From €16.90, £20
Premium rosé can seem like a cynical category, especially considering the slew of expensive Provence pinks that come in designer bottles and are shamelessly marketed at the luxury market (see our Rosé assemblage for tasting notes on a total of 146 pink wines). There are of course plenty of excellent examples, but it does seem increasingly populated by pale (pink) imitations. So when I saw a new Rioja rosé packaged in a fancy bottle, described as 'Provençal in style' and costing £20, my cynicism antennae started waggling like deely boppers on a rampaging toddler.
Mercifully, my fears were assuaged as soon as I tasted the first vintage of Ramón Bilbao's Lalomba Rosado, for it is not only a Jolly Delicious Wine but a rosé of serious complexity too.
It comes from a single vineyard that this producer has used since 2000, but it was not until 15 years later that they decided to bottle a rosé from its fruit. The blend is 90% Garnacha and 10% Viura which is hand-picked, sorted for quality and then given six hours' maceration in a press. At this point, only the free-run juice is collected for 20 days' fermentation at 15 ºC. It is lees-aged for one month, but given no oak contact throughout vinification.
What I particularly liked about it was how it combined the delicacy of good Provence rosé with a set of flavours that seemed authentically Riojan. There is a creaminess and ripeness to the fruit that evokes good young Rioja, but with better clarity and persistence. The acidic structure is softer than most Provence pinks, but it manages to pull off the same feat of having subtle yet very intense flavour characteristics.
It's an audacious move to launch a new rosé at £20 per bottle, but this wine is worth the money, I think. It is sophisticated, authentic and full of flavour. I tasted it with a few friends alongside a couple of Provence rosés at a similar price, and the Lalomba was unanimously preferred. There may even be a few years of ageing potential in this bottle, sealed with a trendy glass Vinolok, so I scored it 17+ to indicate that it could well improve over the coming months. This isn't simply a rosé for casual enjoyment on sunny days – though it could be – but I think it deserves to be taken as seriously as any white or red at the same price.
Wine-searcher lists the wine as currently available in Spain and the UK, and it will be available next year in Switzerland and the US. Production is limited to 10,000 bottles.