Category: Wines & Vines (page 2 of 3)

The Swiss Don’t Miss: The Wines of Switzerland

by Michael Cervin

If I mention Switzerland, you’re apt to picture skiing the Alps, hot cocoa served by a pig-tailed young lass, or that goofy Ricola commercial. What you don’t think about is Swiss wine. Pause. Do a double take: Swiss…what? Yes, the Swiss have made wine since the Romans showed up, though less than two percent of it is ever exported. The Swiss consume almost all of their own wine, so to find this coveted substance, one needs to find Switzerland—which just so happens to be one of my favorite countries to visit.

One of the wineries I had a chance to visit while in Switzerland was the Vignoble Cousin Winery located in the village of Concise near the shore of Lake Neuchatel, about an hour east of Geneva. Guy Cousin has taken the reins of the family business from his father and represents the new demographic of Swiss-winemaker. Guy’s father was a traditional winemaker, using many of the indigenous grapes grown in Switzerland to make hearty but fairly flat wines. In addition to being young and handsome, Guy, is the breath of fresh air that the old family winery needed; he created a new style of wine, indicative of the changing market in which wines that are bright, fresh, higher in alcohol and fruit are in high-demand.

Guy Cousin explaining his winemaking technique

For his efforts, he’s gaining new fans and younger supporters and will likely cause the world to reconsider Swiss wines. Perhaps the most remarkable wines he makes these days are his Cuvee Manoe and the Gaya Reserve. The Cuvee Manoe, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Blanc, is a viscous dessert wine with notes of mango and honey, whereas the Gaya Reserve, a blend of Gamaret, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is a spicy, smoky red wine with a nice acidity.

The Lavaux wine region is a steep, terraced shoreline dotted with a patchwork of vineyard blocks located between the cities of Lausanne and Montreux on Lake Geneva. There you will find the best-known wine region in Switzerland, which now doubles as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off this thousand-year-old geographic wonder. Over time, the hillsides were carved out and old stone walls were erected to demarcate various vineyards. The steep incline of the vineyards on the hillsides necessitates that grapes be hand-harvested, and the walls must be repaired each year lest they tumble into the lake.

 

Terraced Vineyards of Lavaux

Though Lavaux gets a blanket of snow in the winter, the summers are warm enough that the sun reflects heat off the lake, aiding vine growth. The stone walls store that heat and release it during the night. The main wine here is Chasselas, which is made from a simple white grape with a mild acidity. It is ideally paired with the local cheese fondue. Other Swiss wines include the familiar Pinot Noir, and Syrah, along with some “funky” varieties like Kerner, Plant Robert, and Gamaret. These are deep, rustic red wines which lack the finesse of a Merlot, but carry a pronounced pepper note and rough hewn texture. Besides, you’ll never find these in the States.

The newly opened Vinorama is the single best spot to sample the wines of the region. There are about 20 wines available for tasting at any given time, and about 250 bottles of wine for purchase. The average bottle is priced at about 20 USD—quite a deal for such an excellent product. Some of the best I recently tasted came from Dezaley, and St. Saphorin, two producers that are creating deep, rich, and flavorful wines. If you’re visiting Lake Geneva, check it out. You’ll park near the lake, and then amble through a tunnel under the street to access the blocky-grey building that is now sitting on the former site of a mill that was previously in operation since the 15th century!

The Exterior of Vinorama

Once inside, you can peruse the main room which is filled with wines of the area, or you can trek upstairs for partial views of the lake. If you want to make it an educational experience, you can proceed downstairs for a 22-minute, well-produced film that chronicles the life of a Swiss winemaker.

You can purchase a flight of three Chassleas for 12 Swiss Francs (they do not operate on the Euro), about the equivalent of $12 U.S. That might seem steep, but it’s on par with a Napa Valley tasting. Whites, reds and dessert wine selections rotate every 1 to 2 weeks and Vinorama is open Wednesday through Sunday.

