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Rosé Masters 2017: the results

This year’s Rosé Masters showed that while Provence still rules when it comes to making rosé, other regions – such as England, Turkey and Greece – are giving it a run for its money. By Patrick Schmitt MW

Let’s face it, hosting a tasting competition according to whether a wine were white or red would be ridiculous, quite simply because the colour provides a limited indication as to the character of the wine, and the breadth of style is practically endless. But, somehow, with rosé, such an approach – creating a wine competition just for a specific colour – is quite normal, and that’s because rosé is an indication of style, albeit loosely.

If you see something pink, one assumes it’s light in body, youthful, fresh, and tastes of summer berries. As for whether or not it’s sweet or dry, that too, tends to be judged by appearance – one suspects that the paler the pink, the drier the rosé.

But, although rosé is still, for the most part, a relatively simple, refreshing, strawberry-scented drink best served straight from the fridge, the range of styles has expanded vastly over the past few years. Not only that, but the quality levels have broadened too, with rosé moving successfully into the sphere of luxury drinks.

As for assessing the sweetness level according to hue, that is a dangerous game, particularly now every pink wine-producing corner of the world seems intent on creating a rosé as pale as those from Provence.

This diversification in style and quality, even if there seems to be an increasing standardisation in appearance, makes a tasting competition for nothing but rosé an extremely interesting experience. And, thanks to the current popularity of Provençal pinks, an exercise of great commercial significance.

About the competition

The Drinks Business Global Rosé Masters is a competition for all styles of rosés from around the world. This year’s event saw almost 200 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 Bumpkin in London’s South Kensington on 17 May. This report features only the medal winners.

So what did this year’s Rosé Masters teach us? Well, we learnt much about the category, but, as with all our Masters tastings, the competition confirmed the superiority of certain places, while drawing attention to new sources of greatness.

And both outcomes are extremely useful. To tackle the former, in sparkling, once again we saw that the pinnacle of pink winemaking performance was found in Champagne. Here is a place already famous for making the best sparkling wines in the world, and this year’s Rosé Masters proved that this is just as true for pink, as well as for white variants.

Greatness was found at all price bands over £20 too, with Gremillet taking a Gold at the cheaper end of the Champagne spectrum, Lanson and Comtes de Dampierre doing similarly brilliantly in the mid-priced area, and then, at the top, Laurent-Perrier, particularly for its range-topping Alexandra Rosé from the 2004 vintage; which gained the ultimate accolade of the day: the title of Master.

This was well deserved, certainly, but such quality comes at a high price: this prestige cuvée rosé retails for more than £250.

As for those areas less well known for brilliance, in the sparkling rosés, the surprises came in the form of a lovely and relatively inexpensive pink fizz from Tuscany, along with, notably, a couple of first-rate examples from England. The judges awarded two Golds to Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex, both for vintage expressions, but from different harvests and with different dosages.

It was further evidence that England is becoming a serious source of fizz.

Moving to the still dry rosés – which made up the majority of the tasting – the competition showed that at lower price points (those wines under £10 in UK retail), the sources of quality were varied, although, as one might expect at these low prices, it was hard to achieve a Gold medal.

Nevertheless, the judges were highly impressed with the quality achieved for a wine costing a little over £10, which came from Rioja – and that was the Izadi Larrosa, hence its Gold-medal winning score.

Indeed, Rioja proved itself a first-rate source of good-value rosé based on Grenache and Tempranillo, with the region’s Ontañon Clarete also gaining a Gold.

(Rioja can also create brilliant top-end rosé – with the region’s Marqués de Murrieta the only winery to get a Gold in the £30-£50 price band, aside from famous Provençal producer Château d’Esclans.)

But staying in the sub-£10 sector, it was notable that a broad range of places are now making bright, appealing pink wines, including some areas that are less well known for rosé.

These included Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, home to the excellent Château Ksara Sunset Rosé, and Penedès, home to the Ecologica La Pluma Rosé, made using organic Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Penedès in the northeast of Spain.

Once the judges began sampling wines from beyond the £10 barrier, but below £15, Provence, as one might expect, provided the benchmark in terms of quality and style. With a mix of just-ripe red fruits, a touch of peachy, oily palate weight and a refreshing finish, these extremely pale, rather delicate pinks are only made difficult to taste because they are hard not to swallow.

