Popular in pink: how to make rosé

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Rosé starts from red grapes: here being pumped over as they begin their fermentation. Photograph: Jason Lowe.

Rosé starts from red grapes: here being pumped over as they begin their fermentation. Photograph: Jason Lowe.

Interesting wines, still and sparkling, have led to a resurgence of rosé on wine lists. In an extract from our Wine School’s introductory book, Exploring & Tasting Wine, Anne McHale MW looks at how rosé is made.

Pink wine has become much more popular in recent years. Gone are the days when the sole association with the word “rosé” was a certain mass-market, semi-sweet, gently fizzy, pink drink. These days, high-quality rosé is made all over the world and in a range of styles. So how exactly is it produced? There are two key methods.

The most obvious way – though this is generally not permitted in Europe – is to add a very small amount of red wine to a white wine. The exception to the ban is traditional-method sparkling wines (most notably Champagne). There was a proposal to make this method legal for still wines too, but it was hotly contested by producers in rosé’s spiritual home, southern France; they felt that this would undermine their own traditional method – the second way of making rosé.

This can be described most simply as a shortened version of red winemaking: the “skin contact” method. In red wine production, the skins and juice are left in contact with each other throughout the fermentation process: this extracts colour and tannin. Grape juice, even from red grapes, is colourless – hence the ability to use red grapes in Champagne.

In rosé production red grapes are also used, but there will only be one or two days’ skin contact, to give a small amount of colour and virtually no tannin (this tends to be extracted later on in the red-wine process). After this short period of contact, skins and juice are separated and fermentation continues as for a white wine.

A sub-type of the skin-contact method is known as “saignée” (the French saigner means “to bleed”). Rosé produced in this way could be described as a by-product of red winemaking. Sometimes winemakers wish to increase the skin:juice ratio in their red wine fermentations to augment the colour and tannin levels, so they remove a small amount of juice in the initial stages of the fermentation. This, having had only a short period of skin contact, is pink and so will be fermented separately to make a rosé. A classic example is pink Sancerre, typically a by-product of red Sancerre production where winemakers want to bump up the colour and tannin levels of wine from the thin-skinned Pinot Noir grape.

SOME ROSÉS TO TRY ON A SUMMER’S AFTERNOON:

  • Provence: the long-standing home of dry, pale rosés to match seafood
  • Sancerre Rosé: crisp, light, mineral
  • Navarra Rosado: Spanish pink made from Garnacha (Grenache)
  • New World pink wine: from many different grapes; look out for Shiraz ones from Australia or Malbecs from Argentina

Browse our range of rosé on bbr.com.

Category: Wine School

Summer serves: Cleopatra

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Cleopatra

In our final cocktail recipe for the season, we present an elegant sweet-sour concoction made with the most serious (and extremely fashionable) soft drink on the market – Seedlip.

No longer does a night off the hard stuff mean water or lemonade. The sober-faced gap in the market has been filled by the first non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip – solving the problem of “what to drink when you’re not drinking”. While delicious served G&T style, the complex spirit, with notes of clove, all spice and citrus, works equally well in cocktails. Our current favourite is the Cleopatra, with a twist of white balsamic vinegar and thyme balancing more usual lemon and peach notes.

Cleopatra
  • 60ml Seedlip Spice 94
  • 10ml lemon juice
  • 10ml ginger syrup
  • 5ml white balsamic vinegar
  • Quarter of a peach
  • Two sprigs of thyme
  • Dash of egg white

Shake with ice and strain. Serve in a coupe and garnish with a sprig of thyme.

Category: Spirits

Pass notes: the most important Italian grapes (part one)

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

Photograph: Jason Lowe

As we turn our focus to the fine wines of Italy, Chris Pollington compiles crib notes to a short-list of the country’s many hundred indigenous grapes – more than anywhere else in the world.

Wine has been made in what is now Italy for at least three millennia, with invaders from all directions bringing their own varieties with them – from the Greeks to the Carthaginians to the Spanish and, most recently, the French (at the time of the Napoleonic invasion) – hence why Italy has such a varied viticultural palette. It would be impossible to cover all of Italy’s indigenous grapes, but here are the most important varieties (starting with the black grapes).

Aglianico: the major variety of the south-west, particularly Campania (Taurasi) and Basilicata. Dark and spicy, with high acidity and tannin, it is quite deep in colour and rich in aromas and flavours with notes of black fruit, spice and liquorice. It particularly likes a long growing season in the cool mountains of the south, with harvest not taking place until as late as November.

Barbera: originally Piedmontese, but now planted throughout the country, Barbera is used extensively for blending as well as a varietal in its own right. Deep in colour with plummy red fruit flavours and high acidity, it makes a great food wine and is therefore very popular with Italians as their everyday wine with meals.

Corvina: along with sub-variety Corvinone, have their home in the hills just north of Verona where they are responsible for the wines of Valpolicella. Rich in red fruit flavours, particularly cherries, the variety also has tough skins, making it ideal for the drying process necessary for Amarone, where the acidity, fruit, tannin and alcohol are all intensified.

Montepulciano: the central east coast’s major variety, Montepulciano is made into Rosso Conero (in the Marche) and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (in – funnily enough – Abruzzo). Rich with plummy fruit and dark in colour, it ages very well and makes a great food wine, as well as being very good to drink on its own. One of Italy’s most versatile varieties, it blends well and takes on oak effortlessly.