The Main Room of Vinorama

Check out Swiss wines at www.lavaux-vinorama.ch

About Michael

Michael Cervin has been writing about the wine industry for over a decade from his home in Santa Barbara, California. His publications include Decanter, Wine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast, The Tasting Panel, Wine & Dine, Wine Country This Week, Santa Barbara Magazine, IntoWine.com, and more than 60 other publications. He is the restaurant critic and travel writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press. His wine and food judging experience has included The Best of Vinho Verde in Portugal, the Monterey Wine Competition, the California Central Coast Wine Challenge, The Taste of Rum Festival in Puerto Rico, the Firestone Chef’s Challenge (with celebrity chef, Bradley Ogden), the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the Paso Robles Winemaker’s Cook-Off, and many other competitions. Michael is the author of the Moon travel-guide Santa Barbara & the Central Coast and is a co-author of the Moon wine travel-guide, Moon California Wine Country, to be released in April 2011. His first book, Generous Fiction was released in 2009. Check out his wine, food, and travel photo-blog: www.CervinItStraight.com and www.MichaelCervin.com

Add This Book to Your Collection:

Michael’s latest book will hit bookstore shelves nationwide on October 26, 2010. The Moon handbook, Santa Barbara & The Central Coast, “is the most comprehensive travel book to date covering Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara wine country, as well as Ventura and Ojai in Ventura County, Morro Bay, Cambria, San Luis Obispo, and Paso Robles,” says Cervin.

The book details the best area wineries, choice places to eat and stay, and things to see and do from the usual (Mission Santa Barbara, Morro Rock, Hearst Castle) to the unusual (Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara, Ojai’s Pink Moment, and Morro Bay’s Black Hill).

 

Finger Lakes Wines

by Chef Joe LaVilla

The road is one I traveled frequently 25 years ago. Much of the scenery hasn’t changed. There are still rolling farm fields, Amish farmers with horse-drawn tractors and road side fruit and vegetable stands stocked with what was picked that day.  One addition is slowly taking over the landscape of this stretch of Upstate New York – grape vines. Back in the day, there were a handful of wineries in the area, having gotten permission to make wine via the Farm Winery Act in 1976.  By the early 1980s, some were already on their way to discovering what would be the best grapes of the Finger Lakes region – Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Now, twenty five years later, there are dozens of wineries, each producing some of the best Rieslings in the nation.

Rieslings and Gewurztraminers in the Finger Lakes are made in two different styles. The more familiar semi-dry is similar to the style of off-dry Rieslings found in Germany or Washington State. Dry Riesling has very little residual sugar and is more along the style of Alsace or Australia, without as high an alcohol content. Almost every producer makes both styles. For many wine geeks, the true test of the producer is their dry style because the sugar in the semi-dry can mask some errors from the vineyard or winery.

At a recent tasting of Finger Lakes wine, several producers have show how far the region has come. The best were two old standards and two up-and-comers – Hermann J. Wiemer and Dr Konstantin Frank of the old garde along with Lakewood Vineyards and Sheldrake Point from the newer generation. 

The Wiemer Dry Riesling Reserve is a revelation of how good a Finger Lakes Riesling can be. With right rounded acidity, a lime zest and grapefruit profile, and just a hint of minerality to contrast, the wine is absolutely delicious.  It even has the classic kerosene nose found in top German Rieslings (though a bit unusual to some of my tasting buddies).  It’s no wonder the Wine Spectator gave it 91 points (for people who care about those things). This wine is made from a collection of estate grown grapes, though Wiemer also makes two single vineyard Rieslings from their plots along Seneca Lake. 

Close behind is the Sheldrake Point Dry Riesling. Originating practically on a beach along Cayuga Lake, the wine is a reflection of a slightly warmer mesoclimate.  A little fuller bodied than the Wiemer, the Sheldrake Point Dry Riesling is rich with peach and apricot flavors balanced by the classic rounded acidity of the varietal. This wine was awarded 91 points by Wine and Spirits magazine (again, for those keeping track). 

Dr. Konstantin Frank was the man who introduced vinifera varietals to the Finger Lakes region. We have him to thank for showing that cool weather white grapes could not only survive but thrive in the region.  Because the Dr. Frank winery is one of the oldest in New York State, located along Keuka Lake, it has the ability to foretell the future of the region.  I say this because of the dry Gewurztraminer.  Not a popular grape (unless made off-dry), the Dr. Frank wine is made from 50-year old vines. That age translates to a wine that is complex and full bodied. A fairly Alsatian styled wine, the Dr Frank Gewurz is rich with notes of cold cream, lychees and spice, with just enough acidity and minerality to keep it from being fat and flabby. 

Lakewood Vineyards, on Seneca Lake near Watkins Glen, is not nearly as established as Dr. Frank, but is already nipping at its heals. Their Gewurztraminer has all the characteristics of the classical varietal – tropical fruit, cold cream, minerality. The biggest difference is that the Lakewood is lighter bodied than the Dr Frank, not unexpected considering the age of the vines.

