22nd June 2024 by Rachel Wallhouse

Thank you to Live Ribble Valley for the amazing article about our Blind Rose Tasting. Want to find out more about how we decide what wines deserve a place on our shelves? Continue reading…

A Summer of Rose

The team at The Whalley Wine Shop and the adjacent Whalley Wine Bar take their jobs very seriously, but now and again, they do acknowledge with cheerful smiles that there are worse jobs to have when it comes to tasting some 26 beautiful (and some not so beautiful) rose wines predominantly from Provence.

On a rainy summer afternoon, that couldn’t have been further from the dappled sunshine in the vineyards of the south of France. Shop manager Matt Monk prepared for what turned out to be a fascinating and entertaining, blind tasting for the team.

“The bottles have been chilling over a week and I decanted them this morning to maintain their freshness,” says Matt, introducing The Whalley Wine Shop’s advisor Nick Hoyle and Jarvis Davies, junior sommelier at Michelin-starred Grantley Hall.  

“We taste blind, so we’re not influenced at all and the results can be quite surprising!” adds Matt, opening bottle no.1 with tasting sheets at the ready to give it a star-rating. While Matt, Nick and Jarvis are tasting together, other members of the team will also be doing their fair share of tasting later in the day so that each individual has extended their knowledge to pass on to customers: “By including every member of the team means we get more of a customer point of view in terms of taste – and that’s important to us.”

Bottle no.1 looks like a typical Provence rose, a delicate pale pink – a little more than a mouthful is poured into each of their glasses and the tasting begins. “I’d say it’s flinty,” says Matt, only to look instantly disappointed: “The flavour has watered out at the end, which isn’t good”.

Bottle no.2 has more spice: “White pepper that makes your tongue tingle,” observes Nick, after the trio’s ritual of swirling the wine around, putting their nose in the glass, taking a generous mouthful before unceremoniously spitting it out into a nearby spittoon.

With bottle no.3 a huge smile crosses Nick’s face: “Fruit everywhere!” he beams. When they get to bottle no.4 Matt holds his glass against a pure white napkin: “Onion skin – radiant pink,” he says of the colour, before tasting. “Wet pavement and summer rain – the texture is better but,” says Jarvis suddenly looking crestfallen. “It’s just crashed.”

They move on and things definitely start to pick up: “The nose leaps out on this one, floral, fruity almost like confectionery,” says Matt.

It’s all very good humoured and, not far in, the trio discover a belter: “Racy!” declares Jarvis: “I like racy! A touch of sea spray on the lips,” says Matt. “It’s fresher than the previous one, lots of good red fruit.”

Tasting 26 wines is not unusual for the team at The Whalley Wine Shop – when they attend tastings in London or Manchester it can be anything from a whopping 150 up to 300 over two days.

“You do become a master of spitting,” says Matt, just before the team excitedly embark on a run of rose they all seem to love: “Super bright, there’s a different palate going on here. It’s not intense, it’s lovely – just get that freshness. It carries on really nicely, all the way – it’s very good,” adds Nick.

So far, so good and the enthusiasm continues: “Oh I like this. It’s stony – like licking a wet flint. This is going to get some stars,” says Matt. “It’s good – chalk, peppery and fruity, it’s really clean.”

“This is definitely a good one!” confirms Nick.

After a good run of positives, suddenly a negative arrives in a bottle encasing what Jarvis describes as: “Nothing attractive at all.” And, he hasn’t even taken a sip: “It smells like Saturday morning pub carpet.”

So that definitely won’t be on the list at The Whalley Wine Shop. In contrast, the delicate salmon-pink colour of bottle no.14, the nose and the palate proved a real hit: “This is seriously good. I’m going to give this full marks,” adds one of the team.

“It’s an old wine we have in stock right now. But I’m not going to give anything away!” says Matt, enigmatically, knowing how valuable these blind tastings are to Whalley Wine customers.

As the tasting continues, it becomes obvious that the wine professionals can occasionally agree to disagree, but they are as one when it comes to recognising a first-rate rose.

Tom Jones, owner of The Whalley Wine Shop and Bar, who subsequently also embarked on the blind rose tasting with his wife Jen, said: “These blind tastings really give us a chance to discover some amazing new wines and conduct an honest assessment of the wines we already sell. We can’t just assume that all the wines are going to be good year on year, we have to keep checking and looking for new and exciting wines that are really improving their quality.

“This is a great example of The Whalley Wine Shop looking beyond the surface and striving to find the very best wines out there that we can then recommend confidently to our customers.”

Top 5:

  1. 2800 Provence Rose – £14.99
  2. Chateau L’Escarelle – coming soon
  3. M By Minuty Provence Rose – £19.99
  4. Château Terrebonne Mélodie – coming soon
  5. Chateau La Coste – coming soon

This article appeared in Live Ribble Valley.

Photography: Kristen Platt