Nebbiolo: the variety solely responsible for the greatest wines of Piedmont, Barolo and Barbaresco. Pale in colour, but rich and complex in both aromatics and flavouring phenols, it conjures up notes of roses, tar, mint, tea, coffee, chocolate, grilled meat, summer fruits and any amount of exotic spices. The variety likes a long growing season in order to ripen fully and tends towards high acidity, tannin and alcohol to balance the rich fruit. Not used extensively outside of Piedmont, Nebbiolo likes its home territory, but can be found in other northern Italian regions and in the New World.

Negroamaro: another great grape variety of the south, this time Puglia in the south-east. Its name suggests it’s dark and bitter, but bitterness is really a description of its great structure with crisp acidity and grippy tannins which serve to balance out the dark, berry-fruited, spicy character of the wines.

Nero d’Avola: Sicily’s most famous variety, with flavours of plums and black fruit, firm structure and great length at its best, it is another candidate for one of Italy’s greatest varieties. Planted throughout the island and used both as a varietal and as a blender, as in Sicily’s only DOCG red, Cerasuolo di Vittoria.

Sangiovese: the variety responsible for many of the great wines of Tuscany including Chianti (where it is usually blended), Brunello di Montalcino (in purezza), Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (usually blended, and nothing to do with the eponymous grape) and Morellino di Scansano, amongst others. Like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese has a complex cornucopia of aromas and flavours in its repertoire with black and red cherries, redcurrants, summer fruit, raw and grilled meats, blueberries and black tea.

Look out for Chris’s post next week, covering Italy’s essential white grapes. In the meantime, you can browse our annual offer of the finest wines from the length and breadth of Italy’s boot on bbr.com.

Category: Italian Wine

On the table: Primeur

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Primeur-PWF-0909-HDR

This month food writer Victoria Stewart heads north to Primeur; already established as a local favourite, this Canonbury spot doles out delicious sharing plates with unpretentious appeal.

It’s a wonderful thing to walk into a restaurant and have the atmosphere hit you in the face like a blast of warm air. Which is what happened when a friend and I visited Primeur on a quiet residential street in Canonbury – a 20-minute walk from Higbury and Islington – last Thursday for dinner. I’d been before, back when it opened to much acclaim in 2014 and many had decided it was their new favourite neighbourhood eating place. On the first visit it was a sticky summer’s day and, being in a former garage, staff had wrenched the great sliding door back to let in great swathes of sunlight. It was all so pretty, and our food was perfectly nice, but it was quiet and I remember thinking I’d like to return for dinner to see if things would be different.

Primeur is owned by chefs and friends Jérémie Cometto-Lingenheim and David Gingell who, as well as having varied and impressive cooking CVs, used to hold “pavement parties” in Spitalfields. And on this second visit, I could see why those were successful. Walking in it was as if we had stepped into a romantic cubby hole, with people gazing at each other in a room decorated with flickering candles – most down to their wicks, so the light was properly twinkly – and straightforwardly with whitewashed walls, coats hanging up and a blackboard menu (this changes daily). I gather from a former colleague that the velvet mustard yellow armchairs were ex-Savoy Grill ones from the 1930s.

Being on the least exciting seats in the room – on high bar chairs, cut off from the kitchen by a large pillar – actually mattered little because I could still glimpse three chefs at work, and because sitting next to the kitchen means you get served first. Butter and bread (from Bridget Hugo of Bread Bread in south London) came out quickly – chewy sourdough with an essence of smoke in the crust.

Next, a rush of five plates. Something labelled simply as “tomatoes, crème fraiche” was just as lovely a way as you could want to eat tomatoes, and these were fresh, piquant, with a basil-y undertone and crème swirling around in their juices. Spears of asparagus were perfectly cooked and sweet, with none of that squish or hardness that I still manage to achieve so regularly at home, and with an interesting combination of things on top – we recognised miniscule pieces of chopped egg, pickles, tarragon and possibly parsley – lending the whole dish a winning sharpish sweetness.

I haven’t eaten enough sweetbreads yet to spot a good one, but here they were as fluffy and chewy as I suspect they should have been, and propped up by fresh green beans, mandolined red onions and some fine ham. It was good, but too rich to finish, meanwhile a dish entitled “ray wing, cuttlefish, lobster stock, lentils” seemed like something one might come across in a tiny French seaside town, and was filled with natural, comforting salty juices and silky chunks of cuttlefish.

We sailed through four slices of Featherblade steak, just seared and cooked enough to be coated brown but succulent and pink inside, and with it a variety of sweet, almost caramelised spring onions and their accompanying jus.

There was a great splodge of dark chocolate mousse – heinously rich – with crackly salted peanuts to round up, and a delectable sandwich of paper-thin shortbread with strawberries and vanilla cream.

Looking in to Primeur from the outside felt as if we might have been spying on a group of friends celebrating a birthday; on the inside it rather felt the same, except that there were brilliant staff who were always looking over us without us really realising. Next time I’ll bring a group of 20 and stay a long while.

What we drank:

  • 2013 Menu Pineau/Chenin, The Boeuf, Loire
  • 2014 Procanico blend, Le Coste, Lazio, Italy

Primeur, Barnes Motors, 116 Petherton Rd, London N5 2RT

Category: Food & Wine