We’re all in the pink

Christopher Pincher celebrates the return of warm summer nights with a taste of Provence — and the finest rosé in the world

On Wine

This article is taken from the May 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

With Lent over and lockdown slowly unwinding we may begin to look forward to a less socially distanced summer (whilst maintaining care and consideration for others, of course). And on warm sunny evenings a cool white seems called for. Or does it? Is there an alternative? How about rosé? What do we think of it?

Rosé was for the taverna not high table; along with red paper napkins and monumental wooden pepper grinders, it was not for them

In a sense there has long been an unmerited prejudice against the pink ‘uns, a social distancing of the condescending kind. Critic readers d’un certain âge will well recall the arrival of the 1970s and with them the arrival on our menus of Mateus Rosé in its flask-shaped bottle and Vila Real label.

Sacheverell Sitwell raved about it; Roger Scruton was restrained about it; Clement and La Frenais wrote about it. Mateus was on a roll. Interest in it quickly spread and soon its bottles were gracing the tables of every trattoria in the country. Even the empties were turned into lamp bases. Like kipper ties and flares, the wine was in high fashion and it remains an enduring image of the time that taste forgot. Yet the socially discerning (Sitwell, in so many ways, a fascinating aberration) maintained their social distance.

Rosé was for the taverna not high table; along with red paper napkins and monumental wooden pepper grinders, it was not for them. The more Mateus became synonymous with pink wines, the less they were liked by the cognoscenti.

But what a waste, what a waste. Between the worlds of white and red there exists a third dimension in which we are served all the freshness of the first and the fruitiness of the second, together with a crisp and vivid intensity that connotes an extra, third element — the maceration method. Of course string theorists, amongst others, claim a fourth — the saignée — dimension, but that is another story which should not divert us now.

Instead, take for instance Sacha Lichine’s Whispering Angel from Côtes de Provence to whose subtle charms sometime Critic sonneteer Johnny Leavesley introduced me this April. Lichine knows his craft and has
honed his product to perfection since acquiring his exquisitely Italianate chateau 15 years ago. The vintners at d’Esclans harvest their grapes from La Motte, the most select soil in Provence, and its delicious blend of grenache, rollo, vermentino, cinsault and syrah unite to produce the best blushed wine in the world.

Pineapple and grapefruit flavours combine to thrill the tastebuds as delicately as might the whispering wings of the angels themselves. The draw is soft and silky with the faintest touch of astringency. The finish is clean and clear and then you are ready for the next gulp. Most delightful is the colour; pale salmon that shimmered in the spring sunshine of Johnny’s baroque garden at Orgreave.

We drank the 2018 but the 2020 is ready to open now and no older bottle should be left lingering long. Though conscientiously maintaining the proprieties of social distance, we merrily ignored those rules of social discrimination set in the 1970s and now long past their sell-by date.

This summer, as we unlock our lives, be sure to uncork a rosé, suitably chilled, to salute the sun and Sacha Lichine’s angels. You may not see them or hear them, but you will certainly taste them.

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