Every year around this time, I mull over whether to write once again about dry rosés. It’s tough to do without sounding like a broken record — they’re an underappreciated, food-friendly category of wines that are perfect for the patio and that both red and white wine drinkers tend to enjoy once they taste them.
The trick is getting almost anyone new to taste them in the first place. There seem to be fewer on shelves every year; in 2012, sales in the rosé/blush category made up a paltry three per cent of total wine sales at Manitoba Liquor Marts, and that would include off-dry/medium-sweet mass-produced white Zinfandel like Gallo and Sutter Home. Take a look at your favourite shop and see how many pink wines they stock aside from the California White Zinfandels — odds are it's not many.
Here's a dry rosé refresher. First off, they don't include white Zinfandel; rather, they're wines that don't retain the residual sugar typical of white Zins. Commonly made from red grapes, the juice from these grapes is drained away from the skins after a very short period of contact (about 24 hours or less -- just enough to provide for colour and maybe a touch of tannin) before being fermented dry much in the same way a producer would make white wine.
Rosés are going through a bit of an identity crisis as of late. I see this as being due to the meteoric rise of Moscato and other sweeter wines. As a category, the typically sweet Muscat (a.k.a. Moscato) had the single largest growth dollar-wise in Manitoba Liquor Marts out of red or white wine grapes. It's the new Pinot Grigio.
Many producers of pink wine seem to be jumping on Moscato's sweeter coattails and the popularity of sweeter California red blends; as a result, many rosés that were once dry are creeping up in sugar levels. (Hint: as a rule, anything with 11.5 per cent alcohol or less is probably at least off-dry and perhaps even medium-sweet.)
At this point it feels like anyone that would consider trying dry rosé has already done so. Are there any new converts to be made out there? Do I espouse this type of wine again next spring? We'll see. In the meantime, I'll just keep rooting around town for the best of these often-overlooked gems for my own enjoyment.
JACOB'S CREEK 2012 COOL HARVEST SHIRAZ ROSÉ (South Australia — $13.59, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Pale strawberry in colour, the 11.1 per cent alcohol (slightly lower than most dry wines) is a tip-off this pink wine has a touch of sweetness. Perfume, strawberry candy, maraschino cherry and light orange aromas certainly hint at sweet fruit. Sure enough, it's off-dry on the light-bodied palate, with cherry/strawberry candy flavours as well as mandarin orange and peach juice flavours in there as well. It's a simple, slightly sweet pink wine that trends more toward the White Zinfandel style than it does a dry rosé. 85/100
MISSION HILL 2011 FIVE VINEYARDS ROSÉ (Okanagan Valley, BC — $15.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Five Vineyards Rosé shows lovely plum, raspberry, watermelon and orange peel notes on the nose. It just barely hints of sweetness on the light-plus bodied palate, with fresh strawberry, tart raspberry and watermelon notes, a splash of acidity and even a hint of tannin from the skins of the red grapes from which it was made. This would be the dry rosé of this bunch that could convert white wine drinkers. 87/100
MELIPAL 2011 MALBEC ROSÉ (Mendoza, Argentina — around $14, private wine stores)
The darkest of the three in colour, the Melipal is fairly complex on the nose, with cherry skin, blackberry, peach and light mineral aromas showing well. It's a medium-bodied, dry rosé, with some nice viscosity on the mouthfeel and ripe, juicy blackberry and strawberry flavours that don't become sweet and/or cloying. The hint of white pepper on the medium finish might come from the skins of the dark, dense Malbec grapes here as well. The Melipal is probably the best-positioned pink wine tasted this week that could convert red wine drinkers. 89/100
BROTTE 2011 LES EGLANTIERS ROSÉ (Tavel, France -- $19.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
The only wine of the four not bottled under screwcap, the Brotte is a 90-10 blend of Grenache Noir and Syrah. Near as dark in colour as the Melipal, there's a notable perfume/floral note to the nose that makes way for watermelon rind, cherry skin, raspberry and chalky aromas. The driest wine of the bunch, the up-front cherry flavours on this medium-bodied ros© make way for watermelon, tart raspberry and chalky notes on the palate as well as hints of tannin that add to the structure here. It's an elegant but fairly serious ros©. 88/100
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