First Published Costa News Group, February 2013

. . . AND SUMMER’S LEASE HATH ALL TO SHORT A DATE!

I’m no expert in Shakespearian Studies but I’m pretty sure that, although there are several references to wine, and particularly to Sack (Sherry), in the Bard’s plays, I’m fairly certain that rosé doesn’t figure at all.

 

In fact wine was available in Shakespeare’s time and as his works became more famous, making him more sought after in the grander social circles of the time, he will no doubt have tasted some of the finest. However, wine was really the preserve of the Upper Classes, frankly, of the rich. In fact wine was about twelve times more expensive than ale, which was served copiously before, during and after Shakespeare’s plays.

 

Malmsey (The Duke of Clarence’s last drink!), Claret, Sack and Canary (another sweet sherry-like wine of the time) are often mentioned but of rosé, there’s not a “stoup”.

 

Nevertheless the quote above is used here with reference to rosado wines because they, like Shakespeare’s summer, have a short lease. However if a wholly unscientific poll I recently conducted is anything to go by, supermarket buyers are not in receipt of this basic wine fact – “The common curse of [supermarket]mankind – folly and ignorance.”!

 

And to that, add cynicism!

 

In one supermarket, of which there are More and More(!), I was horrified to see that not only were they selling bottles of way out of date rosado wines, 2008s, ‘7s, ‘6s and, to my absolute incredulity, several bottles of 2005, they were also covertly and I’m sure, deliberately, mixing them up with more contemporary offerings! A coincidental, innocent error in shelf-packing; or a cynical effort to hoodwink the consumer?

 

The essence of Spanish rosado wine is its youth. Made and bottled before the Christmas immediately following the harvest (e.g. a rosado wine made from the 2011 September/October harvest, will be in bottle by December of the same year) the vast majority of Spanish rosado wines will be drinking perfectly, and just as the winemaker wants us to drink them, up to, and probably including, the Christmas of the following year.

 

In the case above therefore, the 2011 rosado, made as we’ve seen from the 2011 harvest in September/October will be ideal up to, and probably including, the Christmas of 2012.

 

So now we are in February of 2013, it’s clear that these 2011 rosados are now past their best. And that means that they’ll be on a rather swift decline where the colour will be changing, the fruit will be disappearing and all that will be left will be the alcohol. Trust me – this is not how the winemaker wants us to taste his wine!

 

Drinking his rosado made from the 2005 harvest now will probably cause him apoplexy and will no doubt see you avoiding that bodega’s rosados, and probably all their other wines, in the future. Plus if you remember where you bought it from you may not even buy wine from there again! Nobody wins! So why are so many supermarkets selling wine that is past, and way past its prime?

 

Well, it’s obvious isn’t it – it’s simply a matter of profit and loss. No bodega is going to take back wines that were sold seven years ago, so if the supermarket is not going to add items to the Loss Column, they’ll try and sell it, perhaps not at much or indeed any Profit, but at least not a dreaded Loss! It’s true that the supermarkets may have reduced the price, and this they will say in their defence. But there’s no accompanying note saying that we’ve reduced this because it’s way past its sell-and-consume-by-date and will be offering none of the pleasure that this wine did offer when in its youth!

 

Neither will they add a postscript, saying something like ‘we really should simply pour this down the drain so as not to damage consumer trust in us, because we at  Blah Blah Supermarket always put the customer first’!

 

If they know themselves (which may well be in doubt) they’ll know that not all of us are aware that rosado really needs to be drunk young. So consumers will happily buy, at the reduced price, perhaps erroneously, though understandably believing that all wine is best when it has been aged. Remember Del Boy’s pride in his Beaujolais Nouveau, which was in fact anything but ‘nouveau’?

 

So, why has the error occurred in the first place? Here I admit that it’s not easy for supermarkets. They want to have enough stock to be able to satisfy anticipated consumer demand, so they must buy sufficient quantities. Of course it isn’t always possible to be accurate with such a prediction and therefore supermarkets may well buy too little/too much.

 

But there’s too much, and there’s way too much!

 

In contrast I was presenting a wine tasting in a wine shop recently. A lady was disappointed that her favourite rosado (in fact a Rioja from Muga) wasn’t available. I looked at the shelf and sure enough the shelf above the Muga 2011 label was devoid of wine. ‘Excellent!’, I said – this is because the shop has sold out of the 2011 and is no doubt awaiting the arrival of the correct year, the 2012!

 

Although it’s perhaps disappointing not to be able to always have access to your favourite rosados, isn’t it encouraging that wine merchants are not content with buying more of the 2011, preferring instead to wait for the 2012 which will be à point!

 

Yes – it’s true that a far smaller concern can have easier control over its buying, but it’s also true to say that profits in these smaller concerns are much smaller than those of the supermarkets. The larger business have to live with this – and employ somebody who has a better understanding of buying trends, and who knows about the shelf life of wine!

 

Rosado wine is made from black grapes, the same grapes that make red wines – Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell, Syrah et al. They are pink coloured by virtue of the fact that the grape juice is in contact with the skins for far less time (perhaps just 4 hours) than it would be if red wine was required. Clearly this is because the deep red colour pigment in the skins seeps into the juice giving the resulting wine its colour. So the longer the juice is in contact with the skins the darker will be the resulting rosado.

 

Wine makers produce rosado wine because they want to give the consumer an aromatic (often raspberry aromas), fruit driven, often delicate wine. The skins impart the required colour, but that’s not all. They impart flavour and aromas, and if left longer with the skin, tannin too. But who wants a tannic rosado? Nobody, so the juice is run off the skin as soon as the required colour is present.

 

Herein lies the problem regarding rosado wines’ longevity. Tannin is one of the essential pillars on which a wine rests whilst it is ageing. If there’s not enough tannin (along with the three other pillars: fruit, acidity and alcohol), the wine won’t last. Simple as that. So if there’s little tannin as shown above there’s little chance of the wine lasting.

 

Of course, as with any other ‘rule’, there are always exceptions. Some rosado grape varieties are more likely to last a little longer – Cabernet Sauvignon, for example is a tannic grape, therefore time with the skins will make the wine a touch more tannic. Rosados which have been aged on their lees before bottling will have more body and will therefore last a while longer. Also, although there are precious few, rosado wines that have been fermented/aged in oak will also stand the test of a few more month’s time.

 

However the general rule stands – the vast majority of Spanish rosados will not last  more than the 14 months between harvest and Christmas the following year!

 

Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com and www.colinharknessonwine.com

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