All in all, if you are a lover of crisp white wines, track down some Finger Lakes Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. That said, expect it to be a bit difficult.  Most of the wines are sold within 50 miles of the wineries. Maybe just the reason you need to spend some time in Upstate New York on a lake-hopping, country-driving winery tour.

 

About Joe LaVilla

Chef LaVilla is the Academic Director for the Culinary Arts programs at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Phoenix. Besides being a Certified Executive Chef, Chef LaVilla also holds a certification from the International Sommelier Guild (ISG) as a Certified Sommelier. In addition, Chef LaVilla is experienced in food styling, food and wine pairing, the hospitality industry, culinary arts management, and more.

Before joining The Art Institute of Phoenix, LaVilla had been Executive Chef for Tucchetti restaurant in Phoenix. He has worked for Mark Tarbell as well as Wolfgang Puck. His credits include, “Faculty of the Year” award at The Art Institute of Phoenix; finalist in the Arizona Pork Council Taste of Elegance Competition; and author of the textbook “The Handbook of Wine, Beer and Spirits: A Guide to Styles and Service”.

Chef LaVilla received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Rochester and his Bachelor of Arts degree, Cum Laude, in Chemistry from Cornell University. He also received an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated with honors.

Portugal’s Vinho Verde: The Undiscovered Country

words and photos by Michael Cervin

Though wine has been made in Portugal for centuries, most wine drinkers cannot name a single wine from there with the possible exception of Port. Portugal has varied wine regions and the Vinho Verde region in particular is producing exceptional juice. I had the opportunity to visit Portugal in May of 2010 to explore this diverse area and to be a judge on a six-member international panel to award the Best of Vinho Verde awards.

The way is works, a group of Portuguese judges filters through about 300 wines first, so when the international judges showed up from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, England, Germany and Norway; we were confronted with the top 30 from which we award the best five. It is a daunting if pleasurable task.

 During this time, I spent four days meeting 15 different producers and tasting through some 160 wines and learned much about Portuguese wines.

What is loosely termed Vinho Verde (literally “green wine”) constitutes the main white and some red wines of Northern Portugal. The name suggests green, but in reality it means “joven” or young wines that are meant to be consumed less than a year after bottling, though many of these young wines are actually better with age, even up to five years. Yes the joven wines are light, bright and crisp with a sharp acidity, but time in bottle allows them some maturity which softens them and drops their acidity.

Overall the white wines here are not complex wines but that does not mean they are one-trick ponies either. The main white grapes are Alvarinho, Loureiro, Trajadura and grapes like Azal, Arinto and Avesso. Though these grapes make simple wines, to make a good wine is not a simple process.

“When the fruit is ripe you have to pick fast or the acidity will drop too quickly,” says Paulo Rodrigues of Quinta do Regueiro. Producers who are sincerely creating the best of the region and names to look for include Afros, Provam, Quinta do Regueiro, and Quinta de Gomariz. The Vinho Verde region covers 75,000 acres with roughly 30,000 grape growers. Many of the old trellis systems are still in use; arbors and arched systems routinely 10 feet off the ground.

At Afros, owner Vasco Croft employs biodynamic winemaking whereas Quinta de Gomariz is probably the best expression of where the wines of Vinho Verde are heading. The demographics of wine drinkers are changing and these wines reflect that. There is minimal residual sugar, lots of acidity and a slight effervescence, making these wines young, bright, and fresh, easily drinkable and very compatible with a variety of food on your plate.

The best news is that these wines are pretty inexpensive, usually between $10 and $15 in the U.S. They are strongly recommended and you’ll be pleased with the quality compared to the price you will find in your glass.

Curious about the awards? The top five Best of Vinho Verde winners for 2010 were:

  • Casa de Vilacetinho, (Arinto),
  • Corga da Chã, (Arinto),
  • Quinta da Levada, (Azal),
  • Quinta de Gomariz, QG (Avesso),
  • Quinta de Gomariz, QG Branco (Alvarinho and Trajadura).

So if you see these on store shelves, pick up a bottle and experience the best of Portugal.

