There are many Rose rivals in France with contenders coming from some surprising quarters. Wine lovers are spoilt for choice when picking the Rose that suits their palate thanks to the recent Rose boom in sales and popularity. Our latest additions to the range are Loire Roses . . . read on to discover why they are winners!
You’ll start to see a lot more Loire Rose, particularly Rose d’Anjou, being promoted as Spring takes hold. It’s on trend now, with some producers already being awarded wine of the week and Loire wines being advertised as some of the best Roses for the upcoming Summer. Loire Rose has been under the radar for some time but back in the 1970s and 80s Rose d’Anjou was the Loire’s iconic pink wine. It’s popularity was immense at the time with bottles selling like hot cakes here in the UK – a little similar to the fad for Prosecco we see today.
However fashions changed and Rose d’Anjou production began to decline. One of the reasons was a shift away from the traditional grapes used to produce Rose d’Anjou. Wine makers began to introduce Cabernet Franc in an effort to create age worthy, weighty, serious wines that inevitably have proved to cost the consumer more. These grapes are better known, with international reputations for the wines they produce. The AOC Cabernet d’Anjou was created and it gradually eclipsed AOC Rose d’Anjou. The other reason was that a lot of wine was mass produced during the boom and subsequently fell foul of wine critics – especially the influential American critic Robert Parker. The end result was that traditional grapes such as Grolleau were ripped out and vineyards replanted with Cabernets.
It’s a shame that Grolleau became branded as a lesser grape for, in the right hands, it has plenty of virtues to its credit. Styles change and grapes fall in and out of favour. Now the demand for pale, delicate Roses is on the up and Grolleau fits the bill quite nicely. Behind the scenes wine makers loyal to their traditional grapes have been quietly upping the quality and improving wine making techniques in an effort to shine once more. It’s worked and some of these wines are quite beautifully made.
Today, a new generation of wine enthusiasts are discovering traditional Loire Roses for themselves and finding them rather good.
Grolleau Hits the Jackpot
Grolleau is a grape that no one seems to have heard of; it’s quite rare now and is only grown in the Loire. It’s a descendant of the long forgotten, ancient Gouais Blanc grape which is also an ancestor of Chardonnay, Riesling and Gamay. Grolleau has blue-black grapes that are juicy and sweet. It produces wines that are light bodied and low in alcohol with a lively vibrancy thanks to its high acidity. This freshness coupled with its signature flavour of strawberry and delicate notes of morello cherry, raspberry, white peach and herbs makes Grolleau perfect for Rose production.
Grolleau’s name is derived from ‘grolle’ meaning ‘crow’ as the grapes are such a deep black colour they are said to resemble the crow’s feathers. The Grolleau grapevine was first discovered at the foot of a strange Roman tower in Cinq Mars la Pile less than 15 miles from Bourgueil, Vouvray and Chinon. The tower is located at the entrance to the village, overlooking the Loire Valley. It dates from the second century and its role remains a mystery. An archaeological dig in 2005 revealed the remains of buildings and terraces around the enigmatic tower, as well as a statue of a high ranking near-eastern soldier. The village is named after the enigmatic tower (which used to have 5 turrets until one was swept off in a storm in 1751).
No one knows how long ago Grolleau was discovered – some say it was as early as the reign of King Henry IV (1589-1610). A Grolleau vine climbing an old pear tree from this era was said to have given the village 200 litres of wine for over 300 years until it died in 1915. In any case, the local wine makers were delighted to find a grape so suited to their climate that produced light and fruity wines. The grape gained the local nickname ‘Groslot de Cinq Mars’ which translates as ‘Cinq Mars’ Jackpot.’ It certainly seemed as if they had won the jackpot with this grape when Britain and the USA fell in love with Rose d’Anjou!
I think there is a lot to be said in favour of using traditional grapes that are indigenous to the wine regions that birthed them. They are suited to the climate and thrive in that environment. A healthy vine produces healthy grapes which in turn produce better wines. In a skilled wine maker’s hands Grolleau’s own unique characteristics can be brought to the fore and the wines it produces will suit many people looking for a light, refreshing Rose.
My recommended Loire Roses:
Beautifully delicate, fruity Rose d’Anjou. Finely tuned, fresh and elegant. Gentle flavours of crushed strawberry, raspberry and rosehip with a touch of apple, sweet spice and mint. Light bodied, lively and crisp with a subtle hint of sweetness on the finish.
100% Grolleau. 11.5% abv. 75cl.
Being light bodied and 11.5% this Rose d’Anjou is a perfect aperitif but it also pairs beautifully with starters and light suppers. It’s lovely with scampi, crab cakes and crispy calamari; spicy chicken enchilladas, pizza and pate as well as Chinese cuisine.
Light, svelte and sophisticated Loire Rose with refined structure and balance. Light bodied, refreshing and very aromatic. Fresh flavours of raspberry, morello cherry and strawberry with notes of rose petals, spearmint and pear. A subtle hint of white pepper and violets on the finish. Supple, fruity and and lively.
33% Cabernet Franc, 33% Grolleau, 33% Gamay. 13% abv. 75cl.
Morin’s Rose de Loire is not only a lovely glass of wine to enjoy on its own but also pairs with appetizers and nibbles; salads (especially Nicoise), quiche, soft cheese (try it with goats cheese!) poultry and fish, white meat pizzas, Mediterranean and Indian cuisine, duck in orange sauce and dark chocolate desserts.
When I found these two lovely wines I fell in love with them and I hope you do too.