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Weekend Wine: And now, Rosé!

With nice warm weather ahead of us, it is definitely time to write about – and drink – rosé
Vin Greco, Wine All The Time

In my last article, I had intended to write about rosé, but was sidetracked by the impressive Vintages release of July 9.

With that behind us, and with nice warm weather ahead of us, it is definitely time to write about – and drink – rosé.

Many hesitate when it comes to rosé, as it is often associated with sweeter wines.  Some of the first rosés to come to prominence in North America included Mateus and Casal Mendes which were off-dry sparkling wines with about 20 grams of sugar per litre.

 These were followed in good time by “blush” wines such as white zinfandel from California, a style “invented” when producers were having a difficult time selling some of their red wines, especially Zinfandels.  These wines, with between 30 and 40 grams of sugar per litre, became very popular, particularly with people just beginning to enjoy wine.

This success has skewed expectations when it comes to rosé, but most recently people have started to understand that traditionally rosés are dry, and they can be delicious.

Usually, rosés are made from red wine grapes, but skin contact is significantly reduced, the length of time dependent on the colour the winemaker is seeking.  They can be very pale or neon pink, and everywhere in-between.

The colour is commonly introduced during maceration when the wine is in contact with the skin.  Some wineries may extend this period in order to maximize flavour, and then reduce the colour afterward through “fining”, according to Anne Krebiehl writing on “The Buyer” site back in May.

Another rarer method is called saignée.  Here, when a winery is making a red wine – often a Cabernet Sauvignon – some of the juice is “bled off” early on and fermented as a rosé.  This is often done in order to deepen the colour of the red wine being made from the rest of the juice.

Finally, a rosé may be a blend of both red and white wines. By including a little bit of red, a white wine quickly becomes pink. More commonly the red component may also see reduced skin contact, especially in wines where the proportion of red grapes is significant.

Niagara’s Foreign Affair Winery has its Amarosé, $18.95 currently in many of our stores.  It blends almost 60 percent Pinot Noir with Riesling and Chardonnay, with 5 percent each of the Pinot and the Riesling made up of grapes that have undergone the ‘appasimento’ or partial-drying treatment.  Writer Rick Van Sickle calls the wine “assertive” with “strawberries, kirsch and citrus accents and depth of flavour through the finish.”

On the July 23 release, the same partial appasimento treatment is given to the Masi Rosa Dei Masi  2015, $15.95 from Venezia. Made from the refosco grape, the producers call it a “super-Venetian” and companion to their excellent red, Campofiorin.  The Vintages panel says this wine will win over the “red wine only” crowd, and Masi suggests pairing it with light pasta dishes and seafood.

For the most part, people consider Rosé to be a summer-time wine, and we find that a good proportion of the abundance of rosés listed at the LCBO are not necessarily available throughout the year. Though great in the warm weather, a good rosé could serve very well throughout the year, especially as a food wine when otherwise a white with some body might normally be selected.

This would certainly hold true with some shellfish dishes or with chicken and turkey.

Just as other wines, be they red or white, take their flavour from the grapes they contain, the same holds true for rosé.  

The Muga Rosé 2015, $13.95, though from Rioja, contains only 10 percent Tempranillo, in a blend dominated by Garnacha (60 percent) and containing 30 percent Viura, a white grape. The Garnacha is intentionally grown in the less sunny portion of the vineyards in order to preserve acidity.  The result is a fresh, salmon-coloured wine presenting citrus and stone fruit (peach/apricot) and is classed as extra-dry – 6 grams per litre of sugar.

With rosés, it is important to check the sugar content, as some will be quite sweet, others almost bone dry.

Many Ontario rosés are off-dry, but Wild Ass 2015, $17.95 with 10 g./litre of sugar still falls on the dry side.  It, too, is a blend, with Syrah accompanied by Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling.  Rhubarb is often cited as a flavour note for Ontario rosé, and here it shares the flavour profile with strawberry, cherry and some spice.  The Semillon will soften the palate a little, but Wild Ass Rosé often has some heft to it.

Sandbanks Rosé 2015, $13.95, from Prince Edward County at Lake Ontario’s eastern end may be more typical of Ontario’s style, with 21g./ litre, the residual sweetness balancing the acidity very nicely.  Here, the white hybrid Vidal is blended with Gamay and Pinot Noir – both grapes associated with Burgundy – and Muscat Blanc (think Moscato).  It works well with light appetizers and hints at orange and sweeter grapefruit.

The south of France is the real heartland for Rosé, and at the pinnacle we find Tavel.  Currently there is a handful of Tavels in the LCBO, most with 2 to 4 grams of sugar.  The Gabriel Meffre is the anomaly with 9 grams, but that is still dry. They range in price from $19 to $22, and are consistently good.

Domaine des Carteresses Rosé 2015, $18.95, will provide a very good picture of Tavel’s potential.  It is described as full-bodied, with red berry fruit, spice and herbal notes and generally scores in the low 90s.

