When a Young Man’s Fancy Turns to…

#252 – July 19, 2013

With the heat and humidity in NYC combining for quite a few hellish days, there really wasn’t any other proper topic besides the delights of the most refreshing and summery of wines – the goddess of goodness – Rosé.  Rosé is a tremendously underappreciated wine that goes well with an incredible array of food and comes with the added benefit of providing at least a measure of welcome respite from the uncomfortable heat wave of the past week.  There are other wines (like Sauvignon Blanc) that also provide crisp and refreshing relief (I have also heard there is something called Beer that folks enjoy as a thirst-quencher during the hot summer months), Rosé is and always will be the perennial summer wine (while, à la Eric Asimov, also very enjoyable during the year as well).

With a beautiful pink color, tons of fresh and tart berry fruits, a typically low(er) alcohol content and crisp refreshing acidity, it’s the perfect summer beverage best enjoyed out of doors and well chilled.  In my opinion, it also happens to be a wine insanely well suited to the Mediterranean climate and fare, making it another candidate for marketing good Israeli/Mediterranean wines.  Added bonuses include a typically low price and extreme versatility, making it a delicious match to most foods (although a number of recent options are relatively expensive at around $30 a bottle).  As you will see from the tasting notes below, Rosé can and is made from almost any red grape including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Carignan, Syrah, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

Rosé (French for pink) is used to describe the wines that fall into the color spectrum between red and white and are produced in a number of different ways.  One method of producing Rosé is maceration in which, following crush, the white juice of red grapes is allowed to have minimal contact with the grape skins (typically a few hours to a few days) before they are discarded (the longer the contact with the skins the darker in color and the more full-bodied and tannic the wine will be).  Given the limited contact with the skins, almost no tannins are imparted into the juice allowing the wine to be enjoyed well chilled (see my wine-serving temperature newsletter for the negative effects chilling has on the tannins in wine).

Another common method is known as the Saignée method that is a byproduct of making red wine in which the wine maker “bleeds the vats”.  If a wine maker desires to increase the intensity of a red wine, they may drain some of the pink juice prior to fermentation resulting in a higher concentration of red juice and a more intensely flavored wine.  The drained pink juice is fermented as a separate wine giving us Rosé.  Yet another, far less common method and one which usually results in inferior wines, is blending red and white wines.  This winemaking methodology is only utilized in Champagne, where Pinot Noir is added to a Champagne base to create the sexiest of all wines – Rosé Champagne.  Another, less common, method is via maceration, in which the Pinot Noir grapes are allowed very brief skin contact during fermentation (this is the methodology utilized for the Laurent Perrier Rosé Champagne previously reviewed).

In the United States, Rosé is also referred to as blush or White [X], with the [X] substituted with whichever grape the wine in question is produced.  An example would be White Zinfandel that, for some unfathomable reason, tends to be a pretty popular wine but remains a wine you should never ever drink.  If there were ever a wine that could compete with Bartenura’s Moscato d’Asti for my hatred – White Zinfandel would be at the top of the list (and several rungs above any other potential competitor).  Besides its general inferiority, most White Zinfandel wines have an unpleasant bubble gum flavor and almost every kosher version is a poster child for the reason plenty of uninformed folks still think all kosher wines are terrible.  According to Jeff Morgan, the postwar popularity of White Zinfandel in the United States is a deciding factor in the disdain many oenophiles have for Rosé.  Now, if only Jeff, a renowned expert on Rosé, would add a crisp refreshing Provence-style Rosé to his repertoire we’d be all set!  While not set in stone, blush wines are usually those on the slightly sweeter side as opposed to dry and crisp Rosé wines.

As noted above, one of the best things about Rosé is how delightfully refreshing the wine can be when served well-chilled, providing substantial assistance in assuaging the exhausting effect of the heat and humidity.  I try to serve Rosé at about 46-50ºF (8-10ºC) – slightly colder than its optimum drinking temperature, which allows the wine to warm up ever so slightly on the table or in your glass.  Too cold Rosé is a far better option than suffering through too-warm Rosé.  Coupled with its relatively low alcohol and extreme food-pairing versatility, Rosé is the quintessential picnic and/or brunch wine, matching beautifully with omelets, chicken salad, fried and lightly grilled fish and most of the other lighter fare which I find myself enjoying as the mercury starts skyrocketing.

