A major strength of the Spanish wine industry is its rosados (rosés).
Rosado wines are both misunderstood and underrated which is a pity since many excellent versions exist and at very reasonable prices.
In the past they have been considered a poor third choice after whites and reds. However, modern rosados have fruit, depth and character as well as eye-pleasing colour.
They are the perfect chilled accompaniment for paella and ideal for all barbecue foods delicate enough to complement chicken or vegetables and yet robust enough for meats.
There are two methods of obtaining rosado wines in general use today. The main way is to leave the juice of red grapes in contact with their skins for a limited time, usually only hours and then draining the juice. This method is known as sangrado and means bleeding. The pink colour of the rosado depends on the grape variety used and the amount of time the juice is in contact with the skins.
The other way is to blend a red and white wine which gives the desired colour, but the crisp freshness of a good quality rosado can be lost. It is a method allowed in the making of rosé champagne and a little white wine can be used in the excellent red wines of the Northern Rhône in France.
The main grape used in Spain for rosados is Garnacha because its mixture of fruitiness and body are ideal. It is mainly grown in the north and east of Spain. Here, within the DO Calatayud, the San Alejandro Bodega is situated. This quality bodega (which produces the excellent Baltasar Gracian Viñas Viejas see the February edition) makes a rosado from Garnacha.
The wine is a vibrant strawberry colour and tastes as good as it looks with a fresh, fruity elegance to balance any lunchtime dish.
Any red grape variety can be used to make rosado and foreign varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and, uniquely, Petit Verdot is also being used successfully in Spain.
Other wine-making regions, not usually known for their rosados, are getting in on the act and giving established areas stiff competition. One such example is a rosado made in Extremadura from the Merlot grape.
Bodegas Dolores Morenas is probably the most innovative bodega in the Ribera Del Guadiana DO. In fact, it was recently referred to as a superbodega by the Spanish wine guru, José Peñin. The wine spent 12 hours on its skins and has a very deep scarlet colour and its fruitiness has a well-balanced acidity.
The Petit Verdot grape, a native of Bordeaux, has settled well in Spain and any red wine made from this grape is worth a try. The bodega Pago Del Vicario in Castillo makes a superb rosado from Petit Verdot which as far as I know is unique. Its rich colour and flavour make it a wine that, despite being a Rosado, would fit the role of lunchtime red perfectly.