Wine is all about friendship, online as well as in real life.
When my friend Gina Martino Zarcadoolas won the blog competition for American wine writers organized by the consortium of Salice Salentino, she told me she would get the award in Lecce at the Rosexpo.
I told her I would come down so we could hang out again. It seemed like the perfect combination of friendship, rosé wines, and Puglia.
Through the backdoor, I got an invitation to the Rosexpo thanks to Massimiliano Apollonio, a wine producer close to Lecce. In that way, I could immerse myself in rosé wines for two days.
Disclosure: one hotel night in Lecce was sponsored by Rosexpo but for the rest, I covered all the expenses myself.
At the end of the article, I will mention some of the rosé wines I tasted at the Rosexpo.
Let’s learn more about Rosexpo…
What is Rosexpo?
Rosexpo, il salone internazionale dei vini rosati (the international exhibition of rosé wines) is a yearly wine event that started out in 2014 and that has a focus on Italian rosé wines.
It is mainly rosé wines from Puglia that are showcased as the association Degusto Salento, the organizer of the event, consists of local Negroamaro producers around Lecce.
The idea, it says on their website, is to draw the attention to the tradition, territory, and identity when it comes to rosé wines, that is to consider rosé wines as something unique in their own.
Rosé wines are part of a viticultural tradition and should be valued as such, not as a marketing gimmick or a wine to fill out a producer’s catalogue. This was also stressed by Filippo Bartolotta in his masterclass Riflessioni sull’identitá dei vini rosa: Il marketing, la ricerca scientifica e l’identità del vino rosa in 10 calici in this year’s Rosexpo. I will come back to this below.
Last year, I wrote about a vertical tasting of rosé wines at the Feudi di Guagnano winery, which was a tasting guided by MW Elizabeth Gabay. It was actually my first vertical tasting of rosé wines. It also showed us all how rosé wines have a history, an identity, and a language all of their own. (See my previous article Negro Amaro Rosé Wines at Their Best in Salento, Puglia.)
They can stand proudly on their own two feet.
This is what seems to be the idea behind Rosexpo as well, i.e. to show the complexity and versatility of rosé wine, in addition to its identity and history. Rosexpo also brings different rosé realities together, to exchange experiences and opinions on how to move ahead one step at a time.
This collaboration has been consolidated in the Istituto di Vino Rosa Autoctono (the institute of indigenous rosé wine), abbreviated Rosautoctono, that was instituted this year with the aim to stand united in research, development, educational activities, marketing, and much more.
The six consortiums that are the founding members are: Bardolino Chiaretto, Valtènesi Chiaretto, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Castel del Monte Rosato and Bombino Nero, Salice Salentino Rosato, and Cirò Rosato.
Rosexpo 2019 in Lecce
During my two days in Lecce at Rosexpo I had the opportunity to attend
- a masterclass – Riflessioni sull’identitá dei vini rosa: Il marketing, la ricerca scientifica e L’identità del vino rosa in 10 calici – with a blind tasting of both French and Italian rosé wines guided by Filippo Bartolotta
- a roundtable discussion where wine people from other parts of Italy participated to give their opinion on the future of rosé wines, and
- a BToPress day
The BToPress day was a sort of ‘speed dating’ with wine producers where you had around 15 minutes with each producer to learn more about their winery and wines before you had to move on to the next producer.
A masterclass focused on the identity of rosé wines
During the masterclass, Riflessioni sull’identitá dei vini rosa: Il marketing, la ricerca scientifica e L’identità del vino rosa in 10 calici, Filippo Bartolotta stressed that rosé wines might be considered an outsider or pariah today, but it is the oldest type of wine in the world.
In fact, winemaking in ancient times basically made wines that were lighter in color and body. This was before the French monks discovered the grape press, and thus white and red grapes were often mixed, pressed, and stamped with the feet which resulted in wines with a light color, aka rosé wines.
Filippo indeed underlined that it was only in the Middle Ages that things started to change, not only due to the invention of the press but also because of a change of mindset regarding wine production in France.
It was in France, that they started to consider the concept of zoning, i.e. which regions and areas were better suited for viticulture and winemaking. Bordeaux was one of these regions, after the clearing of the soil there that used to be swampland, according to Filippo Bartolotta.
However, wines lighter in color and in body continued to be preferred to the darker red wines that had had longer skin contact. The English market that opened up in those days for the claret wines from Bordeaux would put them on the world map. Thanks to Henry II of England’s (Henry Plantagenet) marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine in the mid-12th century, the popularity of claret wines peaked.
Filippo continued talking about the history of rosé wine through the centuries ending up in the 20th century when the importance of rosé wines radically dropped. For example, they were termed vin du café in France in the 1940s and during the following decades, the rosé wines were often also of very low quality.
After WWII, in the US, people were into rosé wines such as Mateus from Portugal that was further on replaced by the very sweet White Zinfandel. If we fast forward to the 1980s, Robert Parker with his focus on dark, bold, powerful, aged wines totally pushed rosé wines into a dark and lonely corner.
The reinvention of rosé wines
Probably nobody believed that rosé wines would come back as a trendy and successful wine. In the late 1990s, however, apparently, women more and more started drinking rosé from Provence. In 2006, everything would take off at fast speed with the launch of the rosé wines Garrus and Whispering Angel by Alexis Lichine. By the way, we tasted these two wines at the blind tasting with Filippo.
In the US, dry rosé wines both from Provence and USA, for example, from Wölffer Estate in New York State have had a huge success in the Hamptons. Filippo Bartolotta did indeed mention how rosé wine in the Hamptons has been named the ‘Hamptons Gatorade’. In fact, it was the rosé wine from the Wölffer Estate that around 2012 got this nickname.
