With Holi having come and gone, what better topic to talk about than Rose wines - the most suitable wine for our hot Indian summers, but also the most neglected and under-rated segment, as volumes are a pitiable two to three per cent of the total wine sales.
Rose wines are produced either from red wine grapes, using a shorter-than-normal time for skin contact, or simply by mixing red and white wines. They are lighter in colour than the red wines (ranging from light pink and orange-ish to light red) and are generally more aromatic, lighter, softer, lower on alcohol content, and sweeter than either reds or whites. If well-produced, Rose wines are ideal for summer - terrific as an aperitif, and great accompaniments to a wide range of both Indian and Oriental cuisines.
The most well-known Rose across the globe used to be Mateus Rose (from Portugal) which, at it's height of fame in the 1980s, accounted for almost 40 per cent of the Portuguese wine industry and sold some 3.25 million cases worldwide.
Today the best-known Roses are French: the Mediterranean district of Provence leads with half to two-third of the wines produced here being Roses, mainly from Grenache; further up north is Tavel in the Southern Rhone where only Rose wines are permitted, being produced through a unique co-fermentation method, where both red and white wine grapes are crushed and fermented together. Then there is the Loire, whose Rose d'Anjou is widely known, as are the Rose wines from the Samur and Touraine areas.
Roses are also widely produced in both Spain ("Rosado") and Italy ("Rosato"), made using various local grapes. In the US they started-off by being called 'White Zinfandel', when the Sutter Home winery salvaged a stuck fermentation; just as confusingly, you also have 'Cabernet Blanc' and 'White Merlot' - both Rose wines! Elsewhere in the new world Roses are also called 'Blush' wines.
And no, Rose wines have nothing to do with roses. Perhaps it's just that wine is such a new beverage in India, and most people only know that there are red or white wines, so that something 'in between' is usually passed over. Or perhaps Roses appeal neither to males (who tend to favour reds) or female consumers (who have a penchant for whites) - after all, who wants to be identified with an androgynous product! As a result, few people opt for a Rose when selecting wines, either at retail or in a restaurant - a pity, because Roses are perfect for India.
Perhaps that's why all the major Indian wine companies produce Roses, priced between Rs 600 and 700 per bottle (in Bangalore): Sula, Grover, Fratelli, Big Banyan, Four Seasons, Nine Hills (their second-line Roses, the Sula Mosaic and the Grover Sante are a more reasonable at Rs 400 - Rs 500 per bottle.
Of imported Roses, the only Tavel I know is from E Guigal (Rs 2,740, Bangalore). Other imported Rose's include the intriguingly-named Terri di Talamo Piano Piano (Tuscany Italy, Rs 2,186); the Domaines Barons de Rothschild Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Rose (Chile, Rs 1,500); The Wolftrap Boekenhoutskloof Rose (South Africa, Rs 1,489); and the Yellowtail Rose (Australia, Rs 1,299).
Wines I've been drinking: A Rose, naturally: the Grover Art Collection Shiraz Rose (Rs 615 in Bangalore) has a Rekha Rodwittiya label. A delicate salmon-pink colour, the 2011 sample was quite oxidised (poor storage), and unfortunately so was the 2012, reminiscent of a Rose made by mixing white and red wines. The company's tasting notes claim the wine has "clean berry aromas and a crisp, fruity and medium-bodied taste". If one can get hold of a good bottle, am sure that well chilled, it would be good for a warm afternoon or evening.