While many prefer a little residual sugar in their Rosé, my personal preference is for exceedingly dry and crisp – once a tough wine to find but thankfully increasingly popular among Israeli winemakers.  For many years my favorite Rosé was Tabor’s, made from 100% Cabernet Franc.  Recent years have seen a proliferation of great Rosé wines, many of which are included in this newsletter.  While the vast majority still suffer from Israeli wines’ biggest Achilles Hell – price (a particularity thorny issue with Rosé wines which tend to be on the cheaper side), the number of dry Rosé wines that are very well made has skyrocketed.  Among my go-to wines are the versions from Castel, Flam and Vignobles David, with the Recanati being the popular-priced option I turn to most option.  Interestingly, certain bottles from a number 2012 Israeli Rosé wines have suffered from the appearance of tartaric crystals (which haven’t affected the bottles I have tasted), including Domaine Netofa and Kadesh Barnea.  Just check your bottles before you leave the store.

Despite Rosé wines unfortunately not being as common in US wine shops as I would like, the kosher consumer’s surging interest in quality wine has affected the world of Rosé as well, with new and better versions being introduced on a regular basis.  Some of the blame for Rosé’s lack of popularity may lie with the wineries, for which, in many cases, Rosé is either an after-thought or dumping ground for inferior red grapes.  While Rosé is inexpensive to make it also has a low profit margin resulting in wineries not investing any serious time or effort.  Granted, with the exception of a few Rosé Champagnes, there has never been a “great” Rosé wine and probably never will be, but that doesn’t ever excuse a lackluster effort.  In recent years, Israel has seen an increase in the world of Rosé, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Two last things to keep in mind when plunking down for a Rosé:  similar to white wines, Rosé wines are meant to be drunk as close to release as possible so always look for the most recent vintage year as they lose their bright, fresh flavors quickly and Rosé is not a wine to be taken seriously – they are meant to be fun – so chill, relax and enjoy!

Agur, Rosa, 2012:  As with the vast majority of Shuki’s wines, this Rosé has plenty of character and is unique among a batch of well-made and interesting Rosé wines available for the thirsty kosher consumer, both in Israel and abroad.  As is Shuki’s wont to avoid varietal wines, this year’s Rosa is a blend of 40% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with 20% Mourvèdre rounding out the wine (the Cabernet Sauvignon was obtained via the Saignée method with the remainder harvested specially for the Rosé, which was then fermented in natural oak and aged in stainless steel.  The wine opens with an aromatic nose (some of which may get lost if the wine is served well-chilled) of strawberry, cranberry, a burst of fresh lemon and a slightly bitter herbal streak that makes you notice.  A slightly viscous and oily medium-bodied palate continues the individuality of this crisply dry wine, with plenty of bracing acidity keeping the red summer fruit and citrus in check.  A serious and delightful Rosé wine.

Capcanes, Peraj Petita, Rosé, 2012:  After getting an advance tasting of this wine at KFWE back in February, the wine is now available in stores and only serves to add to Capcanes’ reputation as a quality producer of kosher wines.  Made by bleeding (Saignée method) some wine early on from the Peraj Petita, the wine is comprised of the same blend of Grenache, Carignan and Tempranillo.  A nice nose with plenty of strawberries, rosewater, red cherries and tangy cranberries leads into a medium bodied with more light red fruit, some white stone fruit and a layer of oriental spices that add a certain amount of charm to this refreshing wine.  Plenty of acidity keeps this well-crafted wine alive and refreshing all the way through the lingering finish.