The reasons for the boom of rosé wine some ten years ago in the US are considered being not only thanks to the improvement in quality but mainly thanks to the Millennials. The Millennials are not afraid to try new things, new styles of wine, at the same time as they are more into comfortable luxury to a rational price, as Filippo Bartolotta also pointed out.
However, also the financial crisis is seen as a key factor in the boom of rosé wines as people wanted to be able to shower themselves in affordable luxury. Here, rosé wines fit like a glove as they are colorful, tasty, fashionable, and reasonably priced. (See Wine Tip: What’s Driving Rosé’s Rocketing Rise?, Wine Spectator)
Of course, it helps that rosé wines also follow in the wake of fame, or is it vice versa…? LOL
Famous people help to make rosé wine fashionable, like the movie stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie that produce the Miraval Rosé (a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, and Rolle) at their Miraval estate in Provence and the ex-rocker Jon Bon Jovi who together with his son Jesse is producing the rosé Diving Into Hampton Water in a collaboration with the French winemaker Gérard Bertrand. The wine is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre and it entered Wine Spectator’s top 100 list in 2018. (See Jon Bon Jovi Rosé Named ‘Best’ Pink Of 2018, The Drinks Business and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s legacy is a record-breaking rosé wine, The Telegraph.)
There are several other stars such as Drew Barrymore, John Legend, and Gia Coppola who have designed their own rosé wines. Rosé wine has indeed become so much more than simply wine during the last years, it has turned into a lifestyle.
A return of the focus on tradition and territory…
…here Filippo Bartolotta pointed out that even though rosé wines have become trendy and it is all about a marketing image in the US, for example, he does not believe in staring oneself blind on that. He argued that he does believe that Italian rosé wine producers should not be chasing marketing craze or a color image to make rosé wines that fit a current trend.
Rather they should turn their focus back on identity, territory, and tradition. It is important to stay true to themselves and make rosé wines that reflect the unique territory and characters of the grapes.
However, I do understand that there sometimes can be a commercial need for producing easily sold rosé wines that are more in line with current marketing trends.
Let us here add a reference to MW Elizabeth Gabay who in an article by Susan Manfull on the wine blog Provence Wine Zine says that ‘Color is not a guide for quality or style.’ Elizbeth continued saying that Provence rosé is one style and not the only one, but rather that there are many different styles in many different appellations to enjoy.
The focus on heritage, identity, and territory can, in my opinion, be a way for Italian rosé producers to distinguish themselves and create a unique niche. A way to stand out in a consistently more streamlined production of rosé wines.
Of course, it is true that a focus on identity and territory will take more resources in marketing, educational efforts, etc. but in the long run, I think it will pay off. The recent founding of Rosautoctono is surely a step towards a collaborative approach to be stronger together.
The wines tasted at Rosexpo
There were many wines that I tasted during the weekend at Rosexpo in Lecce, and it would be hard to mention them all. Therefore, I will only say something about a few of the wines tasted there.
Spumante Brut Armonica, Calitro winery
This sparkling wine fascinated me because it is one of the few sparkling Primitivo wines I have tasted. It is a 100% Primitivo made with the Charmat or tank method. I was very curious and I liked it and found it fresh, yet silky, with both fruity and floral notes. A nice wine for a summer aperitif.
Girofle Salento IGP Rosato Negroamaro 2018, Garofano winery
This is a Negroamaro rosé wine that is one of my favorites with its freshness, clean notes, and elegant taste. It has a mix of floral and fruity as well as spicy notes, where the touch of clove is perceivable. It is a wine with the typical bitter aftertaste.
Stefano Garofano told me that the substrata of the soil in the vineyards are of tuff. He continued to say that it is this that gives freshness to the vine and the slightly sour taste to the Negroamaro.
Tenuta Vigne Rosato 2018, Torre Ospina winery
This is a very young winery that was set up only in 2010. However, the family has a long history as vine growers where they either sold the grapes to the cooperative or produced wine to sell as bulk wine.
Torre Ospina has a bit of a dramatic and emotional history because they told me that they up until 2009 conferred most of their harvest to the local cooperative, but then their grandfather had a heart attack right in the vineyard during harvest time that same year. In honor of him, they, therefore, decided to set up a winery in 2010 and start producing wine themselves. Since then they are steadily moving forward.
I tasted their rosé wine Tenuta Vigne 2018, that they themselves said is not their best vintage because they had problems with downy mildew. Still, I found it to be fresh and smooth with both intense fruity and floral notes.
Susumaniello Rosé 2018, Agricole Vallone
This is a very enjoyable rosé wine where the Susumaniello grapes have only been matured in steel tanks. It is a fresh and savory wine with clean notes of flowers, red fruit as well as dark fruit such as mulberry, cherry, strawberry.
The Susumaniello vineyards are at the Tenuta Serranuova which is located inside the Torre Guaceto National Park. They are organic even if they are not certified. They told me that the biodiversity within the national park is unique.
Diciotto Fanali 2016, Apollonio winery
This rosé wine that was the only Italian rosé chosen for the Obama dinner with chef Massimo Bottura in Tuscany two years ago, is a complex rosé that is a joy to drink. I really like this rosé wine a lot, and not because it has become famous thanks to Obama. LOL
It is a rosé made with a selection of the best Negroamaro grapes that are fermented and matured in acacia oak barrels for one year. It is not filtered, and it rests for six months in the bottle. The result is a fresh, mineral, and savoury wine with notes of ripe fruit, spices, and a herby touch. A very smooth and fine rosé wines with elegant tannins.