When rosé gets serious
When I think about pink wines, if I think about them at all, it's generally with a somewhat dismissive attitude: Casual stuff, lightweight and lacking gravitas, best suited for casual quaffing on summer days when it's too steamy to think about anything red. And that's talking about real dry rosé in the European style, not your sweetish "blush" wines like White Zinfandel.
In contrast with rosé Champagne, which is made by blending red and white wine, most rosés (and blush wines, too) are made by a process called blanc de noirs ("white from blacks"), in which red grapes are pressed for their juice, then the grape skins (which impart the color) are removed before they've had time to "bleed" more than a pale-pink tinge into the wine.
In my cynical opinion, prematurely removing the grape skins doesn't just dilute the wine's color but, all too often, the aroma and flavor as well. Bluntly put, why waste the best part?
But every now and then, a rosé wine comes along that disproves the rule by exception, a pink wine so full and flavorful and downright enjoyable that it stands not just head and shoulders but full-torso above the competition.
So it is with today's wine from the Côtes du Ventoux, a hilly Provence region just east of the Southern Rhône. Lying between the craggy Dentilles de Montmirail range (which marks the upper edge of the Côtes du Rhône) and the southern flanks of Mont Ventoux, its productive vineyards are protected from the icy mistral winds that blast down the Rhone Valley.
Still, Côtes du Ventoux is generally lightly regarded, stereotyped as a region for simple, "honest" table wines that rarely excite collectors or points-chasers. But the Ventoux vine growers Nanou Barthelemy and Sebastien Vincenti have been attracting a lot of attention with their powerful, Syrah-based red wines from Domaine de Fondreche. And now their 2003 rosé, labeled "Instant," grabs my attention in a pink wine so full and powerful that it requires no summer weather for its enjoyment. It lit up a blustery January night with a rosy hint of June sunshine.
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Domaine de Fondrèche 2003 Côtes du Ventoux "Instant" rosé ($9.99)
This wine's pretty, transparently pale rose-petal-pink color belies its full aromas and flavors. Ripe and fresh strawberry aromas waft from the glass, accented by an elusive, characteristic whiff of herbes de Provence. Crisp and bright on the palate, fresh berry fruit is nicely balanced by zippy acidity; relatively high alcoholic content (13.5 percent) adds full texture and body unexpected in a wine that looks delicately pink but "drinks red." U.S. importer: Robert Kacher Selections, Washington, D.C. (Jan. 24, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: Perfect with the spicy "Creole Nouvelle" jambalaya featured in yesterday's Wine Advisor FoodLetter.
VALUE: A very fine value at this price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Rosé rewards early drinking with freshness and delicacy, although this hearty rendition's strength and balance should hold it for a year or so.
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Friday, Jan. 28, 2005