21 Nov 2023

British GQ

Why rosé is the perfect winter drink

Whispering Angel makes a compelling argument for adding a bottle of rosé to your Christmas shopping list

Think of rosé, and you’ll probably imagine summer afternoons in the park, or stiflingly hot days in pub gardens. You’re unlikely to picture sophisticated après ski scenes in the French Alps, a festive feast with family and friends, or the wine menu of a fine dining restaurant. Whispering Angel, part of Chateau d’Esclans, is determined to change that.

“For a long time,” explains Sacha Lichine, Whispering Angel’s founder, “rosé was considered to be cheap and cheerful: it was something you would drink on the Riviera, or in the summer with some ice on the beach, and it would probably give you a headache.” He also mentions that a certain machismo has previously kept many men from enjoying rosé. “Before, men sort of beat on their chest and had to drink big burgundies, things like that. [For rosé] it was mostly a female consumer.” The mission, as he saw it, was to change both these misconceptions. “Our adventure was to make this into ‘real wine’, and to get up in the bigger leagues as far as the quality was concerned.”

He certainly succeeded. The brand turned to the greatest winemaker in the business – the late Patrick Léon was its founding consulting oenologist, and his son Bertrand remains Chateau d’Esclans’ technical director to this day – in order to elevate rosé to the status it deserved. Sourcing from renowned vineyards across Provence and experimenting with a blend of modern and traditional techniques, the brand created Whispering Angel. A versatile, elegant, and sophisticated wine, it’s become a favourite of celebrities (including the Beckhams and Adele) and sommeliers alike.

Having conquered the preconceptions about what a rosé can be, Whispering Angel’s founder is now embarking on a similarly audacious mission: to deseasonalise what’s always been seen as a summer drink. “Wine is what’s in the bottle, and what’s in the bottle speaks,” Lichine says. Crisp and light, with a delicate flavour profile of red berries and floral notes, it’s an eminently drinkable wine that’s perfect to pass around at Christmas parties or New Year’s Eve celebrations in place of prosecco. Best enjoyed slightly chilled – between 7 and 13C, the brand says – it’s a welcome alternative to richer, more cloying mulled wine.

Parties aside, it’s also an excellent dinner choice, Lichine says, pairing particularly well with white meat such as turkey. “Because it begins white and finishes red, I think it marries well with a huge variety of foods. Much more than some of the very big reds, which can be highly tannic: at the end of the day, you feel like you have a meal in your glass.” At Christmas, a time when gluttony is almost compulsory, filling up on liquids is far from ideal.

If you’re still not convinced by the winter potential of Whispering Angel, just head down to Somerset House’s skating rink. Now in its 24th year, this grand outdoor ice rink is a staple festive outing for Londoners. This winter, it has partnered with Whispering Angel for the Skate Lounge: a chic ski chalet where, after zipping around on the ice, you’ll be able to relax with a glass of the crisp rosé or a specially created cocktail.

Speaking to Lichine, it’s clear that making a good rosé – or a good wine in general – is akin to bottling lightning. “If you think of the dinners you’ve been to and the amount of bottles of wine on the table, the one that’s empty is usually the best – the better tasting, the easier to drink, the most friendly, the most charming. So you have to find all of that and put it in a bottle.”

Find out more about Somerset House ice rink and stock up on Whispering Angel for the festive season at Waitrosecellar.com.

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