National Rosé Day: the 20 best bottles to buy now

Rosé
Our wine expert selects her top 20 rosés for summer. Rule one: look beyond the pale... Credit: Haarala Hamilton & Valerie Berry

National Rosé Day takes place on the second Saturday of June each year. This year, it falls on June 10. Here, Victoria Moore brings you the pick of this year's rosé crop. 

Why, you are thinking, is she troubling us with 20 rosé wines? We just want to know about the One: the best, the pinnacle of all rosés, the ethereal elixir that will transport us to the pine-scented Côte d’Azur the instant we set eyes on its voluptuously curved bottle, and turn us into Brigitte Bardot in a tiny white bikini as we take the first sip.

Look, I can’t do that. I’m not talking about the Brigitte Bardot thing: you can probably get there if the bottle is good enough and you finish it. I’m talking about choosing just one bottle. I am picky but there are several exceptional rosés from Provence, all subtly different. It would be a pity to limit yourself to just one of them.

I’m increasingly drawn to Corsica’s rosé. The wines here haven’t been made to capture the attention of the St Tropez yachtie set

And here’s another thought: why limit yourself to Provence? I can see why it is tempting. We all love the association that vanishingly pale pink wine has with sunshine; St Tropez; salade niçoise; the Plage de Pampelonne; glace au citron; the Fondation Maeght; motoring along the Corniche. John Franklin at Mentzendorff calls it the “Ohhh-ahhhh Provence factor”, which is spot on.

Rosé so pale you can only just see it has become so fashionable that winemakers in the south of France almost seem to be in competition to outdo each other by producing the lightest shade of pink possible. As for drinkers, it has almost become embarrassing to be seen drinking anything darker.

Rosé so pale you can only just see is currently in fashion Credit: Haraala Hamilton & Valerie Berry

The result has been a kind of Provencification of rosé all over the world. Rosados from Spain and pinks from Bordeaux that once revelled in shades of deepest raspberry or squashed strawberry are now a transparent salmon pink. The Australians, whose pink wines used to be rich in flavour as well as colour, and often slightly sweet, are now “gravitating towards paler and peachier coloured rosés,” says Alex Schulz. His family owns Turkey Flat in the Barossa Valley. Turkey Flat used to make a plump, succulent rosé as brightly feelgood as strawberry Slush Puppie.

I never thought I would say this but you can have enough pale rosé

The wine still carries the hallmarks of the Barossa (it crackles with dusty heat) but, since 2011, it has been lighter and dryer; a different beast altogether. The change in style sometimes comes at the behest of the importer: one Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer was recently asked to change the colour of its basic rosé – all 350,000 bottles of it – because New Yorkers like to drink light-coloured wine.

As Tom Ashworth of rosé specialist Yapp Brothers points out: “There’s more appreciation now that rosé is a significant style of wine, not just a summer quaffer.” We have seen this in Provence, with the rise of super-cuvées and glamour brands like Miraval and the wines from the Château d’Esclans stable. There is money in it too: the story about the yacht builder phoning d’Esclans to get the dimensions of a magnum of its pink wine so he could make a fridge to fit it is now well-known. Less discussed is the fact that there is considerable ambition behind many of the new rosés from other parts of the world too.

Look beyond the pale... Credit: Haraala Hamilton & Valerie Berry

I recently tried a pink wine made in Navarra by the Spanish producer Chivite in collaboration with Arzak, a three-star Michelin restaurant in San Sebastián. Las Fincas Rosado is pale pink and, packaged in a gorgeously curvy bottle, in appearance it out-Provenced the two Provence wines (by Ott and Château Léoube) I also had on the table. In taste, it was something different. Only Provence can do Provence: that silky, savoury, sandalwood and subtle spice flavour, spun as finely as a cobweb and just as strong, is a taste and texture I’ve never found anywhere else.

But don’t go looking for knock-offs: look to explore. The Chivite wine is creamier and has a brighter, more strawberryish taste. Its importer believes it “could be one of the next cult premium rosés. It has the class of a Provence wine but so much more fruit.”

The place I’m increasingly drawn to for rosé is Corsica. The wines here haven’t been made to capture the attention of the St Tropez yachtie set. They are not as svelte and compact as the best pinks from Provence, but they are still pale and have a wild, dried-herb quality that I love.

I also wonder: is it time to go back to drinking the occasional dark pink wine? I never thought I would say this but you can have enough pale rosé. Those richer, fuller wines can be so satisfying. Especially in the rain – and we get quite a lot of that.

Victoria's top 20 rosés for the summer

From left: Domaine Mathis; Montenidoli Canaiuolo; Commanderie de Peyrassol; The Society's Corsican Rosé

Domaine Mathis Bastian Pinot Noir Rosé 2012, Luxembourg (12.5%, Les Caves de Pyrène in Artington, £21.99)

Luxembourg. 2012. This didn’t sound a good plan but it’s magnificent: a vibrant pinot noir, all ripe berry flavours and hints of herbs. It’s so dark I’m not sure it qualifies as a rosé. But who cares. I love it.

Montenidoli Canaiuolo 2016 Toscana igt, Italy (13.5%, around £20, Les Caves de Pyrène in Artington, Bedales Wines (SE1), The Wine Tasting Shop (SW12)

Canaiolo is a red grape that smells like church incense. This savoury rosé, made from grapes grown above San Gimignano, is very dry, with a floral waft of sandalwood. Lovely.

Commanderie de Peyrassol Réserve des Templiers 2016, Côtes de Provence, France (12.5%, Majestic, £13.99/£11.99 single bottle/mix six price)

A pale, refreshing rosé. Not quite so much about the spice, it’s more herbaceous and fresh, almost crunchy, gently reminiscent of red berries and shoots.

