Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stop and Smell the Rosé

nateRoseRock[Nate sez]: Maybe I'm just tickled pink. Perhaps it's just my feminine side showing through. Or maybe I'm really just a closet White Zin drinker (::shivers violently::). No, Rosé is much more than meets your mouth, or your expectations.

Last summer Ben and I were incredibly lucky to be in the company of people who wanted to tell the world about the wonders of pink wine. No, it's not sweet. And it isn't just a bucket of kool-aid strawberries in your face either. Rosés run a refreshing balance of fruitiness, minerality, acidity, texture. It also happens to be in the $7-12 range at your local vinomart. As far as wine is concerned, it's probably the most versatile style out there. Serve it well chilled with grilled anything, roasted veg, burgers, pastas, pizzas, and even a bunch of Asian food - Sushi, Thai Curry, Fried Rice, Dumples, and it'll probably even go with Jung's Chow Mein if you absolutely insist.

Since you're probably thinking "Well Nate, this Rosé thing sounds fascinating, and I'd like to know more about the fine differences between Old World and New World style sensory descriptors, and what labels can I find at my vinomart?"

I'm glad you asked.

le Original: The French School

leFranceThe French are stereotypically synonymous with good wine, and Rosé is absolutely no exception. Almost every French Rosé I've had has delightful fruity flavors like rasberry, strawberry, and plum - however unlike our friends in White Zinville, these wines are balanced by being very dry, very crisp, and often posses a structuring minerality that frankly drives me wild. Minerality is kind of a "stony" flavor, like limestone or slate. Not that I've spent a lot time licking rocks, but minerality tastes like what you'd imagine rocks to taste like. They're also often high alcohol, and can be made from a very wide variety of grapes from Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache to Carignan, Cinsault, and Mourvedre. Or whatever the hell else is laying around your grape press.

Personally, I happen to love the Southern French varieties that come from the Rhone Valley, Provence, and Costieres de Nimes. They're cheap and they freaking rule. Here's a couple of noteworthy labels.

Routas Rosé 2006, Provence: At $11, it's a steal, and I can practically guarantee that you can find this wine no matter where you live. Crisp, dry, and medium bodied with a beautiful mix of reddish berry flavors. There is a "spice" note that I identify as Grapefruit, but I don't know what you're mouth tastes like so go out and taste for yourself.

petiteCassagneDomaine de la Petite Cassagne Rosé 2006, Costières de Nimes: This is much harder to find, and ironically cheaper ($9 to 10). I've heard a ton of Rosé geeks go on and on about this particular wine, and even though I'd never heard of it when I tried it last year, it blew my mind. It's got this really attractive rocky-mineral flavor that is just as strong as the fruit. It's really crisp, dry, and light bodied. This is a real food wine - I personally like it with fatty fish like Salmon or Trout. Maybe with some kind of herb sauce. You should really try this wine.

Bottom line. if you see a French Rosé and it's a recent vintage (no more than two years old), and it's under $12, just go for it. It's probably pretty damn good.

La Escuela Nueva: Things get interesting

SonomaSince I'm doing my best not to write an epic tome on the pink stuff, I'll try to keep this under 750 words. Outside of France, people can and do make French Style Rosé. It's just not quite the same. Out here in the US, non-Zin pink wine is being made, but the difference lies in the complexity of flavor. You may have had other Rosés from Spain, the US, even Australia, and found that they are round, really fruity, sometimes off-dry, sometimes dry, but there is a startling lack of mineral in the flavor to balance out the heavy fruitiness. Some people totally dig the super-easy drinking, mess-you-up grapey-berry juice that sometimes gets passed off as fine wine. I just can't stand it.

HOWEVER, there is a man, and his name is Carl Sutton. He happened to make what I feel to be one of the greatest wines I've ever had. It's a Rosé, and you better believe it doesn't taste one bit French.

rattlesnakeRoseSutton Cellars Rattlesnake Rosé 2005, Sonoma County: Our Friend Chuck at Solo Vino turned us on to this impossible wine. It's a Syrah, Carignane, and Merolt blend barrel fermented with wild yeast, aged 10 months on the lees (that means on the dead yeast) and put through a malolactic fermentation.

It's kind of a mouthful. It tastes like a toasted fresh white English muffin, slathered with European butter, and topped off with a not-so-sweet homemade raspberry jam. It smells like Buttah - quite literally. Look, he only released 243 cases and he kegged some of this crap to go on tap in god-knows-where, and if you can find it you won't regret it, and if not, than you'll need to make me an offer I can't refuse to part with some of my stash.

The Rattlesnake embodies everything I would like out of a new world Rosé: it's rich, fruity, buttery, juicy, off-dry, and deeply satisfying. A comparable stylistic analog would be akin to French vs California Chardonnay.

Today is a perfect summer day, so get to the vinomart and buy some freaking pink stuff, make sure it's cold before you open it, and pour a big mouthful of summer down your throat. Did I mention that this goes great with smoked pork?

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