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Rosé Masters 2016: the results

Spanning every hue from ballet-shoe pink to almost ruby red, and encompassing a broad range of sugar levels and styles, the rosé category has much more to offer than the pale stuff from Provence – as our Rosé Masters showed.

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It should come as no surprise that a category defined only by its colour should contain huge diversity. With wines from the palest of pink to almost ruby red, bone dry to almost cloyingly sweet, reductively handled to barrel-aged, as well as gently spritzy to fully sparkling – there’s little you won’t find from producers of pink wines. However, as with any wine category, some approaches are more successful than others, while commercially, this is a category that sells on appearance – and it’s the pale ballet-shoe pink of Provençal rose that’s attracting the punters at present.

In this year’s Rosé Masters, all styles and quality levels were represented, and, like previous years, certain wines divided opinion. Where debate arose, it concerned what exactly a rosé is, stylistically. For some it is a straightforward, fresh and youthful wine best served straight from the fridge. For others, it can also be a serious product, with structure, made for food and, indeed, laying down.

While a right or wrong answer to such discussion was good fuel for pre-and post-sampling conversation, the tasting was focused on quality – with each judge assessing the wines on show on balance, intensity and complexity, according to price band, whatever the winemaker’s approach.

ABOUT THE COMPETITION

The Drinks Business Global Rosé Masters is a competition for rosés from around the world. This year’s event saw 160 entries judged blind by a panel of highly experienced tasters.

The best wines were awarded medals which ranged from Bronze through to Gold as well as Master, the ultimate accolade given only to exceptional wines in the tasting.

The wines were tasted over the course of one day at Les 110 de Taillevent in London on 14 June. This report features only the medal winners.

GROWING UP

Nevertheless, the range in both quality and style of rosé proved that this is a category in transition. It appears to be growing up, but not fully mature, as rosé makers experiment with different winemaking approaches.

As Provençal rosé specialist Elizabeth Gabay MW commented on the pink wine category after the tasting: “What we are witnessing is a wine style evolve”. But certain themes emerged strongly this year.

One was the colour variation at the lower end of the price spectrum, particularly compared with higher price bands. Below £15, and rosés ranged from the barely noticeably pink-tinged products to dilute red drinks, prompting judges to wonder whether the term rosé should in fact come with a defined colour spectrum.

At the higher end, over £15, it seemed that all producers wanted one thing: the pale hue of the typical Provençal pink. While this may be the desired appearance for high-spending pink-loving consumers, achieving this light shade wasn’t always to the wine’s advantage – such brief skin contact could leave a wine without the depth and length of flavour to justify higher prices.

Having said that, as judge Hugo Rose MW observed: “The Provençal model is being exported, so other countries are now confident producing a very delicate style of rosé, and a number of other sources are quite successful at this style.”

Sebastian Payne MW concurred, but also lamented the resulting standardisation in rosé appearance and style, while observing the market reality: buyers want a pale product. “I think it’s sad that everyone thinks that their wine has to look like Provençal rosé,” he said.

“At The Wine Society we can sell wines with more fruit, flavour and colour, like Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, but the commercial pressure to take the colour out is huge.”

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Another issue concerned sugar levels. Like all styles of rosé, those over 4g/l were looked at without prejudice and assessed according to their quality level, with the judges searching for balance, aware that there is a large market for sweeter styles.

One judge, Jonathan Pedley MW, said: “The basic requirements for sweet rosé are fresh, bright red berry fruit, and a lot of the more commercial rosés can carry quite high residual sugar levels if they have a decent acidity and not too much alcohol.

“But a number of the sweet inexpensive samples were poor, tired wines that probably never had decent fruit in the first place.”

A similar sense of success and failure in sweet rosé was recorded by Gabay, who said: “I was very surprised at how well some wines handled residual sugar – maybe a lesson that dry doesn’t always equal good.

If the wine was well made the sugar was less obvious. “South Africa’s Vondeling, Château St Jacques’s La Chapelle from the Minervois, and Australia’s Bird in Hand were all lovely examples of good rosés with more sugar [between 3 and 4g/l].

And the Rosé d’Anjou from Remy Pannier was a prime example of how a sweet rosé [16g/l] could also work.

I’m not sure when it would be drunk, but it was juicy and jolly.” On the other hand she added: “The problem with some of the sweeter rosés was that sugar can be compensation for poor winemaking techniques among producers trying to get a pale colour – they are reducing the skin contact time to get a pale colour and then using residual sugar to get the flavour.”