Castel, Rosé, 2012:  From its first vintage in 2009, the Castel Rosé has set the standard for what an Israeli Rosé should be – crisp, refreshing, über-dry, nice acidity and some Israeli flair.  After taking a break in 2010, the Rose has thankfully become Castel’s “regular” fourth wine and a highly anticipated release each year.  This year’s wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec and has plenty of Rosé’s characteristic fruity aromas of red grapefruit, strawberries, crushed rose petals and that streak of minerality that reminds you of a true Provincial Rosé.  Plenty of warm fruit and good acidity on the light to medium bodied palate with a hint of green bitterness that keeps you coming back for more.  A terrific wine, and absent its relative high price, a wine I would be drinking daily all summer long.

Dalton, Rosé, 2012:  Along with the Recanati below, Dalton has been making a quality Rosé wine for years, long before most other wineries “discovered” its popularity (which has grown over the last few years).  A true crowd-pleaser, with higher levels of residual sugar than some of the other (and more expensive) Israeli versions, it remains a well-made and dependable Rosé and is happily even dryer than the 2011 vintage.  A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Shiraz, 16% Grenache and 15% Barbera, with each component having a few hours of skin contact and fermenting separately.  A subtlety aromatic nose, redolent of freshly picked strawberries, red grapefruit, rosewater, flinty minerals, all of which are evident on the medium bodied and somewhat sweet palate.  While the acidity keeps the sweetness in check and the wine very well made as Dalton’s other wines, this is a wine for those prefer a touch of sugar in their summer quenchers, while remaining modest and without the aromatic punch of other Rosé wines.

Domaine Netofa, Domaine, Rosé, 2012:  An easy drinking and aromatic blend of Syrah (60%) and Mourvèdre (40%) with plenty of Syrah characteristics dominating and 13.6% AbV.  A ripe and aromatic nose of bright red fruit, watermelon, strawberry, stony minerals, pleasing spices and crisp acidity which immediately transports you to a warm summer afternoon in Provence (the job of any good Rosé).  A hint of citrus and more minerals show themselves on a lingering finish.

Flam, Rosé, 2012:  As with prior vintages, the wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc from the Judean Hills (what’s not to love) which give this light to medium bodied wine some welcome bite, the nose is blessed with strawberry, melon, watermelon, citrus peel, lavender, some bell pepper and other floral notes with a streak of green running through.  A fresh and refreshing palate of more strawberries, white stone fruit and pink grapefruit with great acidity and a hint of salinity and minerals combine to make a terrific, all-around wine and a perfect accompaniment to summer (or any other season for that matter – like Champagne, Rosé should be drunk much more often).  The only obstacle to my enjoying this wine on a daily basis is it’s relatively high ~$30 price tag, which places it in the same company as the exceptional Castel Rosé (both qualitatively and cost-wise).

Galil Mountain, Rosé, 2012:  A hodgepodge blend of 79% Sangiovese and 7% each of Barbera, Grenache and Pinot Noir (the Sangiovese was harvested for the Rosé while the other three were obtained via the Saignée method) combine for his year’s version of Galil Mountain’s summer quaffer.  Plenty of strawberries, minerals, crushed Rosé petals and citrus on the nose, accompanied by some tart raspberries and warm spices on the aromatic nose.  A medium bodied palate has more red fruit, citrus and some flint.  While I would have liked a bit more acidity on this wine, it’s a lovely wine and it’s tough to argue with the price (or the low 11.5% AbV).

Gvaot, Gofna Reserve, Rosé, 2012:  As with nearly every other wine made by Shivi Drori, this blend of 98% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot is exceptional with the winery’s trademark impeccable winemaking evident from elegant start to lingering finish.  A nicely aromatic nose of strawberries, raspberries and red cherries are accompanied by nice minerality and floral notes.  Much of the same red summer fruit can be found on the light bodied palate.  As with most Gvaot wines, it’s slightly on the expensive side but you certainly get what you paid for [Only available in Israel].

