Michael Alberty Takes a Look at Rosé Wines
A few weeks ago I was pouring at a tasting where the lineup included a few rosés. As I tried to pour the first pink wine into one gentleman’s glass he looked at me with that look of disappointment that told me we were about to have a conversation about rosé. It was the face you would see if you invited that favorite flannel maven in your life to a Pearl Jam show, only to show up and find out it was Eddie Vedder and his ukulele. The gentleman politely told me he really wasn’t in the habit of drinking rosé before Memorial Day. I wanted to grab him by the lapels and say “who are you, Kathleen Turner in Serial Mom?” It’s rosé, not white shoes and Labor Day! Who has rules about rosé anyway? It turns out I do.
My first rule is I like to have something dry and pink in a bottle somewhere in my vicinity year round. I love the food friendly nature of rosé and in the dead of winter it will always conjure up images of backyards and beaches. Beyond that, I live my life by what I call the McInerney Rosé Rules. And trust me, the only day-to-day guidance from author and wine columnist Jay McInerney I would ever abide by involves rosé.
Years ago, in one of Jay’s wine columns for the old House & Garden Magazine, he proposed the following guidelines when dealing with rosés: “A good rosé should be drier than Kool-Aid and sweeter than Amstel Light. It should be enlivened by a thin wire of acidity, to zap the taste buds, and it should have a middle core of fruit that is just pronounced enough to suggest the grape varietal (or varietals) from which it was made.” I believe there is a pink wine out there to satisfy everyone and armed with these principles, my life’s work is to convert all doubters, one palate at a time. These two wines make for a good start.
2010 Chateau St. Martin de la Garrigue “Tradition” (approximately 13.00-16.00)
This rosé is for all the hedonists out there. It is made with Cinsault and Grenache grapes from southern France’s Languedoc region and that terroir is the perfect point of origin for this bottle. This wine is beach blankets, trashy paperbacks and the pursuit of the George Hamilton tan. If you are looking for a pink wine with a little flesh and a lot of flash, the Tradition will end your search!
The color of the Tradition is a pink somewhere between cotton candy and ripe watermelon. It’s definitely a sign of coming attractions. This wine is a carnival ride of fruit aromas, running the range from tart red cherries and tangy wild strawberries to a kind of orange and lemon peel citrus. If you couldn’t get enough Jolly Ranchers as a kid, you are going to flip for the aromatics of the Tradition. Swirling around all that fruit is a nice, clean saline note that will make you long for a batch of fresh oysters to go with the wine.
But as fun as the scents are, the real friskiness begins with the first sip. There is a rich, creaminess to the palate of this wine that will make you think more gelato than wine. There are the cherry and strawberry flavors you noticed when smelling the wine, but there is something else lurking here. At first I thought I was tasting a bit of white chocolate, but there was a flavor I couldn’t quite nail down. Then my wife looked at me and said “starfruit.” Dang if she wasn’t right. There was a bit of not-quite-ripe starfruit in there to strike a balance of sorts with all that creamy red fruit. Also providing a little sass to the glass is the spiciness provided by the Cinsault grapes. It’s just enough spice to keep things interesting while you do your own thought experiments trying to figure out all the fruit flavors in this wine.
The Chateau St. Martin de la Garrigue “Tradition” clocks in at 12.5% alcohol and it’s just flat out fun to drink. It’s not a wine to think too seriously about (in fact, one of Jay McInerney’s corollaries to his rosé rules was that anybody discussing rosé in public in a serious fashion should be thrown in the nearest pool) and I look at it as the Owen Wilson of the pink wine world. The Tradition is part of the Kermit Lynch portfolio and is distributed in Portland by D’Vine Wine Distribution (1.800.650.WINE )
2010 Matello Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir (approximately 13.00-16.00)
If the Tradition is Owen Wilson, the Matello is Linus Pauling. Marcus Goodfellow’s Matello Rosé of Pinot Noir is a newcomer to the Willamette Valley pink sweepstakes but in a few short years, it has become one of the best examples around. It’s a wine that will make you think way more than you should have to with a rosé. I also like the fact that this wine smells like Pinot Noir, tastes like Pinot Noir and manages to capture the elegance of the grape despite the pink window dressing.
The nose is downright subtle compared to the Chateau St. Martin Tradition. There are fleeting aromas of dried rose petals, bright red cherries, lemon zest and a tart fruit note that reminded me of quince. Just smelling this wine is enough to make even the most jaded olfactory system go into hyperdrive. After looking at the wine’s beautiful, washed out pink color in the bottle, these are exactly the kind of elegant aromas I was anticipating.
I do not, however, expect the rather exotic flavors I found in my first several sips. Sure, there were some nice, crisp cherry-berry fruit flavors here. Those usual suspects were surprisingly dominated by striking flavors like white grapefruit, tart watermelon rind and a note of something that I can only describe as fresh-brewed white tea. Marcus says he likes to make his rosé like a white wine and after I had consumed a glass or two I knew exactly what he was talking about. I was surprised to see the 13.8% alcohol on the label because this is such a lithe and graceful wine. Given the Tradition is doing the Shag on a pool table and the Matello is a waltz in a ballroom, I would have expected their alcohol percentages to be reversed. The Matello Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir is self-distributed in Portland and they may be reached at 503.939.1308.
The sun is finally out in Portland (at least while I’m typing this) and just about every bottle shop, grocery store, and restaurant is filled to the brim with new releases of rosé wines from around the world. There are pink wines that run the gamut from big and loud to petite and reserved. There are pink wines for every palate and price point and I’m convinced there is the perfect pink wine out there for you. So get out there and drink pink, you have nothing to lose but your chilled white wine chains!