Concluding on this topic, Gabay noted that in southern France, there is an increasing trend for drinking rosé with ice, which alters the balance for sweeter styles.

“Some of the sweeter styles of rosé are being made for serving over ice, which changes the balance, and perhaps we should taste them that way,” she said.

JUDGES COMMENTS

SEBASTIAN PAYNE MW
“Rosé should be made properly like white wine. Free–run (saignée) roses, which are basically made to improve the red juice, are uninteresting and age fast, as do nasty concoctions made by adding red wine to white wine.

The strong market for pink Champagne and Provence means that these categories can get away with very fancy prices, not deserved on quality grounds.

“Rosés must have charm. I regret the way the wine world so envies the success of Provence rosé that everywhere else tries to imitate its taste and colour.”

PATRICIA STEFANOWICZ MW
“The sparklings were really rather good, although when we reached the Champagnes, pricey. The £15-20 still dry wines probably offered the best rapport qualité-prix.

The more expensive dry still wines were, in some cases, absolutely delicious, including those with noticeable oak influence, provided there was enough fruit and acidity to support the oak. The most disappointing were the non-dry still wines. We had few awards there, and quite rightly, in my opinion. Most of these non-dry still didn’t get the equilibrium between sweetness and acidity (and flavour) correctly. Sad really, as these styles could be made more of for casual sipping or even pudding.

“It doesn’t really make much difference about the varieties used provided the fruit, alcohol and acidity (and sugar where used) are in balance.
“Some of the wines from Provence were very good; others disappointing.”

ELIZABETH GABAY MW
“There were too many wines that were lacking in fruit, with a few using sugar to create a feeling of ripeness. It needs a confident winemaker to make a rosé with weight and complexity, and the three rosés that won Masters, interestingly enough, came from three good Provence winemakers.

“I was very surprised at how well some wines handled residual sugar – maybe a lesson that dry doesn’t always equal good.”

HUGO ROSE MW
“Rosé is becoming more international. Greater producer engagement, efficiency in the cellar and possibly swifter logistics have brought a wider range than ever to the market, with the accent on up-to-the-minute vintages. A decade ago the latest vintage was shipped too late for the northern hemisphere summer.

“The wide range is a response to the rosé boom of recent years. Along with some exceptional wines, our thirst for the style has sucked in rather too many dull wines too.

“Provence and other French Provence-style wines were of a high standard, and the 2015 vintage looks like one to go large with. Elsewhere there were some pleasant surprises (Greece, Romania) and some howlers. But what is clear is the opening up of the supply base. Hopefully the market has not peaked too soon.

“As for surprises: sample 238 [Château La Sauvageonne]; at last there is a competitor for Garrus.”

THE ACID TEST

Aside from depth of colour and sugar levels, another point of discussion was acidity, which, of course, was particularly relevant to the sweeter styles, but also key to bone dry rosés.

Pedley commented: “Quite a lot of the rosés were from the 2015 vintage, which [in France] was a warm year, with a good level of ripeness, which means that if you’re not careful you will get low acids… and there were some wines suffering from flabbiness.

“With Côtes de Provence rosé, the flavour of the month, I see this problem quite often, which is partly because of the climate there, but also because of the Grenache used for Provençal rosé, which is an inherently lowacid grape.

“So, those wines have to be well made – you want vibrant red fruit and freshness, and the risk is if you lose the acid then those wines can be flabby.”

On the other hand, he added: “Getting the balance right is crucial, and what you don’t want is any herbaceous character.”

OAK TREND

Finally, there was the issue of oak use in rosé. Interestingly, Gabay, who lives in southern France and regularly visits the producers of Provençal rosé, big and small, says there’s a lot more oak use in the famous pink wine region than many believe, and applauds its use to add texture and complexity to the wines.

Similarly, Patricia Stefanowicz MW was impressed with the oaked rosés sampled in this year’s tasting, although she stressed the need for balancing fruit with oak.

“The more expensive dry still wines were, in some cases, absolutely delicious, including those with noticeable oak influence, provided there was enough fruit and acidity to support the oak,” she said.

Taking a different view, however, was Pedley, who said: “I’ve done a big set of tastings looking at premium rosé and I find the oaked wines a bit contrived – in most cases I don’t find the oak integrates with the vibrant fruit I value in rosé.”

For Gabay, the issues surrounding the use of oak in rosé, both to add flavour and texture, is a question of perception – after all, the use of oak, new and old in all its formats, is not just accepted, but soughtafter in whites and reds, particularly at the top end.

