Rosé – in February?

It’s often said that rosé is the perfect wine for summer.  So, why am I writing about it on a bitterly cold February day?

A couple of nights ago, we were about to cook some lovely tuna steaks that we’d bought from our local fishmonger.  The sauce we had prepared to go with them – a mixture of tomatoes, basil and capers – was slowly cooking away and smelt heavenly.  The flavours reminded us of Mediterranean holidays and of the sort of dishes we had enjoyed eating there.  As we were reminiscing and drinking in the smells, Hilary, my wife, suggested how well the dish would go with a glass of wine.  It didn’t take long for me to agree, even though it was a Wednesday and we don’t normally open a bottle mid-week, apart from on special occasions.

With those aromas and our thoughts, the wine just had to be from the Mediterranean.  And with tuna and that type of sauce, a rosé was the obvious choice – even though the weather outside was distinctly un-rosé.

Santa Tresa Rosé (Majestic, £10.99) from Sicily is attractively smoky with soft raspberry fruit flavours and a clean, fresh finish, typical of so many rosés you find around the south of France, Italy and the Mediterranean islands.  It is also beautifully dry which made it an excellent accompaniment to our tuna in sauce.  A blend of 2 high quality local grapes – Nero d’Avola and Frappato – both of which can also make delicious red wines; for the rosé, the juice spends just a few hours in contact with the skins to give a lovely delicate pink colour before being gently pressed and for the fermentation to complete – the juice alone – as it would for a white wine.

So, rosé may be the perfect wine for summer – but it’s also perfect for forgetting about winter and dreaming of better things.

Provence Comes to Bristol too!

I’m continuing the theme I began last time in my Bristol Wine Blog: that, with a thoughtful choice of food and wine, you can bring back wonderful memories of places you’ve been, even when the present situation means that you can’t stray far from home.  Today, my virtual trip brings us back from Greece to somewhere a little closer to the UK.

Temperatures in Bristol a couple of weeks ago rose above 30°C (close to 90°F for those more comfortable with that scale), so it wasn’t difficult to imagine ourselves somewhere overlooking the Mediterranean – the south of France, perhaps.  The fish markets there always have the most amazing choice of fresh fish and we particularly enjoy tuna.  So, when our local travelling fishmonger arrived this week with some tempting looking steaks in the back of his van, what else could I open to accompany them but a bottle of Côte de Provence Rosé? 

M de Minuty (Majestic, £12.99) is that beautiful, delicate shade of pale orangey pink you find in so many southern French rosés and, although the flavours are quite subtle, matching the colour, the wine is in no way bland.  It opens with an appealing, fragrant, floral nose and a real herby richness on the palate follows through – this is from a relatively warm climate and boasts 13% alcohol after all.  Made with a typical blend of local grapes including Grenache, Cinsault and the much less well-known Tibouren, this is fresh and clean with lovely crushed strawberry flavours and a long savoury finish.  Ideal for drinking on its own, well chilled, as an aperitif but with the body and fullness to accompany our tuna or other similarly flavoursome dishes.

Enjoying the combination outdoors on our terrace on a bright, warm sunny evening, we could easily imagine we were somewhere exotic.  Sadly, even though there is a move to allow travel to certain destinations soon, our own caution means that foreign trips are still on hold for the present. 

But we have our memories and tasty pan-fried tuna accompanied by a delicious Rosé from Provence help keep them alive.

A Portuguese Rosé

Congratulations if you looked at the title and still decided to read the blog!  Particularly if, like me, you were old enough to drink wine in the 1970s.  Because, in those far off days, the words ‘Portuguese’ and ‘Rosé’ meant just one thing: the most popular wine of the era, Mateus Rosé, sold in that familiar, dumpy shaped bottle that, when empty, made a perfect base for a table lamp.  At its peak, in 1978, it accounted for over 40% of Portugal’s wine exports and sold a cool 42 million bottles in just one year.  That’s a lot of table lamps!

Mateus Rosé is still around (and this year celebrates 75 years since it was first produced) but, as readers of this blog will, no doubt, know, it isn’t the only Portuguese rosé on the market.

With summer in mind, I picked up a bottle of Ciconia Rosé from Corks of Cotham recently (£8.99). 

Portuguese roseA blend of 3 grape varieties: touriga nacional, one of the main components in port and many high quality Portuguese reds, syrah (shiraz) and aragonez, one of the Portuguese names for Spain’s best red grape, Tempranillo.  These three together made a wine about as different from my memories of Mateus as it is possible to be: slightly off-dry and really refreshing with attractive strawberry fruit and a clean juicy finish.  Great for drinking on its own or, perhaps, even better, with fish in a tomato based sauce (Cod Portuguaise) or a bouillabaisse.

I’m happy to drink rosé at any time of year, although I think it works best with lighter, summery foods.  But the wine must be dry – or off-dry at most; for me, the sweeter rosés such as Mateus and some of the commercial White Zinfandels that are widely available are just too sweet for a main course yet not sweet enough for a pudding. 

But they sell, so someone loves them – just leave me with the Ciconia, the other Portuguese rosé.