Featured Monthly Tasting:

Rosés from Around the World
By Mike Potashnik and Donald Winkler

May 2008

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Introduction

This Featured Monthly Tasting Report focuses on rosés. In the hot summer months rosé wines offer a welcome respite from big red wines and serious whites. Today almost every wine-producing country makes respectable rosé. Southern France is the home of the most famous rosés—Tavel, Cotes de Provence, Bandol, and Cotes du Rhone. However, Spain and Italy, and even Greece and Austria, produce some amazingly good rosés from indigenous grape varieties. In the New World, Australia, Argentina, South Africa and the U.S. also produce terrific rosés, many of which fall in the fruit forward and slightly sweet style. In the U.S market, fruity and sweet rosé wines were about the only ones available until about five years ago. Today, the wine enthusiast will find a great variety of rosé wines to enjoy.

For this report, we tasted through more than 85 dry and off-dry rosés from around the world, excluding rosé champagne which we covered in our Report # 9 Champagne (December 2007) The wines in the tasting take on a myriad of guises, consisting of different grape varieties terroir, and winemaking techniques. The grape varieties include: Agiorqitiko, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Gamay, Grenache, Malbec, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Zweigelt. These wines are sourced from high yielding commercial vineyards to low yielding small parcels reflecting a variety of soils and climates. And, the wines are produced using two main techniques: skin contact and saignée; both produce excellent wines, combining attributes of both red and white wines. These rosé winemaking techniques are fully described in this month’s education section of the i-WineReview website. Click here

Most rosés are fruity, yet can be off dry or dry on the mid-palate and on the finish. There is a prevalence of fruity and off dry rosés on the market. But there are dry versions of fruit forward wines, and some of these wines also have interesting mineral or herbal/savory notes for added complexity. These two main styles are summarized below

Off-dry

These wines display attractive rosé colors and are often aromatic and sweet on the mid-palate and the finish. They generally reveal strawberry and cherry fruit on the nose and palate and offer an uncomplicated flavor profile with good acidity and freshness. They are usually inexpensive and when done well and served well-chilled, they provide a pleasant, enjoyable drink. Some off-dry rosés with high levels of residual sugar can be cloying. This fruit forward and off-dry style is common in New World wines from California, South America and Australia. Some off-dry rosés are also being made in France and Spain, targeted in part to the U.S market.

Dry

These rosés display a wide variety of colors, ranging from pale salmon to deep rose. While some offer red fruit aromas of fresh cherry, raspberry, and pommegrante, others are much more subtle aromatically. In addition to their fruit, some French wines, especially from Chinon, Bandol and Tavel display interesting herbal notes (eg. garrigue) and/or minerality and are bone dry on the finish. In general, dry rosés are more complex on the nose and palate than the fruit forward off dry style wines. They are often more expensive as well. Complex, dry rosé wines are mainly European in origin.

The Tasting

There were many well made wines in our tasting from virtually every country. Quality is clearly on the rise. Still there are many wines of only average quality and in the tasting several did not even make our minimum grade of 85 points and are thus not included. The best wines in our view were those that offered fresh fruit aromas, complex flavors and good acidity; they also revealed a sense of place, often with subtle minerality, herbal notes and long lasting flavors. Here is a short list of just some of the highly rated wines from our tasting; many other fine wines are included in our tasting report:

California & Oregon:
Soter Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Rose North Valley, Oregon ($NA) 89

France:
Alain Jaume 2007 Reserve Grand Veneur Cotes du Rhone 90
Patrick LeSec Selection 2006 Domaine Saint-Martin Marsannay ($18) 90
Domaines Ott 2006 Château de Selle Côtes de Provence ($42) 90
Commanderie de la Bargemone 2007 Coteaux d’Aix en Provence ($15) 90

Greece:
Gaia 2007 14-18h Peloponnisos ($15) 89

Italy:
Argiolas 2007 Serralori Rosato IGT Isola dei Nuraghi Sardinia ($18) 89
Tasca D’Almerita 2007 Le Rosé di Regaleali Sicily ($15) 89

Spain:
Bodegas San Alejandro 2007 Las Rocas Rosado Calatayud ($11) 89
Marques de Caceres 2007 Rosé Rioja ($9) 89

Pairing and Purchasing Rosé

We drink rosés all by themselves, as an aperitif or as accompaniments to a wide range of light dishes. Because of their freshness and good acidity, rosés pair well with white meats, shellfish, sushi, salads, quiche, eggs. Fruity rosés go beautifully with spicy foods such as fajitas and Asian cuisine; dry and crisp rosés with grilled chicken salmon pork tenderloin Knowing the style of a rosé will help you make the best match with your food. However, you can also count on advice from your sommelier as more and more restaurants are adding rosés to their wine lists. And remember, rosés are enjoyed year around especially by Mediterranean food enthusiasts.

Rosés are at their best when served chilled. However, when too cold they loose their delicate aromas and flavors. If served too warm, the residual sugar in many rosés produce an unpleasant, cloying sensation and the overt fruitiness of the wine can create the sensation of drinking warm Kool-Aid.

In purchasing rosés, we recommend following just one rule make sure you are getting the current vintage. Freshness and fruitiness are the calling cards of rosé, and age usually detracts from both. A few, rare rosés benefit from aging, but the vast majority are meant for early consumption. New vintages from the northern hemisphere typically enter the marketplace around April-May. New vintages from the southern hemisphere enter the marketplace around November. With the globalization of wine there’s no reason to drink anything but the freshest. And the market for rosé is booming: U.S. sales of rosé wine by volume are increasing at a rate seventeen times that of total wine sales.

For a primer on rosé winemaking techniques Click Here

Rose’s from Around the World: Tasting Notes and Ratings

France
Bordeaux
Loire Valley-Burgund
Rhone
Southern France
Alsace

Argentina
California and Oregon
Italy
South Africa
Spain
Greece and Austria
Down Under
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