Karmei Yosef-Bravdo, Rosé, 2012:  Given its structure and delightful dry palate, I envision I would have liked this wine even if it hadn’t been made from 100% Cabernet Franc (obtained via Saignée), which is a great added bonus for me personally.  As one would expect from Karmei Yosef, this wine is beautifully made, with great balance between the slightly subdued nose of light summer fruit, bracing acidity, citrus notes and that terrific slightly green notes that keep things interesting.  The nose has nice hints of melon and red grapefruit to go along with the characteristic strawberries, raspberries and rose hips and the light to medium bodied palate has some slate and minerals to go with the plush fruit and bracing acidity.  Another lovely Rosé in Israel’s growing portfolio [Only available in Israel].

Lueria, Rosé, 2012:  With Israel’s warm weather taking up the bulk of the year, it’s pretty surprising that it has taken this long for Rosé to really catch on.  In any event, I am quite happy to add another wine to my potential portfolio of Rosé wines.  A lovely and refreshing medium bodied wine with plenty of bright red fruit on the nose and palate, including cherries, strawberries, a bit of tart raspberries and plenty of floral notes, with rosewater dominating as well.  Crisp and refreshing with nice acidity keeps things lively and decently priced as well.  Despite a tad more sweetness than I prefer, this is a nice wine that is well worth trying.

Odem Mountain, Volcanic, Rosé, 2012:  A blend this year of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah, the wine has an aromatic nose of strawberries, limes, white peaches, minerals, blooming flowers and a hint of pleasing bitterness.  On the medium bodied and crisply refreshing palate, there is plenty fruit, accompanied by more citrus and floral note with good bracing acidity and a complexity that is rare among Israeli Rosé wines.

Recanati, Rosé, 2012:  A long-time favorite of wine, harking back to a time when there was very little quality Rosé on the market.  A blend of Barbera and Merlot, this light to medium bodied wine has a great nose of strawberry, peach, citrus and some tart cranberry.  The palate is redolent of more summer red fruit, plenty of acid which keeps things refreshing and delightful citrus with hints of mineral and some spice giving the wine a nice bit of bite.  A refreshing and unpretentious Rosé that give good bang for the buck and remains a YH Best Buy.

Saslove, Varod, Rosé, 2012:  The wineries first Rosé wine and a companion to their “Lavan” Chardonnay.  Openly marketed as a semi-sweet wine, as with the Dalton above, the wine has a touch of residual sugar that will be pleasing to many and a turn off for those preferring their Rosé wines crisply dry.  In my opinion the sweetness somewhat limits the food-pairing ability of this wine but doesn’t take away from its well-craftedness and great balance between the delightful summer fruit, slight mineral notes and bracing acidity.  A blend of 55% Shiraz, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Petit Verdot, the wine presents with a bouquet of warm strawberries, tart red grapefruit and other citrus notes, red cherries, tart raspberries and a hint of banana with red summer fruit, minerals and more citrus notes on the medium bodied palate, with good acidity tempering both the oodles of fruit and sweet notes and maintain the wines position as a legit summer quaffer [Only available in Israel].

Teperberg, Silver, Rosé, 2012:  With its somewhat recent meteoric rise in quality and consistency over the last few years, Teperberg has rapidly risen to become one of Israel’s best QPR wineries, challenging Dalton, Recanati and Galil Mountain in many categories.  Made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, with plenty of characteristic strawberries, cherries, cranberries, lime and floral notes on both the nose and medium bodied palate, the wine is crisp, refreshing and delicious, albeit with a little less acidity than I would have liked.  A tad over $10 in Israel with 12% AbV, this is another wine to be drinking all summer long and well into Israel’s mild fall season.

Vignobles David, le Mourre de L’Isle, Tavel, Rosé, 2012:  While I have listed the wines in alphabetical order, even if I hadn’t this would likely be last following the Hebrew saying “achron achron chaviv” (loosely – leaving the best for last).  A new addition to the hugely successful (and very affordable) Côtes du Rhône wines from the same producer, this wine is one of the only “real” French Rosé wines, and, at under $20, certainly the one with the highest QPR.  With a slightly subtle, yet proper nose of strawberries, red cherries, delicious citrus and some loamy dirt and minerals and a light to medium bodied palate with lots more red fruit, pungent earthy notes, plenty of mineral and a pleasing hint of bitterness running through it, this wine is well made, crisply refreshing with plenty of acidity keeping it lively and a hint of complexity to keep me intrigued glass after delicious glass.  Always happy to discover a new favorite!

