Friday, June 10, 2011

Rosé Around the World, or, Not Yo' Momma's White Zin

The heat of summer is most certainly upon us.  And as people everywhere scramble to choose the perfect wine for this time of year, suggesting Grüner Veltliner or Sauvignon Blanc, I scream "Rosé, rosé, rosé!"

Sadly, many people scream back "No way, no way, no way," fearful of revisiting the experience of a youthful sip of Momma's White Zin at a family cookout.  While one-dimensional sicky-sweet blush wines do remain out there on the market, fellow Wineaux have long embraced the wonderful variety and loveliness of well-crafted rosés from all over the globe.

At a recent tasting of six different worldly rosés, even burgeoning Wineaux admitted an early reluctance to embracing the pink.  Afterwards, however, each one had become tantalized by the aromas, flavors and freshness of these wines.  Lest the Minx say, "I told you so," go out there with an open mind and an excited palate and give rosé wines a chance.

We began with a 2010 Château de Pourcieux Rosé from Provence in France, a blend of syrah, grenache and cinsault - grapes that grow beautifully in the Mediterranean climate and chalky, gravelly clay soil of the south of France.  This had a very pale salmon/rose color with a nose of red berries and evident minerality.  In the mouth it showed raspberry, strawberry, rose petals and minerals, well-balanced but not overly acidic.  [WM 89]  A big hit early on, the Ch. de Pourcieux remained a favorite of the tasting.

Next stop was Greece, for a 2010 Kir-Yianni Akakies Rosé.  The only Greek AOC rosé, it is made of 100% Xinomavro.  With a bright raspberry color and a very unusual nose of green tomato, it had flavors of Fuji apple, cranberry and mint, with earthy elements.  I wished I had thought to pick up some feta cheese and stuffed grape leaves; it might have been the perfect accompaniment!  [WM: 87]  A few tasters were put off by the unusual notes exhibited, but I kept returning to its interesting complexity.

Heading east to Italy, we tried the 2010 Cantina del Taburno Albarosa Rosé, made from 100% Aglianico.  Red wines from this grape can be incredibly powerful, so the winemakers take care not to let the wine stay in contact with the grape skins too long.  It was indeed fairly light in color with a pinky-red hue.  This rosé had a wonderful perfumey nose of honeysuckle and rose petals, with a little soapy scent.  Nicely floral and with great strawberry and herb notes, I wished it was a little more acidic.  But it was one of my favorites of the tasting, and didn't last long after everyone had left!  [WM:89]

From Italy, we ventured to the Basque region of NW Spain for the 2010 Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis Rosé.  The important word is Txakolina, or Txakoli - pronounced "Chac-o-lee-na/Chac-o-lee," which is the name of the type of wine, not the grape variety.  Those are Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Belta.  White Txakolis are a little more common, and have become a favorite in-the-know wine for many Wineaux.  With nice CO2 "shpritz" and a super-light palate cleansing essence, they are ideal for the hottest of summer days.  (I say just stick a straw in the bottle and you're good!)  I had never personally tasted a rosé Txakoli, and at first had thought it would be so light and a great start to the tasting, but pushed it down in the order after popping the cork.  Definitely not "so light!"  With a pale red berry color, it had a nose of tangerine peel and 'dirty sock,' great CO2, bright acidity and a refreshing cranberry note at the finish, with definite earthiness.  [WM: 86]  While the "ginger ale"y feel (one taster's opinion) did not appeal to all, many agreed it was indeed the most refreshing of the group by far.

Long Island wineries have had a great deal of success with rosé wines, so I chose the 2010 Shinn Estate Rosé as our bottle from the U.S.  Made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it was raspberry red in color.  Some of the tasters were fearful of that brightness translating into sweetness, and were pleasantly surprised at the spicy, grassy, earthy nose with a fresh note of watermelon.  It had a wonderful acidity, clear, strong cherry in the mouth, and a pleasant creaminess.  [WM:88]  One taster (who is a musician) pronounced it "B-flat," which, unlike the letter grade of B-minus, is actually a compliment - meaning that it felt like the most middle-ground of the wines.  (B-flat is concert pitch, to which the entire orchestra tunes.)

Finally, we tasted the 2010 Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap Rosé from South Africa.  A blend of 66% Syrah, 20% Cinsault and 14% Grenache, it was another favorite of the group, although stylistically very different than the similarly-blended rosé from Provence.  With a deep red/pink color, it had a nose of green pepper and mint, and was bold and spicy on the palate, with strawberries and a little watermelon.  I felt the heat of alcohol, spurning me into a frenzied search for all of the wines' alcohol percentages, and sure enough, I was correct; with 13.5%, it had the highest amount of all we'd tasted.  (Most were in the 12-13% range.)  What can I say?  The Minx likes to be right.  [WM: 89]

At the end of the day, notes were put aside, and the tasters revisited their favorites - leaving behind a number of empty bottles for the recycling bin.  One taster remarked that she was no longer going to be intimidated to try rosés, another commented on the surprising variety even in such a relatively small sample of wines.  It's all true - rosés are refreshing, interesting, quaffable, and complex.  Be sure to give one a try - like I said, these are absolutely not Yo Momma's White Zin.