30 Second Wine Advisor: Chill with the last rose of summer

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Chill with the last rose of summer

It's the dog days of summer here. August is about to segue into September, but a hot and humid summer that was slow in coming now seems loath to give up its grip. This is the kind of weather when I am quite willing to pop a red wine in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes before dinner to approximate "cellar temperature," a point at which it seems more refreshing than it would at summer "room temperature" in the Northern Hemisphere, even when indoor air-conditioning is in play.

I'm a little reluctant to take the next step, though, the desperate measure of dropping an ice cube into my glass.

Several years ago, in a column titled Wine on ice, I actually questioned this conventional wisdom by testing a couple of simple, robust table wines (a cheap Spanish red and a cheaper Hungarian red) on a searing July evening. The results? In a word, "Meh." Cooling those simple wines seemed to diminish their perhaps limited flavor, throwing the fluid into an unpleasant flavor mix of tart acidity and astringent tannins.

Mark that down as a bad idea, I thought. Until last night.

Looking forward to a glass of a fresh young rosé with a simple summer pasta dinner, I opened a bottle from a reliable larger producer, E. Guigal 2012 Côtes du Rhône Rosé.

It looked like a rosé, an attractive transparent rosy pink. And it smelled like a good Southern French rosé, too, all about raspberries and strawberries and just a whiff of Provence herbs.

But doggone global warming or major-critic taste influence, it sure didn't taste like a good Southern French rosé. It was hot, with a distinct afterburn that reminded me of sipping neat Bourbon or Scotch. The tiny print on the label claimed 14% alcohol, more than I want or need in a Euro-style rosé that should be all about simple, fresh subtlety.

This made me irritable, and I was just about to dump the wine, but my wife - unencumbered by anti-ice prejudice - told me to hang on. "Try this,” she said, dropping a couple of ice cubes in.


My Inner Snob resisted, but as it turned out the result was fine. In this case, the slight dilution didn't unbalance the wine but brought its alcoholic level down just enough to tamp down the heat, and the slight chill yielded a fresh drink that was much more appealing. Or, in other words, tasted like a good rosé should have done in the first place.

Today's Tasting Report

E. Guigal 2012 Côtes du Rhône Rosé ($14.99)

E. Guigal 2012 Rose

Clear rosy pink, classic hue for a rosé. Fresh, light red-berry aromas, raspberries and strawberries and just a hint of fresh herbs. Bright, fresh and dry on the palate, red-fruit flavors follow the nose, but its 14% alcohol shows as a flaw, adding an unpleasant edge of heat to a wine that needs to show as fresh and light. Dropping in an ice cube or two to chill the wine and dilute the alcohol just a bit actually improves it a bit, particularly assuming that you have refreshing summer table use or aperitif sipping in mind. U.S. importer: Vintus LLC, Pleasantville, N.Y. (Aug. 29, 2013)

FOOD MATCH: Like all good Provence, Rhône and Languedoc rosés, and subject to the caveat about tamping down its alcoholic heat with a bit of ice, this would go well as an aperitif, with cheeses, or with a variety of Mediterranean cuisine. It was fine with a dish of orzo pasta with green beans, tomatoes and my substitute for feta, a local Sapori d'Italia Italian-style goat cheese. (Recipe modified from a 1998 Gourmet magazine recipe on Epicurious.com.

WHEN TO DRINK: As with rosés in general, enjoy it young and fresh. I'm happiest with rosé from the previous year's vintage.

VALUE: Realistically, the middle teens has become the going rate for quality French rosé. I'm not wild about this, but I'll pay it for a good one. If your locality permits direct-to-consumer shipping, you might check in with Wine-Searcher.com, where many vendors list it in the lower teens.

Guigal = "Ghee-gahl"
Côtes du Rhône Rosé = "Coat doo roan"

Here is E. Guigal's fact sheet on this wine in French.

Find vendors and compare prices for E. Guigal 2012 Côtes du Rhône Rosé on Wine-Searcher.com.

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