Pretty & Pink: Dry Rosés
As we make the transition from summer to autumn, some of us might not be totally ready to give up our estival whites and turn to our hibernal reds. But on those weekend afternoons in early fall, you might make a compromise and try a dry rosé. These wines can be refreshing and crisp like a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, yet can offer a unique fragrance and subtle sweetness that are particularly enjoyable. And then theres the colorafter all, why should we limit our admiration of beautiful hues to leaves.
Take a moment and admire the color of a good rosé, which, after all, should contribute to its appeal.
A high quality rosé glistens in the glass. Depending on the variety of grape, the color will range from a tantalizing orange tint to a seductive rosy pink. But watch out for extremes: too pink (like flamingos) or too orange (like the fruit) usually indicates a poor quality wine or one thats past its prime.
A rosés bouquet, although usually not complex, also accounts for part of its allure. Look for light floral scents on the nose, sometimes wildflowers, or for red berries and fruit.
The idea for this feature came from our local wine merchant. I must admit that I cringed at the idea, envisioning glass after glass of those bubbly rosés from purple flask-like bottles that we drank in the late 60s and early 70s or, even worse, their contemporary counterparts, white zinfandels. He assured us that, if we would only give them a chance, we would be in for a surprise. He also graciously offered to select the wines for this feature. We agreed and said we would mention his establishment, The Wine Seller, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, (201.444.3300) and for that received a discount on the wines. (We also warned him that we would be totally objective in our evaluations.)
I am happy to report my fears were indeed unfounded and that most of these wines (Im still holding out on white zinfandels) were a pleasure to drink. We tasted the wines first by themselves to evaluate them as apéritifs and afterwards with a smoked ham braised in port and accompanied by perfect mashed potatoes. On a second evening, I gave some of the wines an additional tasting, but this time with shrimp quickly sautéed with garlic and white wine.
The first wine of the evening was a 1995 Sanford, Pinot Noir Vin Gris, Santa Barbara County ($10.99). Light brick in color with tints of orange, the wine has a lovely melon nose. The first, and aptly descriptive, comment on tasting was “refreshing.” This is a dry wine with some light tannins and hints of peach on the tongue. Its good flavor is followed by an orange-zest finish. It was delightful as an apéritif and went extraordinarily well with the ham. I highly recommend this wine from one of my favorite producers of chardonnay.
The next wine was a 1994 Chivite, Navarra, Gran Feudo ($5.99). Its reddish orange color is reminiscent of a sunset. The wines nose, however, is off-putting. One taster likened it to “that forgotten something left in the fridge.” The wine is definitely dry and tannic, but has a subtle sweetness and taste of bitter almonds. It’s definitely full bodied with plenty of grenache grape on the tongue. Unfortunately, it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste (a bad bottle perhaps?). The wine did not go well with the ham or with the shrimp. I have the feeling this bottle was a little past its prime (1994) and I would not be reluctant to taste another vintage.
We then went on to a 1995 Commanderie de la Bargemone, Coteaux dAix en Provence ($11.99). Pale pink with hues of orange, the wine has a lovely floral nose. It is light bodied and very dry with flavors of sour cherries. It also has an adequate finish. Although it did not go very well with the ham, it was superb with the sautéed shrimp and would make a fine apéritif.
Our fourth wine at this tasting was a 1995 Chateau dAqueria, Tavel, Rosé ($14.99). This is one of Frances best known rosés and justifiably so. It is a textbook rosé. Perfectly pink in color, the wine has a beautiful vanilla nose. Smooth on entry, the wine is full bodied with a good mid-palate. Although it is definitely a dry wine, it has a subtle sweetness and faint citrus flavors. This is the perfect wine for warm evenings. It went especially well with the ham (but not with the shrimp) and I think it would also be a fine accompaniment for a roast chicken on a warm summer afternoon. You should give this wine a try.
The next wine came from one of my favorite producers, Bonny Doon. The 1996 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare, Pink Wine, California ($9.99) has a beautiful pink strawberry color. The tantalizing berry nose (predominantly strawberry), is followed by a crisp entry with a slight acidity that gives it, what one taster called, “a zip.” Full bodied with good legs, this is a Rhone-style rosé with citrusy flavors. I do not have any notes on how it went with the ham, but I can say it complemented the shrimp perfectly. This is a must try.
The 1996 Sierra Vista, El Dorado Table Wine Belle Rose, California ($9.99) was one of the stars of the tasting. Light pink in color, it has an enchanting wildflower and subtle licorice nose. It offers plenty of body with nice berry flavors, good acidity, and an adequate finish. This is one of the few wines that went equally well with the ham and the shrimp.
Another star of the tasting was the 1996 Simi Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, California ($10.99). The color is a pinkish rose. It has a full fruity nose of peaches and plums. On entry, theres a slight acidity followed by a pleasant sweetness. The wine has a good mid-palate with a light jammy taste and a nice finish. This is a good apéritif wine, but we found it too sweet for the foods.
The final wine of the evening was a 1996 De Loach White Zinfandel, Sonoma County ($9.99). The wine is a watery pink with a sweet, perfumy nose (perhaps overly perfumed). The wine is sweet in flavor, almost like soda pop, and thin. I must admit that I am predisposed to dislike white zinfandel, and this example delivered just what I expected. When I think of zinfandel grapes on their way to becoming white zin, I recall that scene from Woody Allens “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex…” where the excited sperm suddenly realize, to their dismay, that its a false alarm.
Rosés should be served well chilled. They are the perfect casual wine.
Please let us know what you think about these wines on our feedback page. In our next issue, we’ll publish some of your comments.