Think Pink! Dry Rosé of the Mediterranean recap.
Summertime is fast approaching and warmer weather is finally here. While rosé is great all year round, it definitely gains in popularity in the spring and summer when it seems that most everyone is ready to “think pink”. That is what we asked our class to do in our tasting of Dry Rosé from the Mediterranean. The weather was perfect: a clear, warm night with a light breeze.
As always, this session in our Global Vineyard Passport Series was led by Bob Barrett, certified expert of wine. The class was sold out and we had a great group on hand to taste Bob’s 5 selections.
The drinking of rosé brings up some fairly universal questions: How is it made? Where does the color come from? Is it a blend of white and red grapes?
The basic answer is that rosé typically comes from red-grapes, from whose skins color and tannin are derived. “Blending” is also done, but it is less common and is not a legal method in all countries.
One method of vinification is through the act of “maceration”, or contact between the skins and juice of crushed grapes. When grape juice is in contact with the skins, their chemicals and flavor compounds get separated from the skin solid and incorporated into the juice; this is referred to as “maceration”. The time of contact with those skins determines the resulting color and structure of the wine. Once the desired amount of color and tannin are incorporated, the juice is separated from the skins. “Saignee” is the method whereby juice is drained off the mixture, leaving the remainder to macerate further. Long maceration times can result in relatively dark and tannic rosé wines.
An alternative method is “direct press”. In this case, the grapes are pressed to extract the juice, which then does not undergo maceration. This method can result in very, very, pale pink wines.
Our 5 wines all underwent either limited skin-contact or direct press vinification. All of the wines come from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and are influenced by “Mediterranean” climates; warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. They differ in the grape varietals used, and in the length of contact with the skins. Those differences resulted in wines of very different color, structure, and taste.
Massaya Rosé 2012, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
40% Cinsault, 30% Syrah; 30% Cabernet, grown above 3,000 ft in Tanaïl, Bekaa Valley. Grapes were de-stemmed and crushed, then macerated for a few hours. It was then bled from the must and transferred to concrete.
This wine has a very pale color – as expected from such a short maceration time. It has mineral and light strawberry on the nose. The mouth featured a light red fruit, but also a bit of currant and spice. Nice acid, great mineral content, relatively light-bodied. Just for fun, here is an excerpt of wine notes from the 2011 vintage we tasted in last year’s rose class: “Tart raspberry, some subtle spice and minerals round out the flavors.”
A lot of people enjoyed in this wine, liking its softness and lightness. Tasting this wine prompted our taster, Alex, to plan a party in which everyone wears white and drinks rose. Dave, however, found it a bit flat.
Gai’a 14-18h Rosé 2012, Nemea, Greece
100% Agiorgitiko (AKA St. George) grapes grown at an altitude just under 3000 ft in Nemea in the Peloponnese. Grapes are crushed and cold macerated for 14 to 18 hours – thus the name.
This wine was macerated longer than the Massaya and, consequently, had a darker, richer color and more tannins. Notes of cherry and rose petals are on the nose, and it has some herbaceous and savory notes, as well. The moderate to slightly high acidity was read as “sparkle” to some.
This “sparkle” proved to be a characteristic that was liked by about half the class, and disliked by the other half.
Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato 2012, Sardinia, Italy
Blend of traditional Sardinian varietals Cannonau, Monica, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo grown at an altitude of ca. 3,000 ft. in soils with significant limestone near Cagliari. After harvesting and maceration for 3-4 hours, the juice is bled from the must and cold-fermented in stainless steel tanks.
Despite the short maceration, this wine has a darker color and strong tannin. It has a “sweet” nose to some, and a “sour” nose to others. I found it sweet. Stormy likened the nose to the smell of Luden’s cough drops – though that faded away. The wine has a lot of mineral and red fruits. It is pretty complex and evolving. People’s descriptions varied widely, but I found myself agreeing with everyone. The tannic structure was a detraction for about half the tasters, a boon for the other half.
Viña Bujanda Rosado 2012, Rioja, Spain
100% Tempranillo from vines between 20 – 60 years old in the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa of the Rioja D.O. Both Atlantic and Mediterranean climates influenced grape production in clay/calcareous soils. Maceration and fermentation were completed over 13 days in stainless steel tanks.
This wine has a pretty, fuschia/berry color with light tannins. It has moderate mineral and acid, and a smooth finish. In addition to a mouth full of cherry and red berries, a lot of people tasted some candy/candied notes. I thought it smelled of cherry lifesavers, Rahm felt a dusty cocoa, and Holly detected a caramel quality. Harris and Iris really liked this one.
Domaine du Gros ‘Noré Rosé 2011, Bandol, France
40% Mourvèdre, 40% Cinsault and 20% Grenache harvested at full maturity from clay and limestone soils on hillsides around La Cadière d’Azur. After harvesting, the grapes were directly pressed and put into the fermentation tank.
The wine has a very, very pale pink color. The wine has ample acid and a long, smooth finish. The nose is funky! It has earth, dung, and straw, as well as red berry and some vegetal notes. Nice mineral.
Bandol Rosé is well known for its high-quality and excellence and, indeed, it was the overwhelming favorite of the evening. It also costs 2-3 times more than any of the other wines we tasted! It was not everyone’s favorite, as Harris preferred the Viña Bujanda. And, for the better value, Milton named Massaya’s excellent product his favorite.
Other than the Bandol, there was no single bottle that was wholly liked or disliked by our group. In general, those who enjoyed the Massaya also liked the Viña Bujanda; both were a bit softer, with rounder tannins. By contrast, those who liked the Gai’a also enjoyed the Argiolas; both had sharper tannins.
Maybe you, like Bob, will now be asking yourself how for long had the grapes in that rosé been macerated…?
Join us for next tasting on June 25th: Bordeaux