The recent rise of rosé has been nothing short of remarkable. It was not long ago that this wine was considered frivolous by wine experts and consumers alike. But the pale, light and subtle offerings from Provençe have grown in international stature, not least because of what is evoked in their flavours: the allure and glamour of the French Riviera, with its St Tropez beach clubs and celebrity yachts is all neatly expressed in a frosty glass of posh pink. Aspirational instagrammers lap and snap it up, even groups of men drinking it has coined the term ‘brosé’. Things have changed.
So what prompted this remarkable shift in fortunes? The answer comes in the unlikely form of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who released the first vintage of Miraval Rosé from their estate in Northern Provence in 2012. Celebrity endorsements can be a hit and miss affair but the couple have undoubtedly helped drive the image, sales and profile of rosé which for years was a style shunned and maligned by both the wine industry and consumers.
Eight years on and Brangelina are no more but Miraval endures, and the pair continue to co-own the property. But, is it actually any good? In short, the answer is yes – the recently released Miraval 2019 is a smart wine indeed. A beautiful shade of pale apricot, delicate aromas of melon and stone fruit and raspberry, with plenty of fresh zinginess to awaken your palate. Within a few sips, it transports you to a sun dappled Provençale evening and the sound of chirping cicadas.
The couple purchased Miraval and its 700 hectares in 2011 as their European family home. By all accounts it was a special place for them, so much so it was where they chose to host their nuptials in 2014. Miraval also has a celebrity history, being home to a studio where the likes of Pink Floyd, The Cure and AC/DC all recorded in the pre-Brangelina days.
Yet it was the choice of winemaking partners (and co-owners) that put Miraval on the map. The Perrin family are winemaking royalty in the nearby Rhone Valley, most famous for their wines from Chateauneuf du Pape and the lauded Chateau de Beaucastel. It is currently the fourth and fifth generation of Perrins who run the show – two brothers and their seven children. Marc Perrin is the oldest of these seven children and is at the helm of Miraval.
Overseeing the winemaking operation, he has invested heavily in the vineyard identifying the best plots to plant and nurture the vines. Yet it is in the winery that he really works his magic – the grapes are transported to a bespoke winery in Orange, over 150 miles away. Much care is required to make this technically challenging wine and ensure the resulting pale colour and purity. The Perrin’s know what they are doing.
So what makes a good rosé? According to most consumers, the answer would be colour – the lighter the better. Countless times I have overheard ‘No, it’s not pale enough darling’ in the supermarket wine aisle, most recently in my local Waitrose in Henley (yes – I am aware of the irony. As consumers demand paler rosés, less scrupulous producers churn them out – and they are often insipid and devoid of flavour and character. Let’s be clear – colour is not a sign of quality. Rosé made as a by-product of other wines can never compete with wine makers that are dedicated exclusively to the drink. So it is best to use this as your gauge of quality, rather than going on colour alone.
The most important factor is integrity, and wines made with passion, precision and respect of place. Many darker rosés from areas such as Northern Spain can be absolutely delicious. Just because they are darker, does not mean that they are sweeter either. Brangelina (and Monsieur Perrin) have demonstrated how delicious pale pink can be. But colour is not the be all and end all – be brave and branch out.