San Antonio is ripe for rosés. At least that was the conclusion after Omniboire’s examination of these visually arresting and (OK, now I’m in trouble) gustatorially (see: I’m really stretching it) winning wines.
“We should be drinking rosés `several` months out of the year in San Antonio,” opined Harold Wood, artist and wine connoisseur who had appeared at the tasting to act as a kind of cheerleader for one of his favorite wines. (As is his habit, Harold also brought a few “benchmark” rosés from his cellar. We declared them HC, or hors de concours, a French term I love to bandy about, meaning outside the competition; though we loved them, it seemed unfair to pit off-the-shelf wines with out-of-the-cellar stars.)
Harold was also ready with some observations on rosé, such as “consider it an elegant aperitif that juices the palate; don’t necessarily think about it as `something` with food.”
Omniboire agrees with the juicy part, as usual, but also finds rosés extremely compatible with a range of foods, from salade niçoise to poached salmon and even some barbecue. (The fruit works with the sauce, the acid cuts across the fat.) For our tasting, held at the home of Keith Kuhn, a chef manqué who happens to own Serendipity wine distributors, Keith had prepared several wine-friendly appetizers, including savory veal meat balls, champignons a la grecque, red-pepper purées, select cheeses and more; food was introduced after the blind tasting — which is when things really get interesting anyway. (Keith also contributed several of the wines but didn’t serve on the panel.) Tasting panelists, in addition to your faithful scribe, were Chris Broughley, fallen-away wine rep who is now a process server; Marc Smith, snappy new sommelier at the Argyle; and Jerry Zellers, owner of the Wine Styles franchise at Stone Oak and Sonterra Boulevard.
We tackled wines from all over the globe, but not all wines tasted made it into the final. An Oregon pinot rosé failed to make the grade, and we didn’t do any of South Africa’s often praiseworthy pinks. Harold’s non-competition 2007 Rosé d’Une Nuit Domaine du Deffends provided a classy interlude in the tasting. Classically coppery in tone, and beautifully dry with hints of cherry pit, it was a wine for which “you have to go underneath to find the fruit,” claimed Harold. This implies contemplative sitting and sipping — preferably next to a pool somewhere near Aix or Avignon. But the wine’s qualities came through even in San Antonio.
The winning contestants begin with a wine from one of France’s classic rosé regions, include entries from Italy and Chile, and conclude with a 2006 rosé that some panelists thought had aged beyond its prime, but others, Omniboire included, still found charming.
“I got turned on to rosé — and drinking in general — by Hemingway,” admitted Keith at that point. A little maturity should accordingly be considered appropriate. On occasion.
The 2007 Mas de la Dame Rosé du Mas, Les Baux de Provence, is a declared “biologique” wine — the highest level of organic production. Marc detected watermelon in this one, along with stone fruit; Chris found it “somewhat earthy”; and Jerry suggested “good acidity and a pleasant finish.” Omniboire says strawberry, not uncommon with rosés. The wine, crafted from grenache, syrah, and cinsault, is made on an estate that translates as “farm of the women.”
The second-place wine was a real surprise — at least to this observer. It received raves on its release, but I readily admit to failing to think of Chile as a New World Provence. Maybe I don’t have to. Yet “big, ripe stone fruit — one of the best of the bunch” was the assessment of Marc; “deep watermelon” (again), claimed Chris; “fresh strawberry,” thought Jerry. Confirming first impressions later at home, Omniboire once again found “big, serious flavor.” The cabernet-sauvignon base accounts for some of the punch of this extracted-looking pink powerhouse — totally the opposite of the coppery, elegant Mas de la Dame, yet almost equally likeable.
Spain has emerged as a plucky competitor to Southern France for rosé laurels, and the 2007 Espelt, Viticultors de l’Emporadá Coralí showed well despite Marc’s comment that it was “the greenest of them all.” (Omniboire translated that into ruby grapefruit, admitting that grapefruit peel might have been equally appropriate.) Jerry found a good balance of fruit and acid, and Chris even detected “some lilac,” along with juiciness. This 100-percent garnacha (grenache) wine comes from a region in northeastern Spain that blends influences both from the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean — to good effect, apparently.
The 2006 Midi Rosé Vin de Pays de l’Aude (near Narbonne) is created from 100-percent syrah, a grape that often offers the white-pepper whiffs that Marc also detected here. Chris, however, found it “bitter and monolithic — yet drinkable and in need of food.” Jerry found the fruit suppressed, and Omniboire dared imagine assertive raspberry on the nose, maybe inspired by the deep, coppery-pink color.
Even more vibrant in color is the 2006 Rosé Shocking Grand Vin de Bordeaux Montesquieu, and the color comes from a blend that is primarily cabernet franc, a key component in red Bordeaux. “Rhubarb,” said Chris, and he wasn’t alone here or with several of the other wines. (For South Texans who haven’t a clue about rhubarb, think tart, very tart—which is why strawberry is often paired with the stalk in pies and compotes.) Marc got citrus—maybe even a little bit of the pithy part beneath the peel.
Chris detected a little alcoholic heat along with nectarine in the 2006 Chateau Goudichaud Bordeaux Rosé, a very extracted-looking wine. Jerry found “heat,” too; and Marc prized out black cherry and “perfect extraction.” (None other than the winemaker says to wait for the 2007, however; it is just about to hit shelves.)
The label of the 2007 Alezio Mjère Rosato from Michele Calo & Figli is relentlessly (and fussily) Italian, but Omniboire’s limited language skills lead us to believe that they imagine we can lay down this wine for a while — not a usual rosé attribute. Chris found this one a little bitter, but “built like a brick”. Omniboire agrees with the bitter quality — maybe making the wine a better aperitif, to put a good spin on it. Marc says, “a pretty rosé with good body.”
Concocted from up to eight grapes, including the traditional grenache, cinsault, and mourvedre — plus some whites, the 2006 Canto Perdrix Tavel was “a little cooked — like cherries jubilee,” said Marc. Floral and candied, thought Chris. Omniboire also found cherry — wild cherry, even — and was more charitable about the wine’s ageing-courtesan qualities. •
Exceptional, snap it up
Good, but consider price
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