Devil's Advocate - In Praise of Pink

Robert Joseph wonders why so many members of the wine industry still struggle to acknowledge the potential of rosé wine.

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Robert Joseph - with horns
Robert Joseph - with horns

We live, thank goodness, in an era when expressions of personal prejudices are increasingly unacceptable. Inclusiveness has become a term with which we are all familiar, and it has extended beyond our attitude to human beings and countries to embrace wine regions, styles and grape varieties. I remember a leading French wine critic in the 1980s barely bothering to glance at the Languedoc wines at a tasting, as he headed for the Bordeaux, and the disdain in the 1990s with which most UK tasters approached a line-up of Greek wines.

Today, anyone who wants to be taken seriously as any kind of wine authority has to know about the best estates in La Clape and Pic St Loup, and who’s making the finest Assyrtikos on Santorini. And they need to have tasted a wide range of wines produced from grapes like Aligoté, Chasselas and Carignan that are comparable to well-regarded examples of Albariño, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Nowadays, it sometimes seems as though there’s only one prejudice that has survived pretty well intact: the one against rosé.

“Isn’t it a pity” a member of the wine twitterati complained this week “that so much Bandol is pink!”

“Why” a wine merchant asked me derisively, “would anyone want to pay a high price for any kind of rosé?”

Pink wine is treated with the condescension some men have always treated women: it should know its place.

Girly Drink

And that’s no coincidence, because there’s an enduring belief – often among those same sorts of men, but far from exclusively so - that rosé is for girls, and for drinking around swimming pools in the summer.

Of course, it’s true that lots of rosé is quaffed as a refreshing beverage by people of both sexes who pay little attention to where it came from and the name of the producer. But the same could be said of white and red. It’s also fair to say that, not so long ago, high quality rosé was a rarity.

But then there was a time when pink Champagne was still thought of as being for ‘chorus girls’ – by anyone who hadn’t had the chance to taste the examples that were already to be found wearing Krug, Dom Perignon, Laurent Perrier and Billecart Salmon labels.

And even the people who were blinkered about rosé Champagne had no problem accepting that very serious white wine could be made in Ay and Epernay from black-skinned grapes – provided it ended up with bubbles.

Logically, as Sacha Lichine and Gerard Bertrand proved respectively with Garrus and Clos du Temple, or as Jacques Lurton in Bordeaux and Francesco Valentini in Italy have with Diane and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, there is no reason why a lovingly-made pink wine shouldn’t be every bit as serious as a white or red.

I love quaffable rosé, and I love serious, barrel-fermented, pink wine. I love examples that are almost as pale as a white and ones that might plausibly pass for red. And, now that sommeliers in Michelin-starred restaurants happily offer orange wine as an alternative to red, I’d like to make the same case for pink.

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