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Bury St Edmunds Vino Gusto’s Jake Bennett-Day celebrates rosé by telling us how to enjoy it and where to find the best blush





Everybody has their own unique methods for measuring the coming and going of seasons. For some it is celestial movements; for those with green fingers it is the garden’s flowering cycle; for sporting enthusiasts, the season may be dictated by which Grand Slam tournament they’re staying up late to watch. To me, summer is signified by a combination of all three: the solstice, just ripe strawberries, and the looming excitement of Wimbledon. But as a wine buyer, my seasons are also shaped by the arrival of wine, and pallet loads of the pink stuff help solidify to me the notion of summer, even if the weather isn’t exactly playing ball.

Of course, I drink rosé all year round. I’m a professional, and I like to. But there is undeniably a rosé time of year, and we are right in it. Ignoring the all-important delicious drinkability of the cool, elegant nectar on long, leisurely evenings, golden hour sunshine even benefits the coral hue of the wine in your glass, especially when enjoyed al fresco. Preferably with some charred summer vegetables from the grill, and a veritable vat of aïoli so pungent and powerful in its garlic addition as to weaken the immune system of a Provençal town’s mayor.

Romantic twilights aside, here are a few ways that I enjoy and think about rosé, and that I hope you may find useful in your quest for vinous euphoria this summer:

Trienne Rosé
Trienne Rosé

You can’t taste colour

I completely understand the infatuation with lighter, paler rosés. They look beautiful. Especially the coral, copper toned hue to classic Provençal rosé that practically dances in the glass. But we must dismantle the fallacy that lighter is always better. Darked toned rosé can be just as refreshing, just as dry and crisp and certainly as drinkable. Perhaps they can be even more palatable with a wider array of foods, given their greater structural components.

Drink it cold

I am ordinarily quite particular about wine being served at the correct temperature. I must be a bit boring about it to justify my silly job, working with wine. But when it comes to rosé, I maintain that it is most delicious, most gluggable, straight from the ice bucket. The crisp coolness is a perfect contrast the warmth of say, barbecued prawns, glaring summer sun or the aforementioned aïoli. Just please refrain from diluting the good stuff with ice cubes directly in your glass! If you do feel compelled to chill the wine to near slushy temperatures, freeze some grapes and pop them in your glass, but please don’t tell any of my winey friends I said that.

Drink it outside

A travel chest cooler filled with ice and rosé at the beach is an enlightened path.

Jake Bennett-Day, co-owner of Vino Gusto
Jake Bennett-Day, co-owner of Vino Gusto

Drink with friends

Rosé is social lubrication. It is not to be studied or pondered. Whether it’s a simple afternoon aperitif, or it plays a role as supporting cast in the production that is a great lavish feast, rosé is best enjoyed in the company of friends and family. The truest example of this is in the south of France - arguably rosé’s spiritual home - at Le Grand Aïoli, a traditional celebration of summer’s late garlic harvest. Down a long, loud table should be bowls of aioli, salt cod, summer vegetables and perhaps some prawns. Between each pot of aioli (there should be many), will sit an ice-filled bucket with a bottle or two of fresh rosé to wash down the feast and fuel the laughter.

Don’t choose the fancy looking bottle

Many options that line the supermarket shelves are in non-typical, often bulbous, over exaggerated glass bottles. Sometimes they adorn a celebrity’s trademark, and some have even elevated themselves to celebrity status through clever marketing. More often than not, there is a significant cost passed onto the drinker for the privilege of feeling as though they’re ‘in the club’, or have the ‘most Instagrammable’ bottle. One of the best wines in my rosé category is made by two of Burgundy’s most highly regarded winemakers (their bottles sell routinely for hundreds and thousands of pounds). Together they bought a plot of land in Provence in the 1980s and to this day they make and sell terrific rosé, in a straight, clear Bordeaux bottle, without their names on it, for less monies than say, ‘Minuty’ or ‘Whispering Angel’. It is twice as delicious.

WHERE TO FIND THE BEST BLUSH

Almost every wine region is making rosé today, because the category has become so popular. Sadly, not all regions will produce soulful, elegant wines of style or place. Rather they’ll be making bland, over produced wines that satisfy a demographic, and hole in their portfolio. Orange wine is the other category guilty of this. So, here is a short, in-no-way-exhaustive rundown of where you will find the very best blush:

Tricolor flag of France
Tricolor flag of France
The Italian flag
The Italian flag

France

France, specifically the south, could be considered the spiritual home of rosé. The Côtes de Provence produces elegant, ethereal and pale rosé. It’s crisp, dry and damn refreshing; exactly how I love my rosé. But move just further north to Tavel outside of Chateauneuf du Pape (near Avignon) where the wines are generally darker in colour, much juicier and more earthy. They become serious, complex food wines. Head much further northwest to the Loire and you will find similarly structured rosé from villages such as Sancerre, Chinon and Bourgueil. Here you find wines that are a playful take on their serious red wine siblings made from Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Pinot Noir and encapsulate the rustic spirit and charm of the Jardin de la France.

Italy

Above all, Italy offers diversity in styles of rosado. From quintessential Chiaretto from Veneto in the north producing refreshingly light quaffing wines, to indulgent and fruity, off-dry Primitivo from Puglia in the south, there are varied styles to discover. I particularly enjoy savoury, creamy, food-friendly Sangiovese-based Tuscan rosé that offers a little more complexity for when I do want to drink rosé around my winey friends.

Spain

The region of Rioja is producing some fantastic rosé, and not so good, larger volume rosé. The same can be said of the red wines of the region too, of course. Rioja in particular is renowned for a very specific, oxidative style of rosé that ages superbly well. Reminiscent of Sherry, the wines are nutty, herbaceous and outstandingly intriguing.

Flag of Greece
Flag of Greece

Greece (& Islands)

If your lasting memory of Greek wine is unfortunate island plonk that you had one too many of at an all-inclusive holiday resort in the noughties, then I’m sorry to hear it. But get your head out of the volcanic sand! Greek wine is incredibly exciting at moment and their rosé from indigenous varieties is no different. The white variety, Assyrtiko, is a wonderful blending component with Agoritiko, Limniona, Moutharo, Liatiko (you know the rest…) etc and produces cool, elegant wines from the mountainous regions to the north of the country, and tangy, prickly, salty rosés from the more coastal Peloponnese and the Aegean Islands in the south.

So, if you’re a frequent imbiber of blush and are looking to try something new, I implore you to throw a summer party. Fire up the barbecue, whizz up an aioli and fill a bin with some ice and have your friends each source a fun bottle of rosé. There should be no competition. Simply let the good juice flow freely.

Jake Bennett-Day is co-owner and director of Vino Gusto wine shop, 27 Hatter Street, Bury St Edmunds IP33 1NE. Call 01284 771831.