Island wines: rosé from the Azores & Madeira
As summer at long last arrives in the UK, it’s time to look at a couple of rosés. Both come from popular holiday destinations – the Portuguese islands of Azores and Madeira. Until recently, table wines have not been much to write home about. This and low production meant you’d probably have to visit the islands to taste them anyway. However, I’m thrilled to see that Red Squirrel are bringing exciting newcomer Azores Wine Company’s wines to the UK. Meanwhile, in Madeira Blandy’s have given their Atlantis table wine brand a makeover – new improved bottle (and contents) pictured.
Atlantis Rosé 2015 (DOP Madeirense)
My partner remarked on the luminosity of this rosé. One might say it is the belisha beacon of the category! But does it taste as arresting as it looks? Well the first point to note is that the day glo pink hue might suggest confected, but this is a distinctly dry wine. Dry is the easy bit. This wine is not easy to describe. It’s not really in the fruit zone (there’s perhaps a smidgeon of firm redcurrant), though there is a touch of (ripe) fruit stalk, so a gentle whisper of greeness. In fact, if I had tasted it blind, I might have thought it was a crisp, mineral white wine. Indeed its minerality and freshness define it, to my mind lifting it from the generic rosé waters inhabited by its predecessor to a wine which smacks of where it is from. So it may be difficult to describe, but it’s not without character and sense of place. With enough concentration and a deft touch of lees to take the edge off the acidity, this dry rosé is the perfect partner for shellfish or simply cooked white fish with a squeeze of lemon. Atlantis Rose is made from 100% Tinta Negra from vineyards in Campanário and Estreito de Câmara de Lobos. It retails for around 6.75€ on the island. 45.000 bottles were produced. 10.5%
Azores Wine Company Vulcânico Rosé 2015 (IG Azores 2015)
I reported on Azores Wine Company’s first releases earlier this year. The company was co-founded by Antonio Macanita whose Azorean 2013 white wines (originally made under Fita Preta’s “test new directions” Signature label and reviewed here) first alerted me to the Azores’ startling potential for highly individual, high quality, terroir-driven wines. Made from local varieties, these single varietal whites sit at the top of the quality ladder, retailing for £27.99 at Red Squirrel. The rosé is made from a blend which includes well known grapes from the mainland (Aragonez and Touriga Nacional) and France (Syrah and Merlot) as well as Saborinho and Agronómica (presumably local varieties). Famous mid-palate fillers Syrah and Merlot bring flesh to the Azores’ bones – soft red berry and perfumed cherry fruit and (I suspect a lees-enhanced savoury) creaminess, which also serves to broaden this wine’s appeal. The restrained alcohol, undertow of persistent acidity, saline minerality, even a hint of iodine, bring you back to the Azores; I’d like to see a bit more of that to ring home this wine’s distinctive roots. 6,500 bottles. 12.5% £15.95 at Red Squirrel, €10.90 at Garrafeira Cellar, Portugal.