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12 October, 2009

Drinking the Pink: Roses from Spain to Chile and back to California


It is officially autumn and I am continuing my summer tradition of Rose-drinking. In fact I am proposing that we drink Rose year-round because seeing the world through rose-colored glasses is quite lovely. Roses make me feel good because I love the various hues and tones of pink, orange and red. I love how they are smooth and light-bodied yet dry and crisp to accompany antipasti, cheese and charcuterie. Their affordability also makes me just giddy and delicious Roses can be found for under $20.

Now, I don't want anyone to be confused about what exactly a Rose wine is. Rose is not a grape and Rose wine is made of the juice of any variety of red grapes. The difference is in how these grapes are vinified. There are three main ways of making Rose:

1) Light skin contact - Red grapes are crushed and the skins of these grapes are only in contact with the juice for a very short period of time usually 1-3 days. This is what gives Rose its light color. After the skin contact this lightly-colored juice is then fermented in stainless steel tanks (with some exceptions.)

2) The method known as "Saignee" which comes from the French word "saigner" which means "to bleed." The wine-makers bleed out the juice from the grapes in the vats after a short time of skin contact, leaving the crushed red fruit (or must) intensified and ready to be made into red wine. The extracted pink juice can then be fermented on its own to make Rose.

3) Blending of red and white varietals to change the color of the wine. Not that commonly done except in making Rose Champagne (in the French region of Champagne, that is.)

Roses can be made of any red grape varietal and the most common are Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Grenache. They are usually drunk upon release and I have been drinking mostly Roses from 2008.

Here is a round-up of my "summer of pink" and a few recommendations:



Event #1: Spanish Rosados
One of my favorite Rose-drinking events from this year was the "Wines of Navarra, Spain" that happened in September at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Navarra is a region located in the Northeast of Spain and the city of Pamplona is located here. The major red grape varietals are Grenache, Tempranillo, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. As for whites they grow Chardonnay, Viura and have just started producing Sauvignon Blanc. They also make a divine white dessert wine from the Moscatel grape. I concentrated on the Roses (or Rosados as they are called in Spanish) and most of them are made with 100% Grenache with a few interesting exceptions.

Bodegas Chivite, one of the oldest wine-producers in all of Spain, presented two interesting Rosados. The first one I tasted was the 2007 Gran Feudo Rosado sobre lias (aged on lees.) Yes, this Rosado spent 6 months on lees which are yeasts found in wine barrells after the fermentation process. It was fermented in oak ande stainless steel tanks which is unusual for a Rosado. The other unusual aspect is that it is a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Merlot whereas most Navarran Rosados are 100% Grenache. The nose of this one had pear and guava on the nose and a creaminess on the palate due to the aging on lees. I thought it pleasant and a bit unusual.

The 2008 Gran Feudo Rosado de Garnacha which is one of the driest rosados I have ever had. I mean puckery! Although it was light-bodied it had a very long linger. Definitely bone-dry.

In general I would have to say that these Rosados from Navarra were all so easy to drink, smooth and well-balanced. One sip leads to next and before you know it the bottle is empty...I will say right here and now that the wines of Navarra are a real bargain for wine-drinkers in the U.S. and hardly any of the wines were over $20. In fact, Mr. Wilfred Wong was at this tasting so you just might be seeing some wines from Navarra at Bevmo.





Mr. Tony Rivera, a distributor of wines of Navarra. He represents Bodega de Sarria who make a large variety of wines. I liked the easy-drinking 2008 Senorio de Sarria Rosado made of 100% Grenache.



Event #2: "The Blind Tasting"
I also attended a blind rose tasting in September. Out of the eight roses the winner was a Rose of Malbec from Chile, beating roses from Provence, Carneros, South Africa, Columbia Valley, Washington and the Basque Country of Spain. The 2008 Viu Manent Rose of Malbec, Valle de Colchagua, Chile is one of the prettiest wines I have ever seen with a core of bright pink and a clear rim. The nose is beautiful and full of candied grapefruit, kumquat, nectarine and a bit of tangerine. Dry yet smooth with a lingering finish of slightly-bitter citrus zest. All of this for $5.99.








#3: A favorite California Rose


As I write this on a chilly October evening I am blissing out on a 2008 Husch "Vin Gris" from Anderson Valley, CA. But that is gray wine not pink you say. Actually Vin Gris is a Rose made specifically of Pinot Noir (and sometimes Gamay) that is very pale due to very light contact of the grape skins with the juice of the red grapes. In fact this Husch Vin Gris had only 24 hours of skin contact resulting in a wine the color of light amber with orangey/grayish tinges. The nose is very fruity with strawberry, watermelon, and guava notes. This is lightly-flavored with strawberry and the mouthfeel is smooth with a crisp finish. Dry but not bone dry. Love it with my fresh Chevre.

ROSE NEWS ALERT: I just learned that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This means that drinking pink this month can be a very significant act. Fleming-Jenkins Winery in Los Gatos, CA are selling their "Roses for Research" with partial proceeds going to Breast Cancer research. Check out their website at www.flemingjenkins.com for more information on their Victories Rose. And yes, Fleming as in Peggy Fleming, Olympic champion and breast cancer survivor.

A votre sante and keep drinking those Roses!
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