The Gabriel Meffre Saint Ferréol Tavel Rosé 2015, $19.95 is outstanding with strawberries, cherries and apple coming across big-time accompanied by lavender and rosemary accents.

The rest of the south of France isn’t to be ignored. Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc Rosé 2015, $16.95, from grapes grown between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea, is pale in colour with a slight bit of spritz on the tongue, exhibiting some minerality and some peach accents.

Chateau Val Joanis has a solid reputation and is well supported in its Tradition Rosé 2015, $15.95.  Syrah- based, it is very pale –but don’t let that fool you. It has oodles of strawberry/gooseberry flavour along with mineral and herbal notes.  It is a classic.

With over dozens and dozens to choose from, think about the kinds of grapes you enjoy, the production areas you prefer, and the level of sugar in the wine.   You won’t be disappointed in the ones I have mentioned, and product consultants will happily suggest others.  Bring on the heat… and the Rosé!

July 23 Vintages Release

White Wine

If you are one of those sentenced to a statin drug and have had your beloved grapefruit stricken from your diet, then lament no more.  Kim Crawford Small Parcels Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc 2015, $24.95, will have you doing your happy dance, as lashes of grapefruit leap out immediately; yet, the ultimate impression is of a wine with great balance and a roundness that makes you believe there had been some oak treatment – but it hasn’t seen a sliver of wood. A Blue-Gold Award winner at the Sydney competition.

In contrast, the Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2013, $19.95, is simply elegant. The integration here is ideal, and the over-all impression is one of harmony. This would be an excellent food wine with creamy dishes, and yet it is also a perfect sipper, pleasing in every respect.

Ryder Estate Chardonnay 2014, $17.95, is new to Vintages, and hails from Monterey on California’s Central Coast. It is a blend of stainless steel and French oak, with suggestions of apple and citrus, vanilla and butter, and a kiss of oak. There is a lot here for the price.

From the Alto Adige/Trentino region at the top of Italy’s boot comes the Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2014, $19.95.  This, from one of the region’s top producers, is “round dry and tart with notes of rising bread, brewery lemon, quinine and chalk” according to  

Red Wine

From Washington State’s Columbia Valley, Watchdog Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $17.95, delivers abundantly for the price. The texture is ideal, round and supple, and the flavours are totally integrated. There is as light a tannic burr as you could imagine on the finish. I get a whisper of blackberry, a lick of cocoa, and a lot of pleasure with this clever blend which includes grace notes provided by Syrah, Merlot, and other grapes typical of Bordeaux.

Spain’s Bierzo region in the north-east is home to the Mencia grape, and Abad Dom Bueno Mencia 2008, $15.95 is impressive. suggested it should be perfectly ready now, and awarded it a 92.  At one time, Mencia was produced as a rather light red, but this is not the case here.  Deep, dark berry flavour and gripping acidity combine. Some have thought that the fruit may be fading and a little leathery, but everyone still is very positive about it.

Château Blaignan 2010. $25.95, a fine cru bourgeois from Medoc, was #32 in the Wine Enthusiast’s “top 100” in 2013, with a score of 92.  On the nose, “aromatics of new wood”, with a smooth palate displaying “smoke and blackcurrant” flavours and “tannins that are already well integrated.”

Domaine Bousquet Reserve Malbec 2013, $18.95 is an excellent offering from Argentina.  It received 5 stars at the Decanter World Wine Awards, probably the top international competition. It is “beautiful bright and fresh with elegantly extracted fruit”.

Australia’s Wakefield winery has been producing some great values, and its Merlot 2015, $18.95, ranks with the best. A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge competition, it has upfront fruit of cherry and blackberry with mint and some tar, along “with a long leafy finish that keeps the fruit in play” – - 94.

This is another attractive release, and so I am sure you will find plenty to enjoy.

The WineRack stores now have the Magnetic North Merlot 2014, a blend of wine from both Niagara and British Columbia – something they are starting to do with a number of the Jackson-Triggs wines as well.  While this means they don’t qualify as VQA, the inclusion of B.C. fruit should actually be a bonus. In this case, the wine is intentionally “off-dry” which could make it overly fruity, but there is sufficient tannin on the finish to give it a pleasant bite. A good choice for those who enjoy Apothic Red or other wines in that style. Normally $13.95, it will be on sale starting Monday July 18 for just $12.95.

If you enjoy a glass of wine – rather than a bottle when dining out – then Quattro Chop House on Great Northern Road is the place to be on “Wine Down Wednesdays”, when all wines sold by the glass are half-price. It will give you a chance to enjoy the wine you like, and the same goes for your companions. Quattro has an excellent wine list, especially in red wines. When last there I enjoyed both the Saltram 1859 Shiraz from Australia and the Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon from Torres in Spain. The “pour” is ample, and these reds were $7 a glass. Reservations are suggested – 705-541-0311.