To many, the notion of a superior rosé is absurd – like describing a cupcake as haute cuisine. Not to Richard Bampfield MW and his client, though, the enterprising Jean-Christophe Mau, owner of Château Brown in Bordeaux, who put on a blind tasting of premium rosés at Westminster Boating Base last month.
The moment I arrived, however, I felt disconcerted. All the bottles were of Bordeaux rosé, or so it seemed. As it turned out, all the different wines, with their innumerable bottle shapes, had been decanted into clear unlabelled Bordeaux bottles. Ranging from the palest blush to deep cherry, there were more shades of pink here than on a Winsor & Newton colour chart. But variety wasn't confined to the different hues of pink.
Half the 31 rosés were from Provence, the spiritual home of the wine. But there was also Bordeaux, the Loire, the Rhône, Navarra, Piedmont, New Zealand, Australia and England. The English rosé was a major surprise. Made from pinot noir, the excellent pale 2013 Albury Silent Pools Rosé, £14, Albury Vineyard, showed berry aromas, redcurrant flavours and had a lip-smacking tang.
Finding myself taking notes at the same table as Julia Harding MW, co-author of the encyclopedic Wine Grapes, I asked her how she was getting on identifying the different grape varieties. To my surprise, she said that she hadn't thought about it at all; it occurred to me that despite the broad palette of grapes involved, variety is less important when drinking rosé than colour, brightness of fruit, freshness and dryness.
The Provence rosés acquitted themselves well. Although a handful were bland and pear-droppy, the best were deliciously full, concentrated and refreshing. In particular, I liked the crisp, dry 2013 Château de Léoube Secret de Léoube, Goedhuis, Bibendum; the appetising raspberry-rich, dry 2013 Chêne Blue, Ventoux, £15, Justerini & Brooks; the delightfully berry-driven 2013 M de Minuty, £14.99, buy 2 = £9.99, Majestic, and the deceptively rich and full-flavoured 2013 Domaine Ott, Clos Mireille, £30, Hedonism Wines.
Surprisingly, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's wine, the 2013 Miraval Rosé, £18-20, Lay & Wheeler, Berry Bros & Rudd, was among the best, with its redcurrant and raspberry fruitiness and high level of finesse; as was Sacha Lichine's fine Les Clans, Domaines Sacha Lichine, although it ought to be at £49, Hedonism Wines.
I also thought Italy's distinctive 2010 Biondi-Santi Rosato di Toscana Greppo excellent, and rated the 2013 Chivite Finca de Vallatuerta, Navarra, £28.99, Mike Hothersall Wines. And, from the New World, the 2013 Turkey Flat, Barossa Valley, Australia, £14, Costco, was rich in strawberries and cream.