Up until the last week or so, has anyone really been in the mood to talk (or drink) spring? Winter was dragged out, pummelling us into weary submission with its massive piles of snow, bracing winds and incredibly low temps.
Now the brown grass emerges, the potholes prevail, and I'm finally ready to talk (and drink) spring wines.
My first order of business in springtime -- at least in the context of wine columnist -- is to dust off my soapbox, wearily step onto it, and try to convince the Manitoba wine-imbibing public to drink rosé.
Based on feedback I get from readers as well as people selling wine -- and the overall dearth of options on store shelves -- I may not be having an impact.
But I'm stubborn, and since I'm tackling this seasonal topic weeks late -- on Easter weekend, no less -- I figured I'd stitch together a Franken-column, and advocate for serving rosé wines with your Easter dinner.
Some context: made almost exclusively from red grapes, rosés are typically made in the same method as white wines -- the grape skins are removed after they're allowed to impart some colour to the juice (which is then fermented in stainless steel tanks). As a result, they sometimes bring the slightest hint of tannin and a little more body than many white wines.
One of the most common main dishes with Easter dinner is ham, a dish beautifully served by rosé. Not going with a glaze? A dry rosé with some body will certainly do the trick -- look for something from Australia, Chile, or Argentina. Glazing your ham? Something with a touch of sweetness (yes, even a White Zinfandel) can do the trick.
Another popular main for Easter dinner is lamb. While grilled lamb does well with Shiraz, especially when cooked with a dijon/spicier-type rub, a dry rosé will work with all but the spiciest lamb dishes. And if you're hell-bent on making a really spicy lamb dish but want a spring wine, opt for white wines such as a Gewºrztraminer, an off-dry Riesling or an off-dry to medium-sweet Moscato/Muscat.
Not tucking into an Easter dinner? Fret not -- rosés go with a wide range of spring fare. Fresh salads, lighter cheeses, hors d'oeuvres, milder seafood dishes as well as salmon and sushi are all well-served by a dry rosé (just go easy on the wasabi when it comes to the latter).
Now, can somebody help me down off this soapbox?
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CHATEAU MAS NEUF 2011 RHÔNE PARADOX ROSÉ (Costieres de Nimes, France -- $13.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A blend of red Rh¥ne grapes -- Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache -- the Mas Neuf is pale pinkish-orange in colour. Bruised strawberry, cranberry and light herbal notes on the nose are fairly austere. It's light-bodied and dry, with strawberry and tart raspberry flavours as well as that light herbal note that's bolstered by light acidity. It lacks a touch of freshness that would be fixed by a newer vintage, but would be serviceable with lighter cheeses. 2 1/2
MISSION HILL 2012 FIVE VINEYARDS ROSÉ (Okanagan Valley, B.C. -- $15.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Mostly Merlot (with splashes of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon), this B.C. rose is light pink in colour, with aromas of raspberry juice, bruised cherry, plum and rhubarb. Light-plus bodied and with a hint of sweetness, the strawberry-rhubarb component plays nicely on the palate, with some cherry and lips-smacking raspberry in there as well. Fresh and fruity -- try with fresh salads or lighter poultry dishes. 3 stars
MARQUES DOS VALES 2012 PRIMEIRA SELECCAO ROSÉ (Algarve, Portugal -- around $17, private wine stores)
This wine is made from 100 per cent Aragones grapes -- otherwise known as Tinta Roriz in Portugal, but better-known as Tempranillo. Bright deep pink in colour, the ripe strawberry and raspberry aromas bring a bit of a sweaty, mineral note on the nose. Dry and light-plus bodied, this rosé has some decent viscosity that works well with the fresh strawberry and cherry flavours, and is counterbalanced by light tannin and a splash of acidity. Try with salmon, lighter seafood dishes or hors d'oeuvres. I picked this up at Fenton's Wine Merchants. 3 1/2
NOVA NV TICKLED PINK ROSÉ (Australia -- $12.71, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Described on the label as a "light, spritzy red," the former two are certainly true, although I'd hesitate to call this a proper red. Pale pinkish-orange in colour, the grapes in the Nova are a bit of a mystery. There's some orange peel and strawberry candy on the nose, as well as tangerine and light spice. It's light-bodied, certainly spritzy, and medium-sweet, with tangerine, strawberry jam and light-spice notes on the palate. A lower-alcohol wine that has the sweetness to tangle with an Easter ham, it's also quite drinkable on its own or with salads. 3 stars