!

pret a porter rose

One day a museum will have one of these ‘canettes’ in a display case. Perhaps the V&A. Or The Design Museum. Mirabeau-en-Provence is owned by Stephen and Jeany Cronk, expats with impossibly beautiful children whose life has become their art. Their Instagram page is an homage to pastel linen dresses, white shorts, running through sun-bleached fields, vintage baskets artfully arranged with flowers.

It’s a lifestyle we taste in a bottle of Provence rosé. We can’t have it. But we can dream about it. Even if we’re on the Friday night 17.55 to Doncaster in the rain. Because as we hurried through the concourse we bought a cannette of fragrant, fruity Prêt-à-Porter rosé. Jeany says it’s “perfect for picnic baskets, beach bags, festivals and parties”. But in truth this is the wine-equivalent of a holiday read — it’s escapism. It’s a (literal) taste of luxury, aspiration — even hope.

pret a porter rose

Prêt-à-Porter Canettes Rosé to Go!

£3.49

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Studio by Miraval 2019

studio by miravel

Wine drinkers want “dinner party one-liners”, says Justin Howard-Sneyd, Master of Wine and wine maker at The Domaine of the Bee. Keep this in mind as you open up this magnum, a double bottle that makes a statement, tells a story, before you’ve even opened it.

Tell your friends that Miraval is the estate owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Tell them that the label is designed to look like a perfume bottle. That the ‘studio’ is the same one with a credit on the sleeve notes of The Wall by Pink Floyd, who recorded here. (Along with AC/DC, Shirley Bassey, The Cure, UB40, Wham!, Muse, Shakatak, and The Gypsy Kings.) Then load up a playlist on Spotify. And dance, laugh, groan as each track appears. And open another magnum. And another. Some people say the only thing that matters about wine is what’s inside the bottle. They’re wrong.

Love by Leoube 2019

love by leoube

A clear glass bottle, the label no more than a splash of paint. All the better to enjoy the pink colour inside. Or rather, the ‘Pale Dogwood”, a colour that captures that soft pink and peach hue announced by Pantone in 2017. Provence rosé is a wine that was made for Instagram. It’s not new. James Bond drank it in Casino Royale. Brigitte Bardot drank it as a “piscine” — a swimming pool-sized glass filled with crushed ice. (I recommend it.) But Instagram propelled the wine to greatness.

“Pale Dogwood is a quiet and peaceful pink shade that engenders an aura of innocence and purity,” says one review of the colour. It makes for a wine that looks gorgeous, summery and modern. This is one of the best, made by Lord and Lady Bamford (who also make JCBs) and sold through their Daylesford Organic shops and online.

Kylie Minogue Vin de France Rosé 2019

kylie minogue rose

This is the fastest selling £9 wine in Tesco’s history — and the wine that killed the make-or-break judgement of the critic. Its launch in early 2020 was a surprise. Although less so was the assessment of newspaper critic Jane MacQuitty: “Coarse, surly, sweet-yet-bitter disappointment.” But MacQuitty’s opinion was trampled underfoot as fans tried to get hold of a bottle. Example tweets: “@tesco Will Kylie Minogue rosé wine be selling in your Notting Hill branch?”; “it’s so frustrating that this wine isn’t available to order on the @tesco website”. Twitter filled up with eager shoppers, while Instagram was covered with happy drinkers. Maybe this was wine’s referendum moment — the people had finally had enough of experts. I’m with the people. It’s more fruity than sweet, and it’s fresh, zippy and light.

kylie minogue rose

Kylie Minogue Vin de France Rosé 2019

£9

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Clos du Temple Rosé 2018

Clos du Temple rosé

For many years Garrus by Chateau d’Esclans was the world’s most expensive rosé. The estate quietly let slip stories of cases of Garrus flown by private jet to Caribbean hideaways for billionaires’ parties. Russians would serve large format bottles containing several litres on their yachts. But at a mere £95, it’s a snip compared to Clos du Temple, made by Gerard Bertrand and launched last year.

Gerard still has the carriage of his rugby-playing youth, and says he ‘joined’ the family winemaking business aged ten. In Clos du Temple he’s created an extraordinary wine (as is Garrus). But is it truly the result of hunting the right terroir? Or is this what behavioural scientists call ‘anchoring’? A wine not made to sell, but to hook our brains. If the best wine is £200, a £20 bottle must be great value? No? And we forget that two decades ago, a £20 bottle of French rosé would have been an insane stretch. This is the beautiful madness of the age of rosé.

Clos du Temple rosé

Clos du Temple Rosé 2018

£198

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