davies wakefield | wine uncorked | july 2017
The current rage for rosé is a trend that doesn't look like it's going to end anytime soon. So when you see something that works no matter what the reason, it's time to jump on the bandwagon. The only thing to determine is what rosé to drink and how much a person should pay for that bottle of grape juice. These are wines that don't need to be intellectualized; indeed they are for the soft breezes and warm weather ahead that drives us outdoors for relaxed sensual afternoons on a blanket in the shade with cheeses, salami and French bread.
Rosés are a manufactured product like Rice Crispies, Cheetos or Spam. There is a formula for any successful product and rosés are no exception. The formula is pretty simple in concept but harder to execute. Because of the slight variation in flavors and ripeness changes with every vintage year, the mixture of grapes must be changed or tweaked every season. The primary grapes are Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault in Provence and Tavel, but I have selected one from Germany that is 100 percent Pinot Noir. Where grape mixtures are used, the grapes are fermented separately. When the grapes are crushed the skins are left in the juice for as little as one day or as much as three days depending on how much color is desired in the wine. Once fermented, the manufacturing process occurs when experienced tasters sample the individual wines and combine different percentages until they achieve the particular style that is desired for the finished wine.
Bieler Pere & Fils 2016 Aix en Provence Rosé, 13 percent alcohol, and still $9 bucks if you buy four at Woodman's. This to me is the gold standard for French Rosé but how the Bieler family got here is very interesting. Charles Bieler was a senior at Colorado State University when his father Philippe called and asked his son to help him manage a winery that he had purchased in France. Philippe asked his son for one year of his life to get the operation under control and making money. That year turned into twelve as the demand for rosé in 2004 in the United States was close to zero. At that time White Zinfandel was our closest answer to rosé. Faced with increasing inventories of rosé, Charles bought a 1965 Cadillac, painted it pink and drove around the western US selling his dad's rosé. As Charles likes to say “we became an overnight success in 15 years." The 2016 version is a blend of 52 percent Grenache, 23 percent Syrah, 14 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, eight percent Cinsault and three percent Rolle (also known as Vermentino). The Rolle is the only white grape in this blend but it serves as the acid in this wine that will give it the zip it needs for 90-degree summer weather.
The 2016 Villa Wolf Rosé, $9 with the volume discount at Ridgeway Liquor is 12 percent alcohol. The wine was produced at Ernst Loosen's vineyards in the Pfalz region along the Rhine River in southwest Germany adjacent to Frances Alsace wine region (no wonder France and Germany have been fighting over this piece of property for millennia). The Haardt Mountains protect the area from the cold wet Atlantic weather making it one of the warmer and drier areas of Germany. This microclimate allows grapes to achieve full ripeness in every vintage. The weathered limestone soils produce wines with stony structure and fruit-driven purity. According to Villa Wolf, the fruit was specifically grown to produce this wine rather than a more savoury Pinot Noir. The color of the wine is light salmon resulting from just four to six hours of maceration of the skins and pulp. The wine is fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks and does not undergo malolactic fermentation, which would have softened the wine and lost some of the acidity. In fact, when we opened the bottles there was a bit of effervescence that prickled the tongue and was perfectly refreshing. Great stuff from a world-renowned vintner, please try it.
The 2016 Chateau De Trinquevedel is 13.5 percent alcohol and $15 at Woodman's if you buy four bottles. It is from the Tavel AOC and is composed of 45 percent Grenache, 24 percent Cinsault, 15 percent Clairette, 10 percent Mourvèdre and six percent Syrah. In contrast with the Villa Wolf rosé, the Tavel is cold macerated from 12 to 48 hours and it shows in the bright red raspberry color. The fermentation takes 20 days in cement cuve (tanks). As with most rosé there is no malolactic fermentation that preserves freshness. Tavel is the only AOC entirely made up of rosé. The reputation for this Appelation dates back to Louis the XIV who sang the praises of Tavels delicious rosé.
The owner of Trinquevedel Guillaume Demoulin is the fourth generation farmer and vintner that have worked to restore the Chateau since 1936. Together with his wife Céline, they farm about 80 acres that are situated on the hills of Montagne Noire (Black Mountain). The stony vineyards composed of sand and quartzite galets roules (rounded stones) resemble the vineyards of Chateauneuf where those rounded stones retain the heat of the sun into the evening that produces great ripe, full bodied, concentrated wines. This is rosé that will stand up to a hamburger on the grill or a grilled pork tenderloin.
The last two wines are assembled by the Negociant Hecht & Bannier from wines produced by vineyards in Languedoc and Provence. These two young men started their company in 2001. They have no written contracts with the growers but have developed deep working relationships with these farmers and vintners. Gregory Hecht was the wine buyer for Group Flo, the largest catering company in France where he tasted wines continuously to get the best wines for the company. Francois Bannier worked for the prominent Champagne house of Veuve Clicquot as a taster and blender. Both men work together using their tasting skills to produce these outstanding blended rosés.
The H&B Languedoc Rosé, $5.99 at Cellars Wine and Spirits in Neenah, is 12.5 percent alcohol. It is a mixture of 40 percent Syrah, 35 percent Cinsault, and 25 percent Grenache. In this wine, the Syrah reflects the floral character while the Grenache drives the fruit. Cinsault gives some ripe gooseberry notes with Morello cherry and freshness. The combination of Syrah and Grenache will stand up to anything off the grill. I think grilled or seared rare Yellowtail tuna with Remoulade sauce would be an exceptional match.
The Hecht and Bannier Provencal Rosé, $5.99 at Cellars Wine and Spirits, is 12.5 percent alcohol as well, but the blend is almost the reverse of the Languedoc Rosé with 45 percent Grenache 40 percent Cinsault and only 15 percent Syrah. This wine is from the higher elevation cooler vineyards which allow full maturity without the excessive sugars that affect freshness. Very fresh Cinsault planted close to the Mediterranean Sea bring a subtle saltiness and anise expression. The grapes for this wine were harvested between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m. to avoid oxidation from exposure to the hot sun. This leads to a wine with less richness but more saline qualities that make this a more refreshing wine that goes with lighter fare like shrimp and mussels. These two wines are my bargain buys, drinking at three times the selling price and I highly recommend them, if you can find them.
These are my favorites of the season, but there are too many to fit into a short article like this. There is a 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon rosé out there that is pretty nice, some Rosados from Spain that are primarily Grenache that are very nice as well. Try a Malbec rosé from Argentina, it will surprise you. Try the Parallel 44 Frozen Tundra Original at 12.3 percent alcohol; it is refreshing and light. In any case there is an abundance of good rosé out there. Enjoy the weather and a good rosé, and if you have any left over after Labor Day, try them with a pork chop or seared duck breast as the weather cools off.