 

 

 

 

 

About Michael


Michael Cervin has been writing about the wine industry for over a decade from his home in Santa Barbara, California. His publications include Decanter, Wine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast, The Tasting Panel, Wine & Dine, Wine Country This Week, Santa Barbara Magazine, IntoWine.com, and more than 60 other publications. He is the restaurant critic and travel writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press. Past wine and food judging experience has included The Best of Vinho Verde in Portugal, the Monterey Wine Competition, the California Central Coast Wine Challenge, The Taste of Rum Festival in Puerto Rico, the Firestone Chef’s Challenge (with celebrity chef Bradley Ogden), the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the Paso Robles Winemaker’s Cook-Off, and many other competitions. Michael is the author of the Moon travel-guide Santa Barbara & the Central Coast and is a co-author of the Moon wine travel-guide, Moon California Wine Country, to be released in April 2011. His first book, Generous Fiction was released in 2009. Check out his wine, food, and travel photo-blog: www.CervinItStraight.com and www.MichaelCervin.com

 

An All American Wine

By Doc Lawrence

America’s wine culture has deep Southern roots. Everything meaningful from importing the great wines of Europe, stocking the cellars at Monticello and at the White House and entertaining guests with unforgettable wine dinners began with Thomas Jefferson. The redheaded Virginia gentleman even provided the wines served by America’s first five presidents.

Despite a determined effort, Jefferson never succeeded as a winemaker. But he knew about and had a fondness for the wild grape with the enchanting Cherokee name, Cynthiana. His friend, Dr. Daniel Norton, a Richmond physician, did what Jefferson couldn’t and tamed the grape, making some good wine from it. Cynthiana was named after Dr. Norton and today, Norton is prominent in many states from Kansas to New York and Texas to Pennsylvania. But, it’s still as Southern as Hank Williams and B. B. King, and for those who haven’t tried it, it’s best described as somewhere between a Rhone and a red Burgundy.

I began collecting Cynthiana a decade ago and many are equal to the best of any wines I’ve ever served for dinner guests. Like all wines, the style will differ from winery to winery just as a Napa Pinot Noir will commonly be quite distinct from Oregon counterparts. Whether lamb cooked on the grill to planked salmon, Norton is a wonderful fit.

Availability is problematical. The domestic wine market is driven by gargantuan marketing and advertising budgets, drowning out so many of spectacular wines from small producers. But, it’s the effort that counts. Contact winemaker John Seago at www.ponchartrainvineyards.com. This Louisiana wine is excellent and as food friendly as you’ll find. Seago fashions a light-colored Cynthiana varietal that knowledgeable enthusiasts compare to Volnay, the regal French Burgundy.

Just prior to mindless Prohibition, Norton was highly regarded, winning heads-on competitions with the great wines of Europe. While Norton barely survived Prohibition, it has made an impressive comeback.  Ponchartrain Vineyards, just north of New Orleans, is joined by Georgia’s Tiger Mountain, Virginia’s Horton Vineyards, Stone Hill in Missouri and North Carolina’s Sanctuary (in the Outer Banks), in producing some amazing vintages.

Virginia and Missouri declared Norton as its official state grape and wine. Stone Hill, the Hermann, Missouri winery near the Missouri River is a Norton colossus. I walked through an ancient vineyard at Stone Hill where vines remain that once produced Norton for both the Confederate and Union Army. Riedel, the legendary crystal stemware company recently introduced its new line tailored for Norton at Les Bourgeois Winery in Missouri.

Norton seems to have an affinity for Southern food. Fried quail with gravy, shrimp and grits, country ham, duck gumbo, smoked mullet are natural taste partners. However, it’s barbeque, the classic Deep South staple, where Norton really shines as a beverage. While enjoying barbeque I’ve found that if you think of the wine as Cynthiana, everything pairs better. On July 4, read the Declaration of Independence while sipping a glass of this wine. It’s an ephemeral, very American ritual where the reward is the experience.

 

Got my own way of drinkin’

But every sip is done

With a Southern accent

Where I come from. (Tom Petty)


About Doc Lawrence

Doc Lawrence is a veteran journalist whose mastery of language is matched by his love of the people and places that make up the dream come true called America. An Atlanta native, Doc prepared for a lifetime of storytelling by education and travel, earning several degrees plus living in places such as England, Barbados and Ireland. Ranging from wine and fine dining to celebrity chef interviews and folk art, Doc shares his adventures with an emphasis on the good and positive. A founder and former editor of The Nationwide News, Doc Lawrence was the 2006 Chairman of the Food and Beverage Section of the Public Relations Society of America in New York City and is the Director of Wine for the International Food and Wine Travel Writers Association founded in Paris in 1954. He is a member of the South Florida International Press Club and the Atlanta Press Club and an avid fisherman and accomplished home chef. He is currently features editor for Wines Down South. Click Here for more of Doc’s work on Southern Wines or here to keep up with Doc. Send Doc feedback at DocLawrence@docsnews.com

