Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Drink of the month: Rosé

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A glass of rosé, from http://flickr.com/photos/filtran/541096668/I've still got to write up the last of the IntensCITY lunchtime talks, but right now I'm just about ready for a drink. Despite September being somewhat lacking in G&T weather, and October getting off to a, shall we say, less than promising start, I'm enough of an optimist to designate as drink of the month the quintessential fine-weather wine: rosé.

I should perhaps have saved it for high summer, but there's something peculiarly appropriate about making it Wellington's drink for October. The denizens of Nelson or Tauranga tend to get blasé about clement weather, but Wellingtonians seize the merest glimmer of sunshine, the subtlest hint of a lull in the gale, and take to the streets and promenades of the city as if it were a day of heavenly bliss. In early spring, when the first fleeting intimations of balminess descend upon this gullible town, it's common to see Oriental Bay promenaders shivering in short sleeves rendered suddenly impractical by the return of a capricious southerly, or huddled outside St Johns in the fond hope that the sun is going to defy astronomical certainties and pop out from behind the Michael Fowler Centre. Thus, what could be more appropriate for the change of seasons in a city of meteorological optimists than the wine that's made for sunshine?

Now, I know what you're probably thinking. Actually, you're probably thinking one of three things:
  1. Aren't rosés horribly sweet and cloying?
  2. Aren't rosés just for girls and poofters?
  3. Oh come on, everyone knows that rosé's been fashionable again for ages.
Let's deal with the objections one at a time.

Point one is not unreasonable, due to youthful indiscretions that most of us have committed at some stage while under the influence of such dodgy characters as Mateus and White Zinfandel. And there are still plenty of candy-coated horrors out there, more akin to an RTD than anything made from grapes. But the classic rosés from the south of France (such as the famous Tavel) can be serious food wines, and even the lighter ones require a touch of acidity to deliver the refreshment of which they are so capable.

Even the most open-minded oenophile sometimes succumbs to the second point, and some men might indeed find clutching a glass of delicate pink wine something of a test of their fragile sense of masculinity. The fact that Kim Crawford makes a rosé called "Pansy!" doesn't help, either. But Ernest Hemingway was well known for knocking back vast quantities of Spanish rosado (actually, is there any drink which Hemingway wasn't famous for knocking back?), and if you would have had the temerity to question Papa's manhood within his earshot, well, you'd have been braver than I. So, laugh off the jibes from uninformed Neanderthals, and if it helps, think of it as a test of courage: "I'm so tough, I'll drink rosé at The Cambridge".

There's much to be said for the third point, as the wine press has been heralding the rediscovery of rosé for several years. But that hasn't filtered through to wine lists everywhere: even the Matterhorn has only a single still rosé among its famously encyclopaedic list (though it is a goody), and some otherwise well-regarded bars have none at all. Even when they do, they often stock only the cheap lolly-water that has given the style such a bad name. Demand good rosé, and demand that it be taken seriously.

So, how and when to drink it? Sunshine will of course help, so lunch (or breakfast, if you're so inclined) will be preferable to dinner, at least until we get closer to the solstice. That makes anywhere with a terrace, balcony, garden, courtyard or street tables preferable to anywhere completely internal, and of course it's the perfect picnic wine. That versatility (it goes pretty well with either red or white meat) also makes it a safe choice for a pot-luck dinner, though it has a special affinity for Mediterranean flavours such as rosemary, garlic and olive oil. And of course, the lighter expressions of the style are perfect as an aperitif, or for just knocking back on their own a là Hemingway. Any suggestions for bars and restaurants that have especially appropriate selections, locations or cuisines are, as always, most welcome.

(picture obtained from filtran on Flickr)


At 4:25 pm, October 05, 2007, Blogger Joanna said...

I think they only have one, but I love the Rose at Havana - It's from Otago and while I'm not sure entirely, it maaaaaaaaay be called Amblefield, and it smells faintly of violets. Plus, courtyard to sit in and drink it!

At 5:33 pm, October 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just found a South African Rose it is a Nederburg from the KWV winery and has a distinct strawberry taste to it - yum! perfect for those warm lazy afternoons - now to find a bar in Wellington that stocks it.

At 2:04 am, October 06, 2007, Blogger styler said...

and then where do you sit regarding iceblocks in a rose ?

At 6:23 pm, October 06, 2007, Blogger stephen said...

I think that if I am going to drink cold pink wine I would prefer Kir. But I am prepared to follow any recommendations that emerge from this month.


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