“O the joy of blossoming life!” wrote Mary Boddington, an early 19th-century English traveller on the continent. “What a delicious thing it is to be young, and to see every thing through rose-coloured glasses.” Whether or not one is young, the world looks better with a pink tint and there’s no reason that those glasses need to be the kind you wear. Just add an accent, and fill your glass with rosé. So without further ado, welcome to the ultimate rosé guide for 2023.
The Ultimate Rosé Guide for 2023
9th August 2023
Nina Caplan takes us on a very well-informed tour to share the ultimate rosé guide for 2023, and the nine most fascinatingly good pink wines to pour this summer.
The Ultimate Rosé Guide for 2023
1. CHÂTEAU D’ESCLANS – WHISPERING ANGEL
The current fashion is for rosés the delicate colour of mild embarrassment. This is largely down to Sacha Lichine, an entrepreneur whose Château d’Esclans in Provence has made a phenomenal success story out of Whispering Angel, in particular, although the range goes all the way up to Garrus, at well over £100 a bottle. (This was, until recently, the world’s most expensive rosé; Gerard Bertrand’s Clos du Temple has since set that bar a little higher.)
2. CHÂTEAU DE BERNE - TERRES DE BERNE ROSÉ, 2022
Lichine’s success has trickled down to other Provençal pinks such as Château de Berne’s Terres de Berne, a glowing peach-coloured blend of Cinsault and Grenache. It has also given a welcome boost to wines that were already famous in their own right. Back in 1940, Lucien Peyraud and his new wife Lucie — known always as Lulu — took over her family’s vineyard, Domaine Tempier. He became an admired winemaker and a champion of the Mourvèdre grape; she was a cook so fabulous, so willingly dependent on the market’s offerings, that she inspired Alice Waters, who started the farm-to-table movement in California, and the great American food writer Richard Olney, who wrote a cookbook with her called Lulu’s Provencal Table.
3. DOMAINE TEMPIER - BANDOL ROSÉ 2021
The Tempier rosé, also largely Mourvèdre, blended with Grenache and Cinsault, used to be less famous than their elegant, ageworthy single-vineyard reds, despite always being the first drink that lucky guests were offered, before they sat down at Lulu’s table for a feast. “Perhaps love and friendship can never be quite the same in the absence of the cicada’s chant, of fresh sweet garlic and voluptuous olive oil, of summer-ripe tomatoes and the dense, spicy, wild fruit of the wines of Domaine Tempier,” Olney wrote. Lulu, who drank the Tempier wines like water (only with rather more appreciation: she didn’t like water), lived
to the age of 102, which is surely the best possible recommendation for the health benefits of excellent rosé.
4. DOMAINE MABY – LA DAME ROUSSE ROSÉ
But to be excellent, pink wine need not come from Provence — nor need it be pale. Long ago, the finest rosés were thought to be made in Tavel, a little farther north, across the Rhône river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape: King Louis XIV drank them enthusiastically and so, over a century later, did the author Honoré de Balzac — a contemporary of Mary Boddington’s, so she too may have been a fan. It is bewildering to me that these wines have lost their cachet: they are the colour of ripe raspberries and twice as delicious, and so textured that they work brilliantly with food. Young Ambre Delorme at Domaine de la Mordorée makes two, La Reine des Bois and La Dame Rousse, that have more layers than a millefeuille pastry but none of the sweetness, while La Forcadière, the Tavel from Domaine Maby, is almost too pretty to drink. Almost.
5. MAXIME MAGNON - MÉTISSE ROSÉ
Farther west around the Mediterranean coast in the Languedoc, Maxime Magnon makes a gorgeous wine called Métisse, a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and a tot of Syrah, which is a beautiful orange-pink… or would be, if the bottle weren’t so swiftly empty.
So France can range the palette from those pale Provençal wines that are currently setting the tone, in every sense, to Tavel’s magenta hues — but there are also great rosés in all shades being made outside France.
6. MAS MARTINET - CAMI PESSEROLES ROSÉ 2017
Keep travelling south from Maxime Magnon, across the Spanish border and past Barcelona, and you reach Priorat, a vine-covered hill of glittering slate famous for powerful reds. Sara Pérez of Mas Martinet makes several of those, but she also produces a rather extraordinary wine called Cami Pesseroles, which is the colour of a friendly lion. Technically, this is an orange wine, not a rosé: it too is made from juice fermented with the grapeskins… but these grapes are white. Still: the wine is floral, nutty, unique. It is neither white nor red but somewhere in between — and it is fabulous.
7. BABYLONSTOREN – MOURVÈDRE ROSÉ 2022
In South Africa, there is further proof, juicy, mildly tart and dangerously drinkable, that Mourvèdre is one of the great varieties for pink wine: Babylonstoren, from a beautiful estate at the foot of the Simonsberg mountain, is made entirely from the variety.
8. THYMIOPOULOS - ROSÉ DE XINOMAVRO 2021
In northern Greece last year, while tasting a succession of delicious Xinomavro reds, Apostoles Thymiopoulos poured me a radiant glass of his Rosé de Xinomavro, a wine the colour of a campfire, with structure, spiciness and a lightly bitter finish the flavour of marmalade oranges. He doesn’t consider his rosé inferior to his reds; in fact, he makes it only in the best years to prove that, despite its frivolous reputation, pink wine can be just as serious as red or white. If the proof of a great wine is in its ability to age — and a lot of people would say that it is — then this rosé passes the test: I loved the 2013 Apostoles offered me. Its successor, the 2021, is now on the market, and the challenge will be to keep my hands off any bottles I buy for another seven years, although I think the wait will be worth it.
9. BLACK CHALK – WILD ROSÉ 2020
At least in the interim, I will not go thirsty. I can try rosés from as far away as Australia and as nearby as Hampshire. Black Chalk, based in the beautiful Test Valley, has just launched its 2020 vintage of Wild Rose — a sparkling pink wine from the traditional Champagne varieties — made entirely, for the first time, from its own vineyards. Mary Boddington thought that young people viewed the world through rose-coloured glasses because the young, with their future ahead of them, are inundated with choice. These days, that’s the case for adults of every age — at least when it comes to rosé.