Monday, 12 May 2014

Red Wine Masquerading as Rosé

A couple of weeks ago I tweeted about an unusual but delicious rosé I had tried. So lovely and different was it that I thought I should expand it into a blog post.

Bulging Supermarket rosé shelves
Until fairly recently, maybe the last twenty years, rosé wasn't really taken seriously in this country. It was the preserve of people who didn't really drink serious wine. In fact one of the reasons for this was covered in my last blog about Zinfandel. When White Zinfandel became mega popular in the late 1980s and 90s it was seen as a bit 'naff' but quality rosé wines were still out there. And by 2008 Provence rosé in France had become incredibly popular, even rivalling white and reducing sales of red wine, according to the Daily Telegraph. As stated in the article a rosé boom was expected in the UK and so this has proved. In 2013 rosé accounted for 1 in 8 bottles of wine purchased at retail in the UK compared with 1 in 40 in 2000; with sales rising at 10% per annum.

But for me rosé wine was always an afternoon in the sun drink or perhaps with a light lunch. That was until I came across the Shiraz Saignée 2011, made by Margan Wines in the Hunter Valley, Australia.

On the same day I had purchased the Verdelho from the same winemaker for an upcoming tasting event. The rosé was a bit of an afterthought. But what an afterthought. It was sitting in the bin ends shelves next to the till in my favourite wine merchants Tannners in Bridgnorth.

Margan Shiraz Saignée - Wow
Tanners Bridgnorth

It was opened a couple of days later and wow, what an incredible surprise. The colour was a deep, bright red, but not like a red wine. This is going to be interesting I thought. And it was. I have since read various reviews of the wine but I'm not sure any do it justice. To me it tasted full and earthy with some gentle spice, like a red wine, but without the presence of any significant tannins. I know, for many, tannin in red wine is part of the appeal but for me this is the holy grail. I absolutely loved it and could drink it every day. Most reviews recommend drinking it with the usual rosé staples of asian foods, curry, salads, etc. But I think it could stand up to almost anything you wanted including beef, duck and lamb dishes. No, seriously.

Saignée Method - Controversial but lucrative?
So far, I have not mentioned Saignée which is the method used to produce the wine. Saignée is actually french for bleed and it is considered, in some quarters, a controversial method of producing rosé wines. It involves 'bleeding' off some of the juice from the must to enable the red wine remaining to obtain a deeper colour and flavour from the skins. For many winemakers this is just a by-product in red wine production that is then slung or used as ullage to top up tanks but as can be seen here it can make some beautiful wines. And with rosé wines becoming ever more popular why not take advantage or every possibility you can.

I revisited Tanners again today hoping to pick up another bottle. Fortunately they had one left. Mind you I needn't of worried. It was only in the bin ends as an end of vintage. The 2013 was sitting proudly on the shelf. I think I may be buying a few more in the coming months. Why not hop over to their website and try it out for yourself.

That is all for now. I will return with another blog soon. If you would like to meet me in person and home is in the UK why not book an event with me. More information can be found at my website Maybe you need an excuse for a party involving tasting some lovely wines. Or you could come to one of my events. Do get in touch.

You can also follow me on twitter @GloryofWine

Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Power of Zin

Of the worlds most noted grape varieties, Zinfandel must be the one that causes the most confusion and the most controversy. I bet that most of you reading this are immediately thinking of White Zinfandel, the sugar sweet rosé, made mostly in California. But did you know it also makes some superb, powerful, full red wines.
Zinfandel - Young and Old

Go into most pubs or mid-range restaurants in Britain and ask for a glass of rosé and you will most likely be served a glass of White Zin, usually from one of the big brand leaders such as Blossom Hill, Gallo, Echo Falls or Sutter Home. The supermarkets are even more obsessed with it and White Zin takes up most of their rosé shelf space.

I have to admit it even I have to succumb to the power of Zin. The wine list I supervise for my own establishment has two rosés by the glass, one of which is White Zinfandel. When ladies ask for it, and it is mostly ladies, I have to joke that 'they like the cherryade then'. Usually they laugh knowingly almost as if to say 'yes, I know this isn't a serious drink but I like it'. And that is fine by me. I always preach drink what you like, when you like and there is definitely a place for the Zin. It's a step up from Lambrini at least.

But I am fascinated to know when did White Zinfandel become such a big seller and almost a brand in itself. It seems that one minute, no one really drank rosé (at least in Britain) and the next every girl did.

The best use for White Zinfandel?

The White Zinfandel story is quite an interesting one. Zinfandel is actually the same as Primitivo, a variety traditionally grown in Puglia, the southern heel of Italy. It found its way to the United States in the 19th century. The name Zinfandel is uncertain in origin but was in common use by the 1870s. Zinfandel was made as a full red wine and continued to be made, even during Prohibition (1920-1933). After the Great Depression and Prohibition the wine industry was left in a poor state and Zinfandel fell quickly out of fashion.

Sutter Home of White Zinfandel
And so to 1975 when a fortunate accident in the winery of producer Sutter Home led to a batch of wine that did not ferment properly to dryness and White Zinfandel as we know it was born. By 1987 Sutter Home White Zinfandel was the best selling premium wine in the United States. It is responsible for bringing many new people to drinking wine. And this continues today. My experience is that many start with White Zinfandel and soon move on to drier styles.

I mentioned earlier that Zinfandel makes some big powerful red wines and so few people in the UK are aware of this. When Zinfandel fell out of fashion in the 1930s and 40s vineyards were abandoned but the vines not pulled up. Once Zin was once more acceptable interest turned to its traditional red style. Many of these wines are quite austere wines with big jammy flavours which can come as a shock if you've never tried them before. Often the alcohol levels are 14-14.5% so definitely a wine for food. In California they are held in high esteem.
One of the best value 'Old Vine Zins'
I've tried and widely  available in the UK

If you've never tried it and have been put off by the Zinfandel name please think again. They are not wines I would like to drink everyday but well worth trying at least once, preferably with a peppery steak or beef of some kind.

As for the White Zinfandel I think I will leave that to the girls although one of my staff, Chelsea, who really would style herself a bit of a 'Lambrini girl' did say to me only the other day that she was beginning to find the White Zinfandel a bit sweet. Ladies and gentleman my work here is done.

That is all for now. I will be back with another blog soon. If you would like to meet me in person and home is in the UK why not book an event with me. More information can be found at my website Maybe you need an excuse for a party involving tasting some lovely wines. Or you could come to one of my events. Do get in touch.

You can also follow me on twitter @GloryofWine

Enjoy your wine. Cheers!