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Expert’s Choice: Premium Spanish rosé

While much Spanish rosé is made for easy pleasure, some producers are moving towards a more refined style. Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW charts their progress and picks bottles to try…

Most rosé is made as a simple, easy-drinking wine but, technically, rosé can be top-class and have an ageing potential similar to the best red and white wines of the world. Style and complexity depend on decisions made in the vineyard and in the winery. What characterises rosé wines, a limited maceration of pips and skins in the must, means just that: less maceration, but by no means lower quality.

Scroll down for Pedro’s pick of the 18 best Spanish rosé wines

Some grape varieties are particularly suited to producing balanced and multi-layered wines after short maceration (as the best white varieties do). Plus, in the current era of climate change, when falling levels of acidity are becoming a key factor for harvest decisions in warm countries, early harvest in appropriate sites can be a sensible, quality-oriented decision.

While some connoisseurs tend to dismiss dark pink rosés, colour is not an indicator of quality, but a feature to increase visual attractiveness. Until the late 19th century, most Spanish wines were clarete (a very pale orange). However, those wines all but disappeared because of the international market preference for deeply coloured wines, and thanks to the availability of technology for extended maceration.

Now, an increasing number of Spanish winemakers realise that, in some vineyards, they can achieve wine’s optimum balance, ageing ability and complexity with fresher musts and less phenolic extraction. Quantities of fine Spanish rosé wines are still minute, and many wines would benefit from further experimentation, but the results so far are excellent, and the prospects enticing.

We can classify three styles of high-quality rosés. The first group are those wines made upon their fruit purity and their natural balance, with little filtration. Bottled soon after fermentation, they develop complexity in a way similar to Riesling and Chenin wines. Some international varieties, such as Merlot and Syrah, are particularly suitable for this type of wine, as well as the native grape Cariñena and blends with white varieties.

The second group of wines acquire their complexity after oak ageing, and improve with time in bottle. Tempranillo and Garnacha are the leading varieties in this category. (The great pioneer of this style, Viña Tondonia Rosado, was not tasted for this article, but it certainly deserves a mention.)

The most recent category, wines bottled after long interaction with fine lees, in a variety of vats, is coming to the fore as a smart compromise for keeping fruit while providing vinous complexity. Obviously, those three groups are not neatly organised, and many producers will use elements of all three styles in their wines.

Lots of experimentation is still needed. The work to produce top rosés starts with the grape variety and vineyard selection, then continues through the production process. Some of the wines in this selection provide proof that the efforts of winemakers so far have been worthwhile – and those efforts may even result in a new style of fine Spanish rosé.

Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW is the DWWA Regional co-Chair for Spain and sits on the governing board of the Spanish Tasters’ Union

See Pedro’s pick of the 18 best Spanish rosé wines

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