However, there is much quality variation in Provençal rosé, with some wines showing a leanness, and sometimes even a hard herbaceousness – and only the best had mastered the balance of fruit sweetness and citrus freshness, as well as that gently viscous mid-palate, cut short with that all important bone-dry bright finish.

And you can see the producers that shone this year, some of which one would expect to perform well – from Mirabeau to Château Léobe, along with the wines from Famille Sumeire, Domaines Ott, Maison Saint Aix, and Château d’Esclans.

But among the more pricey rosés, there were surprises.

One of these concerned the quality of pink wines from Greece, with La Tour Melas, Ktima Biblia Chora and Alpha Estate all gaining good scores from the judges.

Although none of these producers gained a Gold, the fact they were awarded Silver medals, and in the higher price bands of £15 and above – where the judges tend to be meaner with the scores – the results showed that Greece is making really high-quality rosé.

The final revelation from this year’s Rosé Masters concerned one particular producer, that, significantly, isn’t within the hallowed terroir of the Côtes de Provence. The appellation is the Languedoc, and the producer is Gerard Bertrand. Gaining one Master, one Gold and two Silvers, it is clear that Gerard Bertrand is the new name to watch in rosé.

Not only that, but for those who thought that luxury, barrel-aged rosés were the sole preserve of Sacha Lichine’s winery in the Côtes de Provence, then try Bertrand’s Château La Sauvageonne Rosé La Villa. From a plot high in the Languedoc, this layered, oak-matured rosé can play the role of a lip-smacking apéritif as well as a more grown-up, textured wine for serving with food.

Indeed, this particular wine is the first time we have come across a true rival for the barrel-aged Garrus by Château d’Esclans, and Bertrand’s range-topping rosé is half the price.

So, once again, our Global Masters tasting concept achieved its double aim of identifying new terroirs while testing the quality available in those that are already well-established.

And, concerning the latter, Provence may still be king, but it had better watch out – there are producers from outside this famous rosé region that are not only making pink wines with the same ballet-shoe hue, but in a similar style, and, most importantly, to an equally high standard.

Top row (left to right)
• Patrick Schmitt MW, editor-in-chief, the drinks business
• Antony Moss MW, director of strategic planning, WSET
• Jonathan Pedley MW, wine lecturer and consultant
• Christine Parkinson, group head of wine, The Hakkasan Group
• Clive Barlow MW, wine trainer and consultant
• Clément Robert MS, group head sommelier and wine buyer, 28º-50º
Bottom row (left to right)
• Elizabeth Gabay MW, wine writer, Provençal rosé specialist
• Dee Blackstock MW, wine buyer and consultant
• Beverly Blanning MW, wine writer and lecturer
• Patricia Stefanowicz MW, wine educator and consultant

Sparkling Brut rosé (up to 12gl/l)

Company Wine Region Country Vintage Medal
Tenuta del Buonamico Particolare Brut Rosé Tuscany Italy NV Silver
Araldica Castelvero Alasia Alta Langa DOCG Rosé Brut Piedmont Italy 2012 Bronze
Montelvini Montelvini Collezione Rose Spumante Brut Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Bisol Jeio Cuvée Rosé Brut Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Louis Bouillot Louis Boulliot Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé Bourgogne France NV Bronze
Gremillet Rosé Champagne France NV Gold
Bolney Wine Estate Cuvée Rosé Sussex England 2014 Gold
Plozza Ome Franciacorta Rosé Franciacorta Italy NV Bronze
AXG Productions Jean Diot Brut Rosé NV Champagne France nv Bronze
Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Rosé Champagne France NV Gold
Champagne Comtes de Dampierre Cuvée des Ambassadeurs Champagne France NV Gold
Marchesi Frescobaldi Leonia Pomino Rosé Toscana Italy 2012 Silver
Champagne Lanson Lanson Extra Age Rosé Champagne France NV Silver
Champagne Lanson Lanson Rosé Label Brut NV Champagne France NV Silver
Over £50
Champagne Laurent Perrier Alexandra Rosé 2004 Champagne France 2004 Master
Champagne Laurent Perrier Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Champagne France NV Silver

Sparkling rosé (over 12g/l)