“We need to think about what we want from a rosé, and the problem is, rosé is regarded as a simple wine, and it is an intellectual wine,” she said.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

Considering the sparkling rosés first, the first Gold was awarded once the entries slipped over the £20 mark, with, significantly, a Franciacorta gaining this accolade in the £20-£30 band, suggesting that the Italian region offers a better quality-to-price ratio than other traditional method pink fizz at these prices, including Champagne and English sparkling.

Moving over £30, it was a Chardonnay dominant Champagne from Comte Audoin de Dampierre that wowed the judges, becoming one of five entries across all categories to earn the ultimate accolade of Master.

Champagnes from the Lanson Group performed exceptionally well too between £30 and £50, with both the Lanson Rosé NV and the company’s Besserat de Bellefon brand picking up Golds.

It was surprising to find a first-rate Tuscan sparkling in this category, with Marchesi Fescobaldi’s vintage Leonia Pomino Rosé awarded a Silver.

Over £50, one would expect high quality, and setting a tough act to follow was Champagne De Saint Gall for its Grand Cru Rosé – awarded a Master – and Lanson’s Extra Age Rosé and Laurent-Perrier’s Cuvée Rosé, which both gained Golds.

BENCHMARK ROSÉ

Moving to still dry rosés between £10 and £15, the judges were impressed with the benchmark Provençal rosé that was the Pure Mirabeau, as well as the delicious pale pink from Château Brown in Bordeaux – a rosé with brightness and structure due to appearance and whiff of vanilla from its time spent ageing in new oak barriques, tends to divide opinion.

However, this year the judges were all amazed by the power, complexity and, importantly, balance of this wine, which delivered refreshment along with interest. However, Sacha Lichine, the man behind d’Esclans, should watch out – the flagship rosé from Gérard Bertrand, using a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Vermentino and Viognier grown at the company’s Château La Sauvageonne in the Languedoc, is an exceptional wine that rivals Garrus for style and quality.

Indeed, if one wanted proof that rosé can deliver cool refreshment and be a serious drink, then try the top pinks from Bertrand and Lichine.

THE JUDGES (L-R)

> Hugo Rose MW
> Patricia Stefanowicz MW
> Patrick Schmitt MW editor-in-chief, the drinks business
> Roberto Della Pietra, sommelier and brand ambassador, French Bubbles
> Sebastian Payne MW, wine buyer, The Wine Society
> Elizabeth Gabay MW
> Beverly Tabbron MW
> Adrian Garforth MW
> Jonathan Pedley MW, wine lecturer and consultant
> Clément Robert MS, group head sommelier and wine buyer, 28º-50º

Rosé: sparkling brut

Company Product Name Country Region Vintage Medal
Under £10
La Gioiosa Rosato Spumante Tradizione Italiana Italy Veneto 2015 Silver
La Gioiosa Rosato Spumante Italy Veneto 2015 Bronze
£10-£15
Tenuta Del Buonamico Particolare Brut Italy Tuscany NV Silver
£15-£20
Casa Valduga Casa Valduga Brut Rosé Brazil Serra Gaúcha 2013 Silver
£15-£20
Berlucchi Franciacorta Rosé Italy Franciacorta NV Gold
Champagne Gremillet Rosé Vrai France Champagne NV Silver
Champagne Gremillet Rosé France Champagne NV Silver
Bolney Wine Estate Cuvée Rosé England Sussex 2013 Silver
Leone de Castris ‘Five Roses’ Metodo Classico Brut Rosé, Salice Salentino
DOC
Italy Puglia 2012 Silver
Champagne Jean Diot Jean Diot Brut Rosé France Champagne NV Silver
Champagne Moutardier Rosé France Champagne NV Bronze
Champagne Le Brun de Neuville Tendre Rosé France Champagne NV Bronze
£30-£50
Champagne Comte Audoin de Dampierre Cuvée des Ambassadeurs Rosé Premier Cru France Champagne NV Master
Champagne Lanson Lanson Rosé Label France Champagne NV Gold
Champagne Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Rosé France Champagne NV Gold
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé France Champagne NV Silver
Champagne de Saint Gall De Saint Gall Brut Rosé France Champagne NV Silver
Marchesi Frescobaldi Leonia Pomino Rosé Italy Tuscany 2011 Silver
Champagne Philipponnat Royale Réserve Brut Rosé France Champagne NV Bronze
Champagne Le Brun de Neuville Lady de Neuville Rosé France Champagne NV Bronze
Over £50
Champagne de Saint Gall Brut Rosé Grand Cru France Champagne NV Master
Laurent-Perrier Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé France Champagne NV Gold
Champagne Lanson Lanson Extra Age Rosé France Champagne NV Gold
Artéis & Co Artéis & Co Brut Rosé France Champagne 2007 Silver
Champagne Philipponnat Cuvée 1522 Rosé France Champagne 2006 Bronze