Verdejo Spain’s Signature White Wine

by Michael Cervin

Though Spain is better known for the red wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, the Rueda, located north east of Madrid, is home to arguably Spain’s best white wine, Verdejo. Similar in style and characteristics to Pinot Gris, Verdejo fully expresses itself in the high altitude of Rueda where it showcases lemon and citrus, minerality and above all, a sharp acidity which makes it compelling with the tapas so that are so ubiquitous around the region. It’s also inexpensive, with bottles exported to the U.S. usually less than $15. Verdejo has been planted in this area for over a thousand years, and it’s believed it was brought to Spain by the Moors. Some producing vines date as far back 130 years. However it has been only in the last few decades that Verdejo has proved to be the best fit for the cooler Rueda region.

Winemaker Pablo del Villar of Bodegas Hermanos del Villar says, “Verdejo is ideally suited to the poor soils and harsh environment in Rueda.” The stress on the vines and wide diurnal swings, where daytime temperatures can tumble as much as 25 degrees at night, help to create the fundamental acidity that Verdejo is known for. Rueda itself is geographically unremarkable; mainly flatlands, though high in altitude, about 2,300 feet above sea level for most of the region and some areas even get snowfall. The majority of vineyards are bush types, low to the ground which spread out their leaves along the sandy, rocky soils to absorb the sun. The area is also dotted with pine nuts trees; thin trunked trees with a round canopy which makes them look like lollipops. Palomino, Sauvignon Blanc and Viura are also planted here, but they pale by comparison.

There are fewer than 60 wineries in Rueda, and only a handful of those allow public tastings. But things are changing. The grape is catching on everywhere, so much so that acreage has doubled since 2005 and other regions in Spain are beginning to plant it. But like any signature grape, to understand its true identity you need to go to the source.

I visited Rueda in April, 2010 which allowed me the luxury to visit with producers, winemakers and growers, and sample more than 100 Verdejos in and around Rueda. The end result has been a newfound affinity for this white grape. At its best Verdejo is sharp and clean with lemon and lime notes, a backbone of minerality and a potent acidity. That may sound simple, but crafting excellent wines is not a simple process. It was also clear that many producers are trying their hand at a barrel fermented version and the results are less than spectacular. Verdejo is best when left alone and the inherent qualities are not interfered with.

“Verdejo is our personality,” says Juan de Benito Ozores, the director general of Bodegas Alvarez y Diez whose Montel Blanco wine is ubiquitous in the States. It’s understandable that any winery portfolio needs diversity and that has driven winemakers to experiment with oak. But thus far, with a few exceptions, Verdejo is best unadulterated. Though the vast majority of Verdejo should be drunk young, on several occasions, I was table to taste verdejos 10 to 12 years old, and while they are still drinkable and enjoyable, they are not compelling. The bright acids work best within recent vintages and the lively freshness of the wine is at its peak. Additionally, the local tapas in the area, most notably in the city of Valladolid, such as white asparagus, chorizo, bacalau (deep fried cod) and torreznos (a pan fried pork) are enhanced by this invigorating, firm young wine.

Some of the consistent producers of Verdejo include the mother/daughter winemaking team at Jose Pariente, Bodegas Lorenzo Cachazo, Bodegas Naia, Bodegas Yllera and Bodegas Nieva, all names to look out for. While visiting Naia I had the fortunate opportunity to taste through all of the 2003-2009 vintages which showed the differences in growing over the years as some of the Verdejos vary in acidity. This isn’t Napa, there are no picturesque tasting rooms dotting the landscape. There are however, dedicated producers who are striving to perfect the grape that is their own. It’s easy to assume that low yields or “proper” spacing of the vines have some impact on the quality of the fruit.

“Mathematics has nothing to do with it. You just have to pay attention to your vines,” says Victoria Pariente, winemaker at Jose Pariente, arguably one of the best Verdejo producers. And she underscores why the wines from Rueda are gaining notoriety; simply put, the winemakers are paying strict attention to their signature grape, making certain the world knows when they reach for Verdejo, it’s classic Verdejo they will get, not some funky blend or well-intentioned winery “project.” Pariente sums up the nature of Verdejo poetically. “Wine is like a bear. When it is cold, the bear wants to hibernate. When it is warmer out, the bear is more active.” Currently the wines from Rueda are indeed active with wonderfully crafted juice that truly reflects a sense of place.

