Wine Time: Rosé Round-up (and more)
CASTELLO DI AMA TOSCANA ROSÉ 2008
My thanks to Andy Shernoff at Le Du’s Wines in Manhattan for recommending this all Sangiovese rosé, right at the point I was giving up on them for the year. A vibrant salmon pink, it offered up a bright cherry nose, accompanied by what I might have considered a Provencal-style herbal smell of but for the fact that it hails from a whole country away. Maybe those classic European holiday destinations all have a similarly summery aroma in their roses? Very soft and enticing up front, with juicy acidity and a well-rounded body, it had lovely orange rind thing going on in the middle of the palate, with hints of nuts, and a light but long finish. Priced around $15, mildly high for a rosé, but in this case absolutely worth the extra couple of bucks for fullness of flavor and ease of drinking.
JACOB’S CREEK SPARKLING ROSE, NV, AUSTRALIA
The power of corporate wine-making allows Jacob’s Creek to make this méthode champenoise from an 80-20 blend of Australian chardonnay and pinot noir, ship it across the world, sell it for barely $10 and still offer something that, while notably short on finesse, is the very definition of a wine bargain. With copious strawberry/raspberry notes (as opposed to the apple or cherry you might expect from the relevant grapes), this was a little headier than its 11% alcohol might suggest, but at a time where champagnes are looking (once more) like luxury items out of mere mortals’ price range, it’s impossible to argue with the price point.
ALAIN RENARDAT-FACHE, BUGEY CERDON ROSÉ DEMI-SEC
…Then again, if it’s character you’re looking for, and you’re willing to spend just a few dollars more, you’d be well advised to hunt down this “Méthode Ancestrale” sparkling wine from the Bugey area of eastern France, alongside the Alps. A bottle showed up at the after-party for our recent Opera in the (Phoenicia) Park community concert and I jumped right on it. Produced from a minimum of 50% Gamay and the little-known, early-budding, pale-skinned Poulsard, the wine is fermented in chilled vats, when the alcohol is only 5-6%. It is then bottled, along with its active yeast and unfermented sugars, which leads to “spontaneous fermentation” (a.k.a the “méthode ancestrale”) in the bottle. (Méthode champenoise, by comparison, completes its initial fermentation before it is bottled, and then goes through a secondary fermentation while in the bottle.) By this process, the wine gains not only another couple of degrees alcohol, but also its bubbles. But the fermentation never fully completes, which is why it is demi-sec (i.e. semi-sweet). The end result, in this case, was a wine so fizzy you’d have marked it as a soft drink, a dark pink beyond the scope of most rosés, with aromas of sweet candy apples and fruit cakes, and a rustically sweet raspberry palate that, while unrefined by the standard of most sparkling wines, absolutely oozed authenticity. It was also ludicrously (and deceptively) low in alcohol, a mere 7.5%, partly due to the fact that it does not have additional sugar added as per most other méthodes. I thought it a tragedy that all the other guests in the park chose Barefoot’s anonymous fake American champagne over this example of ancestrale French wine-making – but then, as you may have surmised, it meant all the more for me.
MACARI SETTE, LONG ISLAND, NORTH FORK, NV
I never got round to writing up the Long Island reds I sampled at the industry tasting in Manhattan back on my birthday: sorry dudes, but I was more into the whites that day anyway. I was glad to get my teeth back around this one, anyway. A non-vintage blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, the “Sette” again reveals Macari’s excellence. Surprisingly dark, almost black in fact, it has a very very dark berry nose, plenty chocolate in there amongst the berries, and yet a perfectly soft and friendly palate. Drinking this on quite a hot night, I found myself tasting more of the Cab Franc peppery vegetal tobacco elements when the wine warmed up; when I cooled it back down again, I tasted more of the friendly plumminess of the Merlot. This is the kind of unpretentious blend that New York can excel in, from Long Island up to the Finger Lakes – and in which Macari clearly does so, already. Worth every penny of its $16.
VINA ROBLES WHITE 4, 2008, PASO ROBLES, CALIFORNIA
This classically Californian – as in, absurdly idiosyncratic – blend of white grapes had my name all over it. Why would I NOT try a mix of Verdelho (a Portugese grapes increasing found in Australia) and Italy’s Vermentino, mixed in with France’s classics Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, all of them raised in one of my favorite American appellations – especially for a friendly price like $14? What surprised me about this wine was the extent to which the Viognier – which accounted for all of 11% of the wine – appeared to dominate in aroma, taste and flavor. I say “appeared” as I might have been experiencing the Verdelho, which I have limited experience of, doing its thing. According to Oz Clarke’s Encyclopaedia of Grapes, Australian Verdelho has “intense flavours of lime cordial and honeysuckle, tending to oiliness at the the riper end.” Certainly, I caught lemon-and-lime citrus notes in the aroma, and bucket loads of acidity; after that, however, it was all apricots and peaches, perfume and cream. An attractive and enticing wine, not as overly powering as some Californian whites can be, though ultimately, not as unique as I hoped.
J. M. BOILLOT, 1er CRU “Mei Cadot” RULLY, BURGUNDY, FRANCE, 2005
And just in case you think I’m no longer having any “hallelujah” moments, let it be known that this white Burgundy from Rully in the Côte Challonaise, made (from pure Chardonnay of course) in a particular stellar year, served to remind how much more profound an experience a great white wine offers for the palate than an average wine. Indeed, when you taste something like this, you stop, pause, look at the bottle, note it down, and wonder whether you dare look up its price when you get home. Jean-Marc Boillot, who also produces wine from Pommard and Volnay, began working for his father, Henri, went to the esteemed Olivier Leflaive for several years, and set up on his in the late 1980s; his credentials are evident. And while Rully is not one of the more esteemed areas of Burgundy, in a solid year like 2005 that means it’s only that much more likely to offer great value; this wine, from the 1er Cru Mei Cadot vineyard, was full of ripe apple and melon flavors, lively acidity, and a ripe, rich, mouth-filling succulence that was all about fruit and texture, not oak. The finish went on for ages; it was a simply gorgeous experience. The British can find this Rully for about £16 a bottle, the Americans for about $30, and while that might be beyond one’s everyday table wine range, it’s infinitely preferable to over-oaked California Chardonnays in a similar price bracket. Or put it this way: here’s your opportunity to fall in love with Chardonnay all over again.