Rosé: sweet sparkling (over 12g/l residual sugar)

Company Product Name Country Region Vintage Medal
Under £10
Villa Sandi Il Fresco Rosato Spumante Italy Veneto 2015 Bronze
Bosco Viticultori ‘Canal Grando’ Venezia DOC Rosé Spumante Dry Italy Veneto NV Bronze
£10-£15
Masseria Altemura Rosamaro Brut Italy Apulia NV Bronze

Rosé: still, dry (under 4g/l residual sugar)

Company Product Name Country Region Vintage Medal
Under £10
Château de Beaupré Baron Maxime France Provence 2015 Silver
Vondeling Vondeling Rosé South Africa Voor Paardeberg 2016 Silver
Castel Frères Côtes de Provence France Provence 2015 Silver
Viña Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Rosé Chile Chile 2016 Silver
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Rosé France Provence 2015 Silver
Bodegas Príncipe de Viana Príncipe de Viana Rosada Garnacha Spain Navarra 2015 Silver
Crush Wines Bijou Rosé Cuvée Sophie Valrose France France 2015 Silver
Bodegas Príncipe de Viana Príncipe de Viana Edición Rosa Spain Navarra 2015 Bronze
Badet Clément & Co La Promenade France Provence 2015 Bronze
Contesa Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Contesa DOC Italy Abruzzo 2015 Bronze
Moulin de Gassac d’Hérault Fleur du Pays Rosé France IGP Pays 2015 Bronze
Marqués de Cáceres Marqués de Cáceres Rosé Spain Rioja 2015 Bronze
Château Cavalier Réserve de la Famille France Provence 2015 Bronze
Château de Beaupré Villa Tamaris Provence France Provence 2015 Bronze
Domaine de la Sanglière Signature S France Provence 2015 Bronze
Bodegas Izadi Izadi Larrosa Spain Rioja 2015 Bronze
Cantina Colle Moro Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo Italy Abruzzo 2015 Bronze
Moulin de Gassac Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rosé France Herault 2015 Bronze
Marqués de Cáceres Excellens Rosé Spain Rioja 2015 Bronze
Vallone Brindisi Rosato DOP Vigna Flaminio Italy Puglia 2015 Bronze
Spadafora Nero D’Avola Rosato Italy Sicily 2015 Bronze
Bodegas Casa Primicia Casa Primicia Rosado Spain Rioja 2015 Bronze
Château Ksara Gris de Gris Lebanon Bekaa Valley 2015 Bronze
Saint André de Figuière Le Saint André Rosé IGP Var France Var 2015 Bronze
Viña Pomal Viña Pomal Rosado Spain Rioja 2015 Bronze
£10-£15
Mirabeau en Provence Pure Mirabeau France Provence 2015 Gold
Château Brown Château Brown Rosé France Bordeaux 2015 Gold
Tenuta del Buonamico Rosato Italy Tuscany 2015 Silver
Belguardo Belguardo Rosé Italy Tuscany 2015 Silver
Kir Yianni Akakies Kir Yianni Greece Imathia 2015 Silver
Famille Sumeire Château Coussin France Provence 2015 Silver
Château Saint Jacques La Chapelle en Rosé France Minervois 2015 Silver
Barton & Guestier Passeport Côtes de Provence France Provence 2015 Silver
Domaine Saint Andrieu Coteaux Varois en Provence France Provence 2015 Silver
Williams Chase Maison Williams Chase Rosé France Southern Rhône `2015 Silver
Angels & Cowboys Angels and Cowboys Rosé USA Sonoma County 2015 Silver
Bodega Ontañon Ontañon Clarete Spain Rioja 2015 Silver
Château Cavalier Cavalier France Provence 2015 Silver
Planeta Rosé Italy Sicily 2015 Bronze
Famille Sumeire Château L’Afrique France Provence 2015 Bronze
Rioja Vega Rioja Vega Tempranillo Rosado Spain Rioja 2015 Bronze
Château Beaulieu Cuvée Alexandre Château Beaulieu France Provence 2015 Bronze
Barton & Guestier La Villa Barton Côtes de Provence France Provence 2015 Bronze
Gérard Bertrand Château La Sauvageonne Volcanic France France 2015 Bronze
Château de Beaupré Château de Beaupré France Provence 2015 Bronze
Bodegas Julian Chivite Chivite Las Fincas Rosado Spain Tres Riberas 2015 Bronze
Andeluna Cellars Andeluna 1300 Malbec Rosé Argentina Uco Valley, Mendoza 2015 Bronze
Domaine Saint Andrieu Côtes de Provence France Provence 2015 Bronze
Famille Sumeire Château Maupague France Provence 2015 Bronze
Bertani Bertarose Italy Veneto 2015 Bronze
Viña y Bodega Estampa Fina Reserva Rosé Chile VI Region 2015 Bronze
Viñas del Vero Viñas del Vero Colección Pinot Noir Spain Somontano 2015 Bronze
£15-£20
Château Font du Broc Château Font du Broc France Provence 2015 Master
Marchesi Frescobaldi Alie Italy Tuscany 2015 Gold
Scala Dei Scala dei Pla dels Angels Spain Priorat 2015 Gold
Château Gassier Le Pas du Moine Château Gassier France Provence 2015 Silver
Bird in Hand D&B Rosé Australia Adelaide Hills 2016 Silver
Alpha Estates Alpha Estate Rosé Greece Amyndeon 2015 Silver
De Bortoli Wines La Bohème Act 2 Dry Pinot Rosé Australia Yarra Valley 2015 Silver
Château Cavalier Prestige France Provence 2015 Bronze
Château Léoube Rosé de Léoube France Provence 2015 Bronze
Weingut Umathum Rosa Austria Burgenland 2015 Bronze
£15-£20
Château d’Escarelle Minuit Rosé – Vendanges Nocturnes France Provence 2015 Master
Domaines Ott By Ott France Provence 2015 Gold
Château Coussin César à Sumeire Rosé France Provence 2015 Gold
Caves d’Esclans Sacha Lichine Rock Angel France Provence 2015 Silver
Domaine du Grand Cros Aurelia France Provence 2015 Silver
Domaine du Grand Cros Esprit de Provence France Provence 2015 Bronze
£30-£50
Castagna Castagna Allegro Australia Beechworth 2014 Gold
Château La Sauvageonne La Villa France France 2015 Gold
Caves d’Esclans Sacha Lichine Les Clans Les Clans France Provence 2014 Silver
£30-£50
Caves d’Esclans Sacha Lichine Garrus France Provence 2014 Master

