Red wines that aren’t plummy, and rosés and whites that aren’t pale enough, get a bad rap. But there are rich pickings in these unusual shades.
How much do you judge a wine by its colour? More than you think, I’d suggest. You might, for example, be of the view that white is white, rosé pink and red red, but I’ve unearthed a secret prejudice against two shades in particular.
First, deep pink rosés, which used to be common, especially in the days when rosé was sneered at for being unmanly. The immediate reaction from producers was to make their rosés more pink, but practically everyone has since reverted to the fashionable, pale, Provençal style, and is also bottling it in magnums for chaps who are still a bit squeamish about being seen drinking the stuff. Yet there are deep-coloured rosés such as tavel and cerasuolo (and appellations that produce only rosé) that have much more character and are better suited to drinking with barbecues and meat. One producer I visited recently, Domaine Maby in the Rhône, makes two styles in adjacent vineyards: a lirac (now sold out), which is an on-trend baby pink; and a tavel (see below), which is deep crimson.
The other unloved category is light reds. You may say: “What about red burgundy?” And that’s true, but I think most people would rather have a deeper-coloured pinot from, say, Chile or Central Otago than the almost translucent red of a young mercurey or santenay – or what my red wine-loving neighbour disparagingly calls “flippy-floppy reds”. According to the Chilean wine producer Cono Sur, which has just bottled the comparatively light and widely available Bicicleta Pinot Noir with a label that changes colour when it’s chilled, more than a third of consumers believe it’s “completely wrong” to put red wine in the fridge.
Then there are orange, or skin-contact, wines – that is, whites made in the same way as reds by leaving the juice in contact with the skins, which makes them go a much deeper colour than a pale, straw-coloured white such as pinot grigio – for 150 days in the case of the zibibbo in today’s picks. I wouldn’t say the prejudice was as great against these, but that’s largely because not all wine drinkers are aware they even exist. But again, they do have something unusual to offer, namely a different, richer flavour profile.
To me, these unloved colours have real virtues. I reckon deep-coloured rosé would win over rosé sceptics, while light reds, spurned though they might be by my neighbour, are a way of getting white-wine drinkers into reds. As with most things wine-related, you just need to keep an open mind.