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Top 10 rosé wine trends of 2020

Having sampled almost 200 rosés earlier this year, Patrick Schmitt MW brings his personal take on the category as he lists 10 pink trends that are taking hold in the rosé sector right now.

If I were asked to name one category of wine that has changed more than any other this century, I would say rosé. Not much more than a decade ago, this was a sector of the drinks market dominated by one style: semi-sweet, low-ABV pink wines from California, dubbed ‘blush’, when today, it is the repository for bone-dry, standard-ABV products, primarily from Provence. The swing to these delicate refreshing pink wines is so marked, that nowadays, if a rosé isn’t actually from Provence, it must at least look as though it is. And by that I mean that it must have the pale pink hue of poached salmon.

Indeed, if I were to line up all the some 200 wines entered into this year’s Global Rosé Masters – and you can view all the medallists here – you would see that there was little variation in their appearance. It didn’t matter whether the pink wine was from Rioja, England, or New Zealand, it looked as though it was Provençal.

But such standardisation in colour belies a diversification in taste. Rosé is now a varied sector, spanning the highly delicate to powerfully flavoured, the bone dry to extremely sweet, the cheap to luxury, the simple to complex, barrel-fermented, age-worthy wine. The samples may look the same, but the spectrum of taste in the rosé category is broader than ever.

Not only has rosé changed in terms of the dryness level demanded today, but also in terms of the interest it offers the wine lover. If pink wine was once a little one-dimensional, or considered frivolous, now it can still be fun, but also layered. It is also more global than ever. Such has been the success of the rosé category, most major producers and wine regions now have a rosé in their stable. And if they don’t, they probably should.

All this change makes The Global Rosé Masters more exciting to judge, and, for the wine buyer, more relevant than ever before. If one considers that the stylistic benchmark, and fashion setter – Provençal rosé – is a fixed area with finite supply, then one may need to look beyond this part of France to satisfy the growing international demand for rosé. But from where? And from whom? It is by sampling wines without any knowledge of their source – the key to The Global Masters approach – that one can best answer such questions, while also finding out the finest from Provence.

While you can view the top-performing rosés of 2020 by clicking here, below I’ve compiled 10 things that I learnt from this year’s Global Rosé Masters competition.

1. The base standard of rosé is high

Despite the large number of samples in the 2020 Global Rosé Masters, nearly every single wine achieved a medal, with a notably high number of Silvers reflecting the quality in the category, which, in turn, is testament to good vineyard practices, and, in particular, cellar management, with temperature control especially important at all stages of rosé winemaking. Furthermore, quality control appears excellent: we had no wines rejected because of common faults, such as marked oxidation or TCA spoilage. Only a few showed some evidence of excessive sulphur use.

2. Rosés are paler than ever

There has been a standardisation in pink wine appearance, with almost all rosés now the same pale salmon pink of Provençal rosé. But Provençal producers have themselves made subtle changes to the look of their wines, gradually making them even paler. Perhaps this is to distance themselves from everyone else, by going for an even more delicate pink? Whatever the reason, when it came to some wines this year, it was hard to tell that they were rosés at all.

3. Rosés are ripe and refreshing

A few years ago, after our annual Global Rose Masters, I remember thinking that pink wine producers were sacrificing the fruitiness of rosé in the desire for delicacy, and, as result, some wines had herbaceous characters, with aromatics similar to Sauvignon Blanc. But I have rarely noted such flavours in the samples this year. It seems winemakers have taken a step forward, and are now able to craft delicate, refreshing rosés with fully ripe grapes. At their best, such wines have flavours of wild strawberry and peach, even if the finish is citrus fresh.

4. There is no such thing as rosé

If once one were to think that by choosing a wine by its colour, pink, one was selecting a singular wine style, today, that is not the case. Rosé does not represent one consistent wine style, and can now be almost a neutral white, close to a sweet red, or taste like a fine wine, such as a great Graves blanc. The only problem from this shift within the rosé category, however, is managing consumer expectations. For example, people won’t be surprised at sniffing vanilla-scented oak in their glass of pricy white, but it can come as a shock when they find the same scent in their pale pink refreshment.

5. Rosé is now a luxury drink

Why should a wine style be prevented from attaining top-end status because of its colour? In the case of rosé, it was; purely because anything pink was deemed frivolous. But today, rosé can be a successful luxury product. I even tasted a barrel-fermented rosé from Gérard Bertrand in this year’s Masters that has characters not unlike top white Bordeaux – vanilla, toast, pineapple and citrus – and a similarly-high price tag too: it retails for almost £170.

6. Provence is still number one

Côtes de Provence is to rosé what Champagne is to sparkling wine: it is the class leader, with an enviable image to match its peerless products. While this year’s Global Rosé Masters saw plenty of pink wines from places outside Provençal boundaries, it was this region’s rosés that took home the majority of top medals – that is, when it came to dry rosés, including those fermented in barriques like fine Bourgogne blanc.

7. Provence still needs to watch its back

Having just said that Provence holds the top spot in the pink wine category, it also needs to work hard to stay ahead of the competition. Again, like Champagne, the alternatives from elsewhere are getting closer to the ‘real thing’ in style and quality – sometimes at keener prices too. If I were to pick out one player leading the way in fantastic pink wines from outside Provence, it would be Gérard Bertrand from the Languedoc. OK, so this producer is not far from the famous region, but his rosés are remarkable, particularly his new, organic, part barrel-fermented version called Joy’s.

8. Look to the Med

In general terms, the pink wine greats tend to be sourced from the Mediterranean. But this is a large area stretching well beyond just Provence and the Languedoc. Much of the highest-scoring wines in this year’s Masters were from places near this famous European sea, including, for example, Greece – where the winemakers from Alpha Estate are masters at crafting delicious pale, bright-tasting pinks using native grapes – or Sicily, particularly Scalunera’s Etna Rosato from Torre Mora. Other places included a powerful but mouth-watering sample from Priorat’s Scala Dei, or a host of delicate pinks from along the Tuscan coast – notable producers being Banfi and Frescobaldi.

9. Grenache is the grape of rosé

We had plenty of fantastic rosés from a range of grapes, such as Italian natives Sangiovese and Nerello Mascelese, or, of course, Pinot Noir, particularly in the New World (and England), Xinomavro in Greece, and Bordeaux grapes from several places, not forgetting some lovely Syrah-based rosés. But, generally, the top-scorers were made with Grenache, or Garnacha as its called in its native home of Spain. From the leading wines of Bertrand, d’Esclans, Leoube, Ott, Minuty, Mirabeau and Chivite, to name just a few, it was Grenache that dominated the blend. Nevertheless, rarely is it used exclusively. And Vermentino/Rolle, with its grapefruit-like freshness, is a particularly good partner for it.

10. Pink fizz has class

If rosé is seen as fun, then sparkling rosé is viewed as frivolous. But the reality today is that pink fizz can be a delicious product with fine wine credentials – and generally higher prices than its blanc equivalents. This has been proven in past Global Rosé Masters with Champagne Laurent-Perrier’s Cuvée Alexandra Rosé – a pink fizz costing almost £300 – but this year it was confirmed by great pink fizz from England’s Gusbourne Estate, Bourgogne’s Maison Louis Bouillot, and Champagne’s Nicolas Feuillatte, particularly its Cuvée Palmes d’Or 2008. Each of these were a highly serious glass of wine that happened to be pink.

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