Rosé: still, off-dry (over 4g/l residual sugar)

Company Product Name Country Region Vintage Medal
Under £10
Enoitalia Voga Rosé Italy Veneto NV Silver
Remy Pannier Rosé d’Anjou France Loire Valley 2015 Silver
Les Grands Chais de France Bad Eye Deer USA California 2015 Silver
Vincon Romania Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon DOC Romania Vrancea 2015 Silver
Weinkellerei Lenz Moser Lenz Moser Selection Zweigelt Rosé Austria South Austria 2015 Bronze
DFJ Vinhos Portada Winemaker’s Selection Portugal Lisboa 2015 Bronze
Zimmermann Graeff Müller Invenio France Languedoc 2015 Bronze
Villa Yambol Villa Yambol Rosé Bulgaria Thracian Valley 2015 Bronze
Bodegas Esteban Martin Marqués de Alfamén Spain Carinena 2015 Bronze
Zimmermann Graeff Müller O&E Zinfandel Rosé USA Languedoc 2015 Bronze
Vignerons de France Aimery France Languedoc 2015 Bronze
Felix Solis Avantis Caliza Spain Do Mancha 2015 Bronze
Felix Solis Avantis Viña Albali Spain Castilla -La Mancha 2015 Bronze
DFJ Vinhos Brigando Portugal Lisboa 2015 Bronze
Vincon Romania Busuioaca Bohotin Rosé Far Niente Romania Vrancea 2012 Bronze
Zimmermann Graeff Müller Jack & Gina USA California 2015 Bronze
£15-£20
Castello Vicchiomaggio San Jacopo Italy Tuscany 2015 Bronze
£20-£30
Antinori A Italy Tuscany 2015 Silver

CLICK HERE TO SEE A RUNDOWN OF THE TEN BEST PERFORMING PINK WINES IN THE COMPETITION, INCLUDING TASTING NOTES.

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