Wed 26 Aug 2009
We’re in the last week of August, but summery weather will linger through September into the waning of the light and the coloring of the leaves. Besides, who said that rosé wines are only for drinking from, say, April or May through August or September anyway? Not me! Here then are notes on 10 rosés from France, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America. My very tip-top favorites on this roster are, unfortunately, limited in number and/or distribution, but the majority can be found all over the place.
Whenever I’m in New York, I look for the elegant, stylish and unusual wines of Channing Daughters, a 25-acre winery in Bridgehampton, at the East End of Long Island’s North Fork. The Channing Daughters Cabernet Franc Rosato 2008. North Fork, is made in classic South of France fashion, featuring an entrancing pale onion-skin hue and a bouquet — and that’s the right word — of dried red currants, strawberries and orange blossom. This rosé is quite dry, vibrant with crisp acidity and resolute minerality (to balance a texture that’s almost lush and succulent) yet with lovely, sensual heft and delicious flavors of melon, peach and orange zest. One of the best. 369 cases. Excellent. About $17.
Way off on the other side of America, across the forests primeval, the fruited plains, the glorious mountains and bleak deserts, sliding down the west side of the Sierras and into the fertile precincts of California’s wine country, not far from the towering waves of the Pacific and the abrupt bark of the sleek sea lion, we find the Gargiulo Money Road Ranch Rosato di Sangiovese 2008, Oakville District, Napa Valley. The color is ruddy onion-skin, that is to say, pale, pale copper with a hint of radiant dusty rose. The bouquet draws you in with seductive aromas of dried red currants, strawberries, melon and a hint of — hmmm, how can I say this? — appley-citrus? Flavors of melon and strawberry are highlighted by an intriguing hints of pomegranate, dried herbs and shale. Great tone and presence, and also one of the best, though the price is a little ouchy. 450 cases. Excellent. About $30.
Now down to the Antipodes, for one entry each from Australia and New Zealand, and if you ever fly from L.A. to Sydney you’ll wish you had a couple of bottles of these wines. You could pass a health care bill in the time that flight takes.
The Robert Oatley Rosé of Sangiovese 2008, Mudgee, New South Wales, sports an attractive pale, smoky topaz color with light sunset-copper highlights. A bouquet of red raspberries with strawberries and melon leads to flavors of red currants and raspberries with a touch of plum (like the shadow of the fruit) nestled in a spare texture that balances crisp acidity and a marked stony quality with moderate lushness. The finish brings in some dusty weeds and dried herbs. Quite nice, very refreshing. Very Good+. About $18.
An unusual multi-geographical blend of merlot, malbec, syrah and pinot noir, the Wild Rock Vin Gris Rosé 2008, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, offers a shimmering light cherry-cerise color. The nose is all raspberries and strawberries with elements of shale and limestone and a squeeze of lime and apple; this is incredibly vibrant and lively, surprisingly earthy for a rose though notably clean and engaging, a little raffiné yet jaunty, a boulevardier of a rose. Red currant takes over after a few minutes in the glass. Very charming. Very Good+. About $15, Good Value.
Imported by Kobrand Corp., Purchase, N.Y.
The rest of these rose wines are European
Forget the pronunciation; just write it down or print out this post. The wine is Gurrutxaga 2008, the grape is hondarribbi beltza — there’s also a white hondarrabi zuri — and the region is Txacoli de Bizkaia in Spain’s Basque country. The color is pale copper-salmon, the nose a sort of smoky, earthy and minerally wreathing of melon and dried cranberry. The wine is very dry, lean and crisp, austere, stony, freighted with flavors of dried red fruit and dried herbs with a hint of exotic spice. Quite enjoyable and one of the most unusual roses I have encountered. Very Good+. About $25.
Imported by De Maison Selections, Chapel Hill, N.C.
La Scolca, in Piedmont, knows its way around the white cortese grape, being one of the few producers of Gavi wines that are worth seeking out for intensity and authenticity. La Scolca Rosa Chiara 2008, Vino da Tavola Rosato, is a blend of 90 percent cortese and 10 percent pinot noir — according to the press material; 95/5 according to the website — making it not at all a traditional rosé wine, which is a pale wine made from red grapes; this is, instead, a white wine blended with red grapes to give it a pale, rosy “eye of the partridge” color. The pinot noir grapes for the wine are fermented and age briefly in large old French barrels (tonneaux), bringing interesting character, body and spice to La Scolca Rosa Chiara 2008. Dried fruit, strawberry and red currents are heightened by dried flowers, almond blossom and hints of cloves and orange rind, like sniffing a pomander. The wine is very dry, very stony, a little exotic, with its touches of pomegranate and cranberry, and it’s ultimately utterly charming. Very Good+. About $14, and a Great Bargain.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
The rest of this line-up of rosé wines is French.
I was pretty well knocked out by Le Rosé de Mouton Cadet 2008, Bordeaux, a blend of 65 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet franc and 15 percent cabernet sauvignon, just as if it were a real grown-up red from St. Emilion or Pomerol, the “Right Bank” regions of Bordeaux where merlot dominates. The color is a beguiling cherry-watermelon hue, and the bouquet delivers shades of strawberry and raspberry with dried red currants and a touch, after a few minutes, of candied rhubarb. This is a beautifully knit rose, displaying more sophistication than most wines of the genre attain; dried red fruit flavors open to reveal hints of peach and lemon zest enlivened by crisp acidity and a prominent mineral edge. Produced by the Baron Philippe de Rothschild company. Very Good+. The price is an astonishing $10, often discounted to $8. Buy it by the case.
Imported by Constellation Wines U.S.
Let’s move from Bordeaux to the Loire Valley. Beginning in 1693, the antecedents of the Raffault family maintained their vineyards in Chinon. The present estate, Jean-Maurice Raffault, is well-known for its red wines from the cabernet franc grape. The Raffault Chinon Rosé 2008, made from 100 percent cabernet franc, belies its pale copper color by the robust nature of its slightly briery red current and dried raspberry scents and flavors and a rather tea-like maceration of smoky orange rind. The wine is very dry, quite earthy and minerally, vastly vibrant and refreshing. Excellent. About $17.
Imported by V.O.S. Selections, New York.
Now we make a trek from the Loire Valley way down to the southern Rhone Valley and the Côtes de Provence.
The color of the Chateau de Ségriès Tavel 2008 is a gorgeous medium pink-pale cherry, so brilliant that it seems lit from within. A blend of 50 percent grenache, 30 percent cinsault, 15 percent clairette and 5 percent syrah, this is a lovely rosé, subtle and supple yet engagingly spicy. Scents and flavors of red currents and macerated strawberries are couched in a texture of moderate lushness enlivened by vibrant, crystalline acidity, while from the beginning the layers of shale and gravel provide foundation and framing. Transparently agreeable, highly drinkable. Excellent. About $20.
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.
The Coeur Estérelle Rosé 2008, Côtes de Provence, is produced by Chateau du Rouët, founded in 1840 in the foothills of the mountains that give the wine its name. A traditional blend of carignane, cinsault and grenache, Coeur Estérelle 2008 offers a beautiful pale melon color and a bouquet of dried red currents and strawberries. This rosé is almost savory, with a whiff of sea salt, bracing acidity, and flavors of spiced and macerated red currents and raspberries touched with dried thyme and rosemary, all of this grounded in dusty minerality. Yet the wine is not robust, being rather a construct of delicacy woven upon delicacy. Delightful. Very Good+ and a Bargain at about $13.
Village Wine Imports, New York.