Company Wine Region Country Vintage Medal
La Cantina Pizzolato Pizzolato Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Bosco Malera Rosé Spumante DOC Venezia Canal Grando Veneto Italy nv Bronze
Guillaume de Vergy De Vergy Prestige Rosé Burgundy France NV Bronze
Casa Valduga Vinhos Finos Arte Brut Rosé Vale dos Vinhedos Brazil 2015 Bronze
Bolney Wine Estate Eighteen Acre Rosé Sussex England 2011 Gold
Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé NV Champagne France NV Silver
Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvée 225 Rosé Vintage Champagne France 2008 Bronze

Still dry rosé (under 4g/l)

Company Wine Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Bodegas Izadi Izadi Larrosa Rioja Spain 2016 Gold
Condesa de Leganza Pale Rose Castilla-La Mancha Spain 2016 Gold
Faustino Faustino V Rose Rioja Spain 2016 Silver
Viña Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Rosé Central Valley Chile 2017 Silver
Les Vignobles Foncalieu L’Instant Sud Languedoc France 2016 Silver
Château Ksara Sunset Rosé Bekaa Valley Lebanon 2016 Silver
Cellier Des Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve Rosé Rhône France 2016 Silver
Rickety Bridge Winery The Foundation Stone ‘Rosé’ Franschhoek South Africa 2016 Silver
Vignerons de Tutiac Lalande Bellevue Bordeaux France 2016 Silver
Julià & Navinès Ecologica La Pluma Rosé Penedes Spain 2016 Silver
Australian Vintage McGuigan Torode Pinot Noir Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2016 Bronze
Bernard Magrez Grands Vignobles du Sud L’Excellence des Muraires Provence France 2016 Bronze
Château Ksara Gris de Gris Bekaa Valley Lebanon 2016 Bronze
Bernard Magrez Grands Vignobles du Sud Douce Vie Provence France 2016 Bronze
Bernard Magrez Grands Vignobles du Sud Bleu de Mer Languedoc France 2016 Bronze
Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rosé Languedoc France 2016 Bronze
Crush Wines Le Bijou de Sophie Valrose Rosé Cabrières France 2016 Bronze
Moulin de la Roque Roque Star Provence France 2016 Bronze
Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres Marqués de Cáceres Excellens Rosé Rioja Spain 2016 Bronze
Vignerons de Tutiac Carrelet d’Estuaire Bordeaux France 2016 Bronze
Vignerons de Tutiac Flair Bordeaux France 2016 Bronze
Kavaklidere Saraplari Egeo Aegean Turkey 2016 Bronze
Felix Solis Avantis Altos de Tamarón Rosado Ribera del Duero Spain 2016 Bronze
Felix Solis Avantis Condado de Oriza Rosado Ribera del Duero Spain 2016 Bronze
Vigneti Valle Roncati Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo Rosato DOC – Poderi di Sopra Piemonte Italy 2016 Bronze
Pernod Ricard Winemakers Jacob’s Creek Le Petite Rose Australia Australia 2016 Bronze
Cellar Trends Faustino VII Rose Rioja Spain 2016 Bronze
Colle Moro Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOP Abruzzo Italy 2016 Bronze
Viña Luis Felipe Edwards LFE Classic Rosé Colchagua Chile 2017 Bronze
Château Léoube Le Petit Rosé Tout Simple Provence France 2016 Gold
Gérard Bertrand Château de la Soujeole Languedoc France 2016 Gold
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Pure Provence France 2016 Gold
Maison Gutowski M-G Rosé Grande Cuvée Provence France 2016 Gold
Bodegas Ontañón Ontañón Clarete La Rioja Spain 2016 Gold
Monte da Ravasqueira Guarda Rios Alentejo Portugal 2016 Silver
Lestrille Winery Amelia Bordeaux Rosé Bordeaux France 2016 Silver
Rocca di Montegrossi Rocca di Montegrossi Rosato Tuscany Italy 2016 Silver
Château Brown Château Brown Rosé Bordeaux France 2016 Silver
Gérard Bertrand Château La Sauvageonne Volcanic Languedoc France 2016 Silver
Gérard Bertrand Côtes des Roses Languedoc France 2016 Silver
