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Winner Details

Rosé above £5.50

2014: Gold: 2; Silver: 5; Bronze: 3; Commended: 9
2013: Gold: 3; Silver: 6; Bronze: 1
Must-list index: 80%
Overall performance SWA 2014: C-

It’s still essential, it’s still seasonal and it’s still viewed with toleration rather than affection by most sommeliers. On this evidence, rosé is the washing machine of the wine list. It makes your job a whole lot easier, but it’s hard to get too enthusiastic about what it’s doing.

So what exactly is it doing? Well apart from ‘selling by the bucket load’, the answer is somewhat inconclusive. Some tasters felt that darker, fruitier wines were a good bet; others (probably a majority) tended to lean towards wines with the pale pink blush of a faintly embarrassed Cate Blanchett.

There were some who liked the idea of matching it with food, others who swore on the lives of their unborn children that its only use was as a glugging wine. They found wines with complexity, but then they weren’t sure that they’d be able to sell them.

If ever there was a category that is caught in something of an existential crisis, it’s this one – the sommeliers’ ambiguous attitudes towards it neatly summed up by Gaucho’s Zack Charilaou when he observed: ‘I have three [rosés] on my list – but only because I have to!’ If Jean-Paul Sartre were a winemaker, it’s safe to say he’d have been making rosé…

The heated debates over style and saleability were neatly put into context by team leader Simon Woods when he observed that ‘you wouldn’t have a row of whites and expect them all to have the same character, but you find yourself doing that with rosé’.

This year’s medals were, as usual, heavily dominated by Europe (just one New World Silver – for Spy Valley), and though there was perhaps nothing to match the Turkish rosé Gold of 2013, which sent most people’s eyebrows into their hairline, Silvers for Greece and Alsace kept the interest quotient high.

Provence was consistently good, with wines of elegance and even complexity at reasonable prices. But even here there was a caveat. ‘The question is do you want that extra complexity in a Provence rosé?’ asked Bread Street Kitchen’s Gergely Barsi Szabó.

Who’d have thought that the pink stuff would generate quite so much angst…

From the Tasting Teams

‘For me, rosé is the bastard child of making a decent red wine.’ Ronan Sayburn MS, consultant

‘In the UK, people are expecting a good price, something easy to drink and simple. So it’s best for the producer not to do too much with the wine.’ Paolo Pivato, Wernher Restaurant, Luton Hoo Hotel Golf and Spa

‘If you’re walking into a high-end place you need more than just that easy-drinking style.’ Zack Charilaou, Gaucho

‘The entry level is easier to sell. Not many people go for rosé with food.’
Stefano Marro, Caravaggio Restaurant

FOOTNOTE: Rosés under £5.50 can be entered in the House Rosé category