Matthew Jukes - 2019 Rock Angel Rosé
I have never heard Sacha Lichine call this wine ‘Whispering Angel in a leather jacket’, but he is reported to have done so. To be honest it doesn’t sound like him – Sacha is a more sophisticated and nuanced fellow! Having said this, I understand the idea behind this mental image, but it does not completely work for me. Leather jackets, bikers, and rock ‘n’ roll are not necessarily aligned with sophisticated, elite-level, Provence Rosé.
There is, however, no doubt that this wine is designed to catch the eye with its stunning feathered ‘angels’ on the label and also its commanding flavour, so this is certainly a wine which sets out to shock and surprise the drinker.
Priced at a few pounds more expensive than Whispering Angel, Rock Angel is a very different proposition to its superstar stablemate. If Whispering caresses the palate in an alluring, come-hither manner, Rock aims squarely at your heart and unleashes a direct onslaught of emotional flavour. Indeed it rocks the foundations of your olfactory system. In this regard, it is far more aligned with the two Grands Crus in the Lichine portfolio, Les Clans and Garrus, but given that these two pioneering wines retail for approximately £55 and £95, respectively, you will sense that I find Rock Angel a very inviting proposition indeed, not least from a rapport qualité prix perspective.
After this cuvée was first conceived, the recipe appeared to lurch around a little as each vintage was released. It was a restless wine, but in 2019 it has found its roots and it possesses more than a little gravitas while still drinking very well from the off. This finessing has involved pulling back on the oak component (30% in demi-muids) and this has resulted in the finest release to date. In the past, I would happily have jumped over Rock Angel, hurrying swiftly from Whispering Angel, deployed as an ice-cool aperitif style, to Les Clans and Garrus for full-on gastronomic salvation. But I feel I will leave Whispering to the millions of fans who love it, and drink it with slavish enthusiasm, and start my own Esclans journey with Rock.
2019 Rock Angel is a suave and centred wine and while it retains some of the frivolity of Whispering, with tender moments and hypnotic pink grapefruit and melon tones, it has depth, tonality and, crucially, a long, dry and masterful, finish. I would wager that most wine-keen folk, who happily bathe in Whispering without really giving it a second thought, would fall off their sunbeds if they tasted this wine and found out that they could trade up for less than a tenner.
So here it is – I know that my readers will do the right thing and get their hooters in a glass of Rock Angel before the week is out. Whispering will continue its sotto voce delivery while Rock will communicate firmly and directly, with more than a hint of passion and yearning, to experienced wine lovers’ senses. It will be sure to recruit followers, and it surely deserves to do so, but don’t tell everyone about this wine – after all, it is a relatively limited production, like Les Clans and Garrus!
Furthermore, I would wager that, from this moment onwards, Rock will be the firm foundation on which many build their upmarket, summer wine indulgences and Whispering will be left to do what it does best – to please its adoring crowd. 18/20 (drink now – 2021)
Matthew Jukes.com Episode 10 – 3rd June 2020