Clarence Dillon Wines Clarendelle Bordeaux France 2016 Silver
Barton & Guestier Passeport Côtes de Provence Provence France 2016 Silver
Cantina Tollo Hedòs Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOP d’Abruzzo Italy 2016 Silver
Bodegas Luis Alegre Luis Alegre Rosado Rioja Spain 2016 Silver
Faulkner Wine L’Esprit de Provence Provence France 2016 Silver
Mas la Chevalière Rosé la Chevalière Languedoc France 2016 Silver
Monte da Ravasqueira Monte da Ravasqueira Alentejo Portugal 2016 Bronze
Château des Bormettes L’Argentière Provence France 2016 Bronze
Château Gassier Esprit Gassier Collector Provence France 2016 Bronze
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Domaine Haut Gléon Languedoc France 2016 Bronze
Cantine Marisa Cuomo Rosato Campania Costa D’Amalfi 2016 Bronze
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Classic Rosé Provence France 2016 Bronze
Château des Demoiselles Charme des Demoiselles Rosé Provence France 2016 Bronze
Andeluna Cellars Andeluna 1300 Mendoza Argentina 2016 Bronze
Planeta Rosé Sicily Italy 2016 Bronze
Bodegas Protos Ribera del Duero Protos Rosado Ribera del Duero Spain 2016 Bronze
Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro Rosae Arzuaga Ribera del Duero Spain 2016 Bronze
Moulin de la Roque Domaine des Capelaniers Provence France 2016 Bronze
Union Viti-Vinícola Don Sebastian Rosado Rioja Spain 2016 Bronze
Palo Alto Palo Alto Reserva Rosé Maule Valley Chile 2016 Bronze
Tenuta del Buonamico Dea Rosa Tuscany Italy 2016 Bronze
Famille Sumeire Château Coussin Provence France 2016 Gold
Famille Sumeire Château L’Afrique Provence France 2016 Silver
Pink Vines Ltd PR Provence France 2016 Silver
Château St Jaques d’Albas La Chapelle en Rosé Languedoc France 2016 Silver
Provence Wine Maker Rosé Infinie Provence France 2016 Silver
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Etoile Provence France 2016 Silver
Alpha Estate Alpha Rose Florina Greece 2016 Silver
Hammeken Cellars Girasol Organic Wine Rosé Castilla Spain 2016 Silver
Dominio de Punctum 99 Resas Rosé Castilla Spain 2016 Silver
Chêne Bleu Chêne Bleu Vaulluse France 2016 Silver
Marisco Vineyards The King’s Pinot Rosé Marlborough New Zealand 2016 Silver
Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel Provence France 2016 Bronze
Château Léoube Rosé de Léoube Provence France 2016 Bronze
Bodegas Protos Ribera del Duero Aire de Protos Ribera del Duero Spain 2016 Bronze
De Bortoli Wines Villages Rosé Heathcote Australia 2016 Bronze
Moulin de la Roque Domaine de la Nartette Provence France 2016 Bronze
Parparoussis Winery Petite Fleur Achaia Greece 2016 Bronze
Gérard Bertrand Château La Sauvageonne La Villa Languedoc France 2016 Master
Domaines Ott By Ott Provence France 2016 Gold
Maison Saint AIX AIX Provence France 2016 Gold
Château Léoube Secret de Léoube Provence France 2016 Silver
La Tour Melas La Tour Melas Idylle Rosé Central Greece Greece 2016 Silver
Barton & Guestier La Villa Barton Côtes de Provence Provence France 2016 Silver
Ktima Biblia Chora Biblinos Rosé PGI Pangeon Greece 2016 Silver
Château Sainte Roseline Lampe de Meduse Cru Classe Rosé Provence France 2016 Bronze
Caves d’Esclans Château d’Esclans Rock Angel Provence France 2016 Bronze
Caves d’Esclans Château d’Esclans Les Clans Provence France 2015 Gold
Marqués de Murrieta Marqués de Murrieta Primer Rosé Rioja Spain 2016 Gold
Château Sainte Roseline La Chapelle de Sainte Roseline Cru Classé Provence France 2016 Silver
Château Léoube Léoube la Londe Provence France 2016 Silver
Caves d’Esclans Château d’Esclans Garrus Provence France 2015 Master

Still off-dry rosé (+4g/l)

