Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Much More Than a Pretty Pink Face

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Much More Than a Pretty Pink Face

Article excerpt

Rose wines come in all hues, from light embarrassment to deep carmine, but their colouring lacks logic: the pale, glowing roses of Provence, with their tints of apricot and white peach, should be stop-sign red, because these delicate wines are so dangerous, I occasionally wonder if we should drink them at all.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It's not that they're not delicious. But that is the problem. You lift your glass for a second sip only to find that the whole bottle has fallen down your throat--and these wines aren't low in alcohol. And you're still thirsty.

Plenty of effort goes into making them so sweetly sippable and some of it is human, though the winemakers don't always realise how much help they get. I remember a lovely lunch with an aristocratic vineyard owner and his family on a sun-dappled hillside in Bandol, a tiny patch of Provencal coast east of Marseilles where the world's most prestigious (and often expensive) roses are made. When I admired his coriander plants, Monsieur le Comte assured me that it was the superb seeds he used, and chivalrously offered to send me some. I looked down at his hills coated in Mourvedre and Cinsault grapes, rolling towards the azure Mediterranean, and knew it wasn't the seeds, any more than it would be the grapes that would foil me if I tried to make a rose like his Chateau de Pibarnon in England. I ate and drank--and drank--and argued politely, but he didn't believe me and he sent me coriander seeds ("Tell him you only accept diamonds," suggested a friend). Predictably enough, they flopped at the first exhalation of English autumn.

In Provence, rose is made from red grapes--mainly Grenache and Syrah as well as those Mourvedre and Cinsault--whose skins are left in with the juice only long enough to leave a trace of colour, then wrenched away. Perhaps that accounts for the note of plaintiveness I taste, although that may be just the reaction of an Englishwoman. …

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