About Michael

Michael Cervin has been writing about the wine industry for over a decade from his home in Santa Barbara, California. His publications include Decanter, Wine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast, The Tasting Panel, Wine & Dine, Wine Country This Week, Santa Barbara Magazine, IntoWine.com, and more than 60 other publications. He is the restaurant critic and travel writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press. His wine and food judging experience has included The Best of Vinho Verde in Portugal, the Monterey Wine Competition, the California Central Coast Wine Challenge, The Taste of Rum Festival in Puerto Rico, the Firestone Chef’s Challenge (with celebrity chef, Bradley Ogden), the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the Paso Robles Winemaker’s Cook-Off, and many other competitions. Michael is the author of the Moon travel-guide Santa Barbara & the Central Coast and is a co-author of the Moon wine travel-guide, Moon California Wine Country, to be released in April 2011. His first book, Generous Fiction was released in 2009. Check out his wine, food, and travel photo-blog: www.CervinItStraight.com and www.MichaelCervin.com

Add This Book to Your Collection:

Michael’s latest book will hit bookstore shelves nationwide on October 26, 2010. The Moon handbook, Santa Barbara & The Central Coast, “is the most comprehensive travel book to date covering Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara wine country, as well as Ventura and Ojai in Ventura County, Morro Bay, Cambria, San Luis Obispo, and Paso Robles,” says Cervin.

The book details the best area wineries, choice places to eat and stay, and things to see and do from the usual (Mission Santa Barbara, Morro Rock, Hearst Castle) to the unusual (Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara, Ojai’s Pink Moment, and Morro Bay’s Black Hill).

A Rose by Any Other Name

by Larry Canepa

Rosé wines have long been acquainted with warm weather days and provide a perfect backdrop to many of summer’s greatest food fare. Working to overcome their tainted reputation of being candy sweet, introductory wines; a true Rosé is frequently off-dry to dry in nature and displays interesting fresh fruit flavors that lean toward the strawberry and raspberry side of the fruit spectrum.

Whether it’s rosé, rosado (Spain), rosato (Italy) or “blush,” these terms all refer to pink wine. This pink shade can range from a soft, subtle hue to a vibrant, hot pink, depending on the grape used and how long the grape skins were in contact with the juice. Rosés can be made in a sweet, off-dry or bone dry style, with most European rosés being decidedly dry.

Technically, a rose is an “unfinished red wine,” but the term seems diminshing. Rose is a different sort of wine, with all the refreshing qualities of a white wine mixed with some characteristics of a red. The majority of rosé wines are made from red grape varietals.

The varietals most often used in making a rosé wine include: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and of course, our American reference, Zinfandel. These grapes may be either used individually or in a blend. Rosé varietals are often country dependent, so a rosado from Spain will often be largely derived from the Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes, while Italy may utilize more Sangiovese for their rosatos and the U.S. would tend to lean towards Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.

Traditionally, the skins of a red grape are allowed to have brief contact with the grape juice during fermentation. The shorter the contact time with the skins, the lighter the wine’s color will be. Extended time with juice and skins yields some amazing, eye catching color variations from vibrant orangey-pink to nothing less than a vivid hot pink. Sparkling rosés are traditionally made with a blend of red and white grapes, while this practice is usually limited to the sparkling category, it has popped up in production practices for some still rosé wines.

The flavors of rosé wines tends to be more subtle versions of their red wine varietal counterparts. The fruit expectations lean towards strawberry, cherry, pomegranate and raspberry with some citrus and watermelon presenting on a regular basis.

When to drink Pink?

Rosés are perfect for spring and summer, as they are served chilled and can be a refreshing accompaniment to a variety of warm weather fare. Rosé wines also top the charts for food-friendly versatility. It’s also a great picnic wine as it tends to have both a lighter body and more delicate flavors on the palate, presenting a great wine partner for a ham, grilled chicken or roast beef sandwich, along with a fresh fruit, dill potato or egg salad and can even handle a variety of chips and dips.

Rosés are also the perfect guest for a backyard barbecue, tackling hamburgers, hot dogs and even sweet potato French fries with a spicy mayonnaise. Lighter flat bread and unusual pizza topped with spicy chicken or seafood can really perk up with a nice rose or blush.

