Righteous for Rosé

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It is funny how it is so easy to get caught up in our personal predilections. Even when we feel we are open minded and thoughtful, sometimes subtle personal trends can take over from broad based experiences.

A recent tasting I attended that focused on rosé wine made me realize that despite my belief I took this type of wine seriously, I had yet to fully integrate it into my overall wine experience. Simply, I wasn’t as opened minded about rosé as I thought I was.

Rosé the Serious

Rosé isn’t just a wine to shill on undiscerning customers when the weather is hot and the wine flows easy. Rather, rosé is a distinct style of wine (just like white and red wine) that is made in three different ways: by skin contact, by Saignee (removal of pink juice from early fermentation of red wine wines), and by blending red and white wines. Most of the serious roses are made with red grapes and by skin contact (maceration) and see mostly fairly short maceration periods of only a few days.

What makes this type of wine interesting is that it plays a protean role in food pairings because of its hybrid white and red characteristics – fresh acidity, white wine aromatics, but also tannin and red wine berry flavours.

History and Perception

The depressing irony is that it was a demand for white wine in the 1970’s that prompted winemakers to produce sweet ‘rosé’ wines from red grapes to satisfy demand, the classic example being white Zinfandel. That so many consumers now associate rose with this overly sweet plonk is both a sad byproduct of history and an indictment of wineries who seek to cash in on this perception.

On the contrary to the average consumer’s perception of the grape, rosé should not only be taken seriously, but should be considered a significant part of a food and wine lover’s year-round repertoire. These wines need not be confined to summer sipping.

Delicious Diversity

The tasting featured an extremely broad range of styles, from crisp and clean easy drinkers, to full bodied, tannic and alcoholic, to aromatically explosive incorigable hybrids of red and white. The most impressive signature of these wines was their affordability, given the range of styles and generally high quality. The average price was around $20, with the most expensive examples (both from the famed Bandol) being about $38.

My picks from the tasting included an outstanding Chateau Musar Jeune Rosé 2009 that initially confused everyone with its oxidative aromas, but ultimately paired better than any other wine with olive bruschetta. $25 and Very Good+.

I was also, along with everyone else, extremely impressed by a unique rose from Dominio Dostares – the Tombu 2009 from Castille Y Leon, made with Prieto Picudo grapes that saw massively explosive almost yeasty aromatics, but a deep and complex palate with great length and a unique deliciousness that belied its mere $22 price tag and shampoo shaped bottle. Rated Excellent. Marquis Wine Cellar.

Also from Spain, but in a completely different style, was the Artadi Artazuri Garnacha Rosé 2010. I’ve had this before and it never fails to impress with its classically crisp rose structure but pristine aromatic profile with light red berries and a very juicy palate. Keith remarked that he initially perceived this wine to be a huge rosé, but in the context of the tasting it seemed far more classic. The comment was a perceptive insight into how our perceptions of rosé are coloured by expectations and context. Rated Very Good+. $21. Kits Wine.

Both of the Bandols, expectedly, showed well, with a more vinous wine like quality than the rest of the rosés at the tasting – I enjoyed both the Domaine Bunan Mas de la Rouvière 2009 and Moulin des Costes 2009 and would rate them both Very Good+. Both were $38 and available at Liberty.

Everyone also thought the Domaine de la Mordorée La Dame Rouse Tavel 2010 was an outstanding example of classic Tavel, with a huge structure and a rich peppery palate. I felt the wine finished a little hot, but the consensus was that this alcoholic backside to the wine was part of its inherent character and something that would compliment heavier red meat dishes. I think it is certainly a style worth trying and I plan on giving it a go with a chunky piece of red meat at some point. Very Good. $33 at Everything Wine and Kits Wine.

In conclusion, it is clear that not enough wine drinkers take these wines seriously – just look at the prices! – but that they offer a broad range of styles and food pairing possibilities. These are far more than summer sippers, but now that summer is upon us, why not give your preconceptions a challenge and give one of these wines a serious look?

Posted in: Features, Tastings

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