Roll over Provence, says Patrick Stuart. Algarve rosés are what we should all be drinking this summer
At chic beach bars and gatherings by the pools of luxury villas and hotels along the Algarve this summer, the rosé of choice is likely to be from France, with the likes of Whispering Angel from Provence probably outselling anything made here in Portugal and most certainly in the Algarve. Whilst the rosés produced in Provence are arguably the best in the world, any country or region that produces good red wine is capable of making good rosé, and the Algarve is no exception.
When talking of rosé, it is always worth remembering that it was Portugal that first popularised it, of course with the greatest brand of rosé ever made and what is still one of the most recognised wines in the world. I am talking, of course, of Mateus Rosé. It once represented 40% of Portugal’s wine exports and today still sells some 20 million bottles a year in over 120 markets.
The variety and quality of rosé wines, however, has grown exponentially and today it is taken seriously both by consumers and producers. It is not unusual now to see a rosé included in a sommelier’s wine flights at fine dining restaurants and some of the premium pinks from Provence can retail for as much as €100 per bottle.
These days, the trend is for the pale salmon-pink style, and when well made such wines can be excellent, but the sad reality is that the vast majority of the cheaper and midrange pale pinks on market (wherever they come from) tend to taste of very little. Herein the Algarve, the rosés from most producers are in the entry-level range, usually costing between €5 and €10 in supermarkets. But for my selection I am focusing on those I consider to be the best — not necessarily the most expensive, but a selection of those that meet the criteria of having enough flavour and structure to be taken seriously.
There are some 40 wineries in the Algarve and most of them produce a rosé, some in the pale-pink style, others in the shades of old-style rosé and a few in a darker style bordering on claret, or palhete, as it is known in Portuguese. It all depends on how long the skin stays in contact with the juice of the red grapes used for making rosé. Here is a selection of some of the best rosés produced in the Algarve, all of which can give pinks from Provence, or anywhere, a run for their money.
Quinta dos Vales Pinot Noir Magnum
Available exclusively in magnum format, this is the premium label from a range of good rosés from Quinta dos Vales, in Estômbar. It is also the first Algarve rosé to be made from Pinot Noir. The wine is seductive on the nose with red fruits and floral notes mingling with hints of cinnamon, lush fruit in the mouth with well-balanced acidity and a long finish.
This is an easy-drinking rosé that hits well above the very reasonable retail price of around €6. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Trincadeira and Aragonês in the Odelouca river valley between Silves and Monchique. Tropical fruit and herbal notes on the nose, fresh and bright in the mouth and a slightly sweet finish.
Barranco Longo Blush
The consumer could very well pick up a bottle of this wine and think they are buying a French or even perhaps a New World pink in the Provence style, but it is produced right here in the Algarve from the Touriga Nacional variety. Fresh and delicate red fruit notes on the nose and a slight creaminess in the mouth, good acidity and a dry yet fruity finish.
Pale pink with hints of copper, this is one of just four wines made by Monte do Além, an organic producer in the west Algarve. Considering the very reasonable price this is a wine of surprising structure and elegance. Mature yet fresh red fruit on the nose, good acidity and a generous depth of flavour.
This organic producer near Lagos is known for producing wines with a difference and this rosé is no exception. The deep dark pink colour along with the body and structure of this wine make it very versatile for pairing with food. On the nose, there are ripe red berry fruits, dry in the mouth, with a subtle tannic structure and a fresh, dry and fruity finish.
This is an Algarve take on an oaked pink from Provence and is by no means a rosé for quaffing by the pool. The careful use of French oak here has added some interesting notes to the nose with hints of vanilla mixing with floral and cherry aromas. The wine is dry in the mouth with a creamy texture, layers of red fruit flavours and a long finish.
Morgado do Quintão Palhete
Morgado do Quintão near Silves is one of the oldest wine-producing estates in the Algarve, with a history going back nearly 200 years. Their rosé (palhete) is made from a blend of the local Algarve Negra Mole (red) and Crato Branco (white) varieties, pressed and fermented together. A very classy rosé with real depth of flavour.
CELLAR DOOR PRICES
Quinta dos Vales Pinot Noir Magnum €29.50
Quinta do Francês €6
Barranco Longo Blush €9.95
Monte do Além €6.99
Monte da Casteleja €10
Paxá Premium €9.50
Morgado do Quintão Palhete €12