Midsummer is an anxious time in Scrutopia – the time when the hay is ready but the weather not, when the livestock is eager for the fields, but the fields far from eager for livestock, when the fox cubs are looking for chickens but the chickens unprepared for this as yet unchastened enemy. Nothing will improve until the hay is in, when we will celebrate our success with a bottle of rosé, which is the favourite tipple of Sam the horse, and the harbinger of another working autumn.
I don’t say that rosé is the highest form of wine, but there are occasions when it uniquely suits the atmosphere, and midsummer haymaking is one of them. I doubt that our readers are likely to have this particular use for the wine, but I am sure that there are parallel moments on the office roof that are equally suitable.
The four wines on offer are very different – proof that rosé is not a half-version of something else but a full version of itself. The Château Léoube from the Côtes de Provence is the odd one out, being the palest violet in colour, almost white, and with a smooth but reticent character like a well-trained geisha. The other three are substantial products of the Pinot Noir grape, the Cuvée Margoton from Burgundy having the berry flavours of the region, and the fruity Eradus from Marlborough in New Zealand enjoying itself enormously as it burps its way from the glass down into the darkness.
Most interesting of all, from the point of view of science, is the Sancerre rosé, since it provides such a vivid proof that the real taste of a well-made wine is the taste of the soil. This is as expensive as a good white Sancerre, but that is hardly surprising, given the care that has been lavished on bringing the Pinot Noir to fruition on those cool northern slopes. Think also of the attention to detail that has coaxed into this locally unusual grape the very same limestone minerals and skittish aroma that we know from the best white Sancerre, for which similar flavours are obtained from the Sauvignon grape.
I can think of no better aperitif on a warm summer evening than this delightful wine, and am pleased to say that Sam the horse entirely concurred with my judgement and had to be restrained forcibly from seizing the glass with his teeth.
It is not often, in fact, that you see the concept of terroir mentioned in the discussion of rosé wines. As a rule they are praised for their fruit and freshness, for their lively presence on the palate, and the ease with which they pass through the system. Here is a rosé with roots, however: one that tells the story of a place and of the people who inhabit it.“Must write to them,” we murmured, as we rolled off the hay bale in the twilight, and made our way contentedly back to the house.