Summer Wine Review Part 3: An Excellent Italian Rosé
Finding a good rosé for summer drinking is not as easy as it sounds. The Provençal favorites typically push $15 and more these days, and to be honest, and much though I love the region, I sometimes find them overwhelming, especially without food; red grapes like Grenache and Mourvédre can pack a fair old punch after coming to ripeness in the long hot southern French summers. Of course, you can make rosé from any red grape, more or less anywhere in the world, which is why most wine stores offer a frequently dizzying array that include Garnacha from Spain, Cabernet Franc from the Loire (or Long Island), Merlot from Bordeaux and surrounding territories, Pinot Noir from California and Malbec from Argentina, to name but a few.
Indeed, why stop there? When I was last down in New York City we stopped in at the exclusively Italian Bar Veloce, which offered a $9 glass of “Rosato,” by the Lechtaler family of Trentino, comprised exclusively from the Lagrein grape. This is a grape, native to the Trentino-Alto Adige regions in the far north of Italy, that I’ve enjoyed in its red format on the couple of occasions I’ve experienced it – but as a rosé/rosato it appeared to truly excel, proving succulent and settled, noticeably dark in color, full of flavor and yet not demanding of food accompaniment. The next day, at Heights Chateau on Atlantic Street in Brooklyn, I saw a Lagrein Rosé for just $12 – an astonishingly good price considering that the producer, Alois Lageder from Alto Adige is consistently one of northern Italy’s finest. (Their Pinot Grigio puts most Italian jug wine of that name to shame. Their Müller-Thurgau will give you renewed faith in this often innocuous grape. And their own vineyards are all biodynamically farmed.)
Opened back in the Catskills, this Alois Lageder Sudtirol-Alto Adige Lagrein Rosé 2008 proved an absolute delight. More of a bright red than the typical salmon pink of a rosé, there was some pronounced dark cherry on the palate, some raspberry and strawberry too, and then there was plenty by way of dried herbs and floral texture too. But what I found most important was the grip and muscle, that all important sense of body, in what was still, ultimately, a refreshing and light summer wine. It went absolutely perfectly with some grilled green vegetables at sunset. I imagine it would go pretty well with most things. I’m tempted to say that at $12 a bottle, about the one thing it won’t do is burn a hole in your pocket – but a quick online search reveals that Heights Chateau is (was?) selling it several bucks cheaper than anyone else I can find on the east coast. Oh well. So is it an equally good wine at $15-$17? Yes, it is. Treat yourself while you still have the weather to do so.