Older Notes (#219 – June 26, 2012)

Castel, Rosé, 2011: Following on the great success of their 2009 Rosé, this year’s version, while different than the 2009 vintage [resulting from a different wine making process], is truly delicious and provides the Israeli wine scene with something it has been lacking – a crisply dry and refreshing Rosé with enough depth and complexity to make it more than a refreshing summer quaffer (although, price aside, it excels in that department as well). A blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 20% Malbec (slightly unripe fruit that was cold-fermented). A rich nose of red fruit including strawberries, raspberries and red grapefruit with much of the same on the slightly viscous palate where some pleasing minerality creeps in, coupled with judicious acidity that keeps the fruit in check and makes for great food pairing, all leading into a lingering and slightly bitter finish. Its only Achilles Heel is price (at $30 it’s a tad expensive for a Rosé), a common problem for Israeli wines.

Flam, Rosé, 2010: Made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes and coupled with the incredible pedigree of the winery, I was sold on this wine before I took my first delightful sip. A rich and ripe nose loaded with strawberry, tart raspberries, pleasing citrus notes, hints of minerals and blooming flowers. The medium bodied palate has much of the same with bright acidity, more lively fruit and minerals. Well made with great balance, this is a delightful wine that is great with food or on its own.

Dalton, Rosé, 2011: A light, easy-drinking and refreshing wine made from a blend of Barbera, Zinfandel with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon thrown in for good measure. Fermentation was stopped early to retain a bit of residual sugar that, while more than I personally prefer, makes this refreshing quaffer quite accessible to all, including newbie drinkers. More pleasurable on its own as a refreshing aperitif than with food, with great QPR and enough refreshing acidity to keep the fruit and residual sugar in check, this is a terrific summer pleaser. Bright strawberries, cherries, hint of rose petals and lemons on both the nose and palate. While most Rosé wines are not meant for sophistication, this wine is pure fun – an easy date!

Galil Mountain, Rosé, 2011: While the Yiron remains one of Israel’s best QPR wines and I love the Meron as well, in recent years some of the wineries lower-tiered options have declined a bit in quality and they are no longer the best Israeli option for well-made entry-level wines. That said, this Rosé is a bright and cheerful wine, made for easy and relaxed drinking. Concocted from a smorgasbord of 75% Sangiovese, 13 % Barbera, 10% Pinot Noir, and 2% Syrah, this is perfect for a picnic and very well priced. Plenty of strawberries, tart red berries and plenty of heathery citrus notes, the wine is almost as dry as I like it with plenty of acidity to keep it fresh on your palate, regardless of how high temperatures rise. A slightly bitter finish rounds out this wine and gives it some pleasing bite.

Laurent Perrier, Rosé Brut, n.v.: The only kosher Rosé Champagne made by a “real” Champagne House and a delicious treat (especially as it combines Rosé and Champagne – two of my favorite things). Less obligatory and more romantic (and expensive) than regular Champagne, Rosé Champagne has exploded in popularity over the last decade with more and more Champagne Houses trying their hands at producing this lucrative wine. This version is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes and, as with most Rosé wines, is pretty light on the palate. Loaded with typical yeast, toasted bread and green apple flavors, these accompanied by lush strawberries, cherries and hints of slightly astringent citrus. This is a fun (albeit expensive fun) wine and a great accompaniment to any summer festivities. A real treat!

Domaine Netofa, Rosé, Galilee, 2011: Pierre Miodownick continues the winery’s successes with this delightfully refreshing wine. An easy drinking blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre, with plenty of bright fruit and crisp acidity, combining to provide a perfect summer quaffer. A beautiful nose, redolent of stone fruit, strawberries, a hint of watermelon and nice minerals lead into a light to medium bodied palate with more fruit, citrus and mineral and nicely lingering finish with some pleasing bitterness.