Company Wine Region Country Vintage Medal
Felix Solis Avantis Caliza Rosado La Mancha Spain 2016 Gold
Kavaklidere Saraplari Leyla Aegean Turkey 2016 Gold
Casas del Toqui Single Estate Rosé Cachapoal Chile 2015 Silver
Marisco Vineyards The Ned Pinot Rosé Marlborough New Zealand 2016 Bronze
Pratello Partello Sant’emiliano Chiaretto Rosé Veneto Italy 2016 Bronze
Felix Solis Avantis Viña San Juan Rosado La Mancha Spain 2016 Bronze
Sortoizpitvane Sungurlare Leva Cabernet Shiraz Rosé Trakien Bulgaria 2016 Bronze
Felix Solis Avantis Pagos del Rey – Bajoz Rosado Toro Spain 2016 Bronze
Viña y Bodegas Estampa Fina Reserva Rosé Paredones Chile 2016 Bronze
Felix Solis Avantis Pagos Del Rey – Sentero Rosado Toro Spain 2016 Bronze
Felix Solis Avantis Casa Albali Rosé Valdepenas Spain 2016 Bronze
Langmeil Winery Bella Rouge Cabernet Sauvignon Barossa Australia 2016 Silver
Babylonstoren Mourvèdre Rosé Paarl – Simonsberg South Africa 2016 Silver
Provence Wine Maker Benji Provence France 2016 Silver
Weinkellerei Lenz Moser Fete Rose Lower Austria Austria 2016 Bronze
Marchesi Frescobaldi Alie Toscana Italy 2016 Bronze
Weinkellerei Lenz Moser Lenz Moser Selection Zweigelt Rose Lower Austria Austria 2016 Bronze
Wakefield / Taylors Wines Pinot Noir Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2016 Bronze
Bolney Wine Estate Bolney Rosé Sussex England 2015 Bronze
WX Chronic Cellars Pink Pedals California USA 2016 Bronze
Cantine San Marzano Tramari Rosé di Primitivo Salento IGP Apulian Italy 2016 Silver
Shanxi Château Rongzi Rongzi Fresh Wine Semi Sweet Rosé XiangNing China 2015 Silver
Invivo Wines New Zealand Graham Norton’s Own Rosé Pink By Design Marlborough New Zealand 2016 Bronze
Shanxi Château Rongzi Rongzi Fresh Wine Semi Sweet Rosé XiangNing China 2016 Bronze
Mabis UVAM Pinot Grigio Blush IGT Delle Venezie Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Tenute Soletta Prius Sardinia Italy 2016 Bronze

And finally… some comments from the judges

Patricia Stefanowicz MW
“The rosé sparkling wines were delicious, showing high quality throughout…. Something of a surprise and a disappointment was that the dry still roses were shockingly inconsistent at every price bracket. And, origin had no bearing on whether the wines were delightful, modest or egregious. On a more positive note…The colours whether pale oeil de perdrix, mid-salmon hue or even cherry-coloured were a feast for the eyes. To be fair there were some very fine wines on display and some noted producers, e.g. Mirabeau, show why they are highly rated year after year with lovely concentration of flavour, yet delicacy of aroma and taste.”

Antony Moss MW
“I was impressed that there are so many regions represented in the silver and gold medal wines. I often buy a few bottles of rosé over the summer, and will definitely be buying a few more than normal this year. …There were some really good Provence and southern French roses with a sensitive touch of oak, rather ambitious in style and price but to my mind totally successful. The wines to which we gave Masters were astonishingly good. The Champagne – I would expect nothing less from that particular wine, but the Garrus and the Sauvageonne were of a level that I don’t believe I had previously experienced in dry still rosés.”

Beverley Blanning MW
“I came away from the tasting thinking that it’s actually quite hard to classify rosé wines as a single category when there are so many differences between them, both stylistically and in the wide range of grape varieties used. The tasting challenged me to rethink preconceptions of whether there is a ‘correct’ way rosé should taste. I liked the Provence wines a lot. The sparkling rosés were also generally very good. There were one or two delicious wines from Adelaide Hills and King Valley, Australia, and I loved the exuberantly gulpable Gamay from Toro. …The general standard of wines was very good, however, indicative of the success of the category and producers’ efforts to make serious rosé.”

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