While rosé wines have gotten the shaft recently due to  “White Zin” look alikes flooding the market, many consumers are helping to break rosés out of the sweet, “wine cooler” mold and are embracing the broad stylistic offerings that are on the rosé market from all over the world.

Wine lovers and wine makers are both the better for it!  Rose wine sales are on the rise as savvy wine lovers have discovered that many of these pink wines are not the sugary sweet but rather sophisticated summer sisters of many red wine varietals. To offer even more incentive to “drink pink” the vast majority of rosé wines offer good value for the money.

Try any of the top pick Rosés and you’ll be pleasantly surprised and delighted. A few that I’ve been sipping al fresco as the weather begins to warm up include: 

V. Sattui’s  Gamay Rouge (California): Sattui’s Gamay Rouge is a phenomenal Rosé that is sure to be a palate pleaser! Extended contact with the grape skins produces a rich red rose color. The flavor profile provides the palate with dramatic strawberry and a touch of bing cherry. A top pick wine to sip by the pool or pair with virtually any of summer’s bounty!

Jaboulet Côtes du Rhône Parallèle 45 Rosé 2005 (France) :  The Jaboulet Côtes du Rhône Parallèle 45 Rosé 2005 is a classic French Rosé from the Rhône region. This is a vibrant Rosé with dominating flavors of raspberries and strawberries, there is a kick of spice on the finish. Three grape varietals are blended to make this Rosé – Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. A great complement to grilled fish or roasted veggies.

Folonari Pink Pinot Grigio 2005 (Italy): Yes, Pinot Grigio is a white grape, so how they heck is it presented as a Rosé? Italy’s Pinot Grigio grape has dark skin and the fermenting juice is colored by contact with this dark grape skin, producing a lovely, pink color. Fresh floral and fruit aromas are set to greet you upon first impression, followed by a slightly sweet citrus flavor. This is a perfect wine for Asian fare and seafood.

Red Bicyclette French Rosé 2005 (France): Talk about a wine made for relaxed summer fun and spontaneous barbecues! This easy-going Red Bicyclette Rosé from the Languedoc region of Southern France is brimming with the fresh flavors of red fruits – strawberry, raspberry and a hint of citrus. A blend of predominately Syrah and Grenache grapes brings a refreshing well-structured wine. This Rosé is capable of handling summer’s best fare, from grilled veggies to Asian spice, certainly a wine to be stocked and ready to go all summer long!

El Coto de Rioja Rosado 2005 (Spain): With an intense pink color, this wine offers a smooth palate feel, with the dominant flavors of cherry and raspberry. A terrific choice for grilled fare, pasta salads, seared tuna and summer  salads. This is a fresh and lively wine with a semi-dry finish that really satisfies on a warm day.

V. Sattui 2005 Rosato (California): This is a hotshot dry Rosé from V. Sattui, that is sure to knock your boots off with its vibrant fresh berry flavors from start to finish. A top pick Rosé for brunches or tapas or antipasto.

A to Z Oregon Rosé (Oregon): This wine is derived from the Sangiovese grapes. It highlights the flavors of cherries and strawberries, dusted in floral overtones. A beautiful wine that pairs with a wide array of summertime favorites.

Bonny Doon 2005 Vin Gris de Cigare (California): This wine has always been a favorite of mine for warm weather. This is a fun, yet unique Rosé (would you expect anything less from Bonny Doon?).  Winemaker Randall Graham is a cross between Gene Wilder and Tim Burton- part mad man and part genius. Serious summer fruits grace the palate and meld into a delicious blend of jammy juices, in Bonny Doon’s 2005 Rosé.

 

To Shop for Rose Wines Online Click Here: Rose Wines

About Larry Canepa

Chef Larry Canepa brings  30 years of Food and Wine experience to today’s adult culinary learners. He has worked in the Food & Wine business as Chef, caterer, sommelier and Food and Wine educator. He has taught culinary and restaurant operation classes at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Phoenix and Le Cordon Bleu, Scottsdale. His experiences include management and operation of free-standing restaurants, hotels and resorts. Chef Larry Canepa owned and operated the full service catering business, Dinner at Eight for 10 years in the Valley, specializing in intimate private dining and wine seminars. Larry Canepa has conducted seminars and lectures on coffee, tea, wine, etiquette, cooking and service for students, adults, continuing education classes and charitable organizations.

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