The Society’s Corsican Rosé Vin de Corse 2016, France (12.5%, The Wine Society, £9.75)

Dry, and savoury, and gentle with the acidity, this pink is made from 60 per cent sciaccarellu (a local Corsican grape), 30 per cent niellucciu (sangiovese), and 10 per cent cinsault. It’s textured, with vague riffs of dried herbs, not bright or silky. 

From left: Chateau Miraval; La Vieille Ferme; BX Crémant; M de Minuty

Château Miraval 2016 Côtes de Provence, France (13%, Majestic £19.99/£17.99 single bottle/mix six price; Berry Bros & Rudd, £19.75; Sainsbury’s, £18)

Often spoken of in the same breath as Whispering Angel. Miraval – grenache, cinsault, rolle and syrah – is the better of the two – tantalising, softly berryish.

La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2016, Vin de France Vallée du Rhône, France (12.5%, Co-op, £6.99)

This southern Rhône pink is better than a similarly priced one with Provence on the label. It’s different though: less silky, broader, with more texture and dried herbs.

BX Crémant de Bordeaux NV, France (12%, Aldi, £7.99)

A no-brainer for a sunny evening, this sparkling wine from Bordeaux is richly coloured, a deep, raspberry pink, and tastes of ripe red berries. It is very, very easy to drink. Dangerous stuff: you have been warned. Selling fast!

M de Minuty Rosé 2016, Côtes de Provence, France (13%, Majestic, £12.99/10.99 single bottle/mix six price; Roberson Wine, £13 or £9.99 when you buy six)

Minuty is a classic of the Provençal genre. The wine is pale and berryish, easy and soft, lacking the sandalwood complexities you find in more expensive versions but very good.

From left: Domaine Maby Rosé; Fronton Negrette; Domaine Saparale Rosé; Chateau Sainte

Domaine Maby Rosé Tavel La Forcadière 2016, France (Yapp, £13.50)

Tavel was once the most fêted rosé in France but its deep colour, luscious berry flavours and touch of sweetness fell out of favour. Perhaps the fashion pendulum is about to swing back; these wines go really well with slightly spicy food.

Taste the Difference Fronton Negrette Rosé 2016, France (12.5%, Sainsbury’s, £7)

A wine with curiosity value. Negrette is grown near Toulouse, and as far as I know almost nowhere else. It’s quite a perfumed grape – spicy, violetty. Here it’s blended with a splash of cabernet franc and syrah.

Domaine Saparale Rosé Vin de Corse Sartène 2016, Corsica, France (13%, Yapp, £16.25)

Move over Provence, here comes Corsica, with subtle pinks that are savoury and refreshing. This is one of those wines that seems to have invisible steel – drink it with food and, rather than disappearing like some wines, it powers up.

Château Sainte Marguerite Cru Classé Organic 2016, Côtes de Provence, France (Great Western Wine, £16.95)

The vineyards of Sainte Marguerite are surrounded by palm trees and the wine is the archetypal pale rosé. It’s gossamer-fine, but subtly complex, with a suggestion of orange peel and spice.

From left: Bollinger Grande Année; Muga Rosado; Domaine Sainte Lucie; Oeil de Perdrix

Bollinger Grande Année Rosé 2005 Champagne, France (12%, Berry Bros & Rudd, £100; Tanners, £94; John Lewis, £100)

Bollinger’s vintage rosé is magisterial, quite a honeyed and brioche wine from a warm vintage. Its pinkness is relatively subtle – just gentle notes of powdery pink raspberries.

Muga Rosado 2016, Spain (13.5%, Waitrose 93 branches, £9.99; Majestic £11.99/£9.99 single bottle/mix six price)

The rosé from this feted rioja producer is lighter than you might expect. Its texture is creamy and smooth, and it has gentle flavours of strawberries and hay. Based on garnacha with some tempranillo and viura.

Domaine Sainte Lucie MiP* Classic Rosé 2016, Côtes de Provence, France (12.5%, Lea & Sandeman, £13.95/12.50 single bottle/mixed case price)

This supremely elegant rosé has become a modern classic. It is shimmering and delicate but has hidden power. Made with estate-grown grapes and the quality shows.

Oeil de Perdrix Rosé NV, Champagne, France (12%, Majestic, £25.99/£22.99 single bottle/mix six)

On spectacular form at present, this pale pink champagne is made from chardonnay and pinot noir and really delivers. Superb value.

From left: Secret de Léoube; Exquisite Cotes de Provence; Lalomba Rosado; Tasca d'Almerita

Secret de Léoube 2015/16, Côtes de Provence, France (12.5%, £20, Daylesford)

Léoube is a coastal vineyard owned by Lord and Lady Carole Bamford, whose wine is made by Romain Ott (yes one of those Otts). Made with a little cabernet sauvignon along with the usual varieties, it has great finesse and charm.

Exquisite Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016, France (13%, Aldi, £5.99)

Curvy Provençal bottle – tick. Pale colour – tick. Clean taste – tick. No, you wouldn’t mistake this for a £10, £15 or £20 pink but it is good for the price. Sold out online but will be available in store for the rest of the summer.

Lalomba Rosado de Ramon Bilbao Rioja 2016, Spain (13%, Great Western Wine, £19.95)

Some of the delicacy and minerality of a Provençal wine, but emphatic fruit. Made from garnacha and viura: surprisingly complex, and sealed with a fashionable glass stopper. Impressive and – considering the price – daring.

Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Le Rose 2015, Sicily, Italy (13%, allaboutwine.co.uk, £9.99)

From an old estate in Sicily’s interior, this is made from nerello mascalese – the island’s most fashionable grape. It’s mid-coloured, bright, and juicy, all red and white currants, raspberries and red cherries.