What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about dry rosé? For most, it’s the Cotes de Provence, illustrious south-of-France motherland of pale pink juice for summer. I too venerate the gorgeous landscape, fields of sunflowers and artichokes, gravelly hillsides, seaside towns, bouillabaisse, and guzzlable wines. But while we do have Provence to thank for leading the charge on dry rosé, it is by no means the alpha and the omega. Rosé is produced all over the world now, from Seattle to Sagaponack to Stellenbosch, and stylistically they are as varied as the lands from which they inspire.
There are two common ways to produce rosé: skin contact, and saignée.With the first method, black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period of time, typically one to three days.The must is then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain tannin and other compounds, thereby giving the juice structure. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the deeper the color and richer the texture of the rosé.
Rosé can also be produced as a by-product of red wine fermentation using a technique known as Saignée, or bleeding. When a winemaker wishes to impart more tannin and color to his red wine, some of the pink juice from the must is be removed at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding; the volume of the must is reduced, and thus more concentrated. The pink juice that’s removed is the Saignée that’s fermented separately to produce rosé.
Some of my favorite south of France selections this year are the MIP which is gossamer pink in color. Made of Cinsault with Syrah and Grenache, it’s medium bodied with plenty red fruit, orange zest and clean acidity. Another light-colored quaffer is the Grimaud Golfe de St. Tropez, which is Grenache with Cinsault & Carignan. Bright and herbal, this wine smacks of freshness, and has a pretty label.
As for Pink Sancerre, the Reverdy Terre de Maimbray (100% Pinot Noir) is delicate, with raspberry and cherry on the nose leading to a mouthful of chalky minerals on the palate. Over in the Pfalz in Germany, Von Buhl is also doing nice rosé of Pinot Noir. Pale salmon in color, is lightly effervescent on the palate with plenty of vim and vigor. If spritz tickles your fancy, try the watermelon-colored Ameztoi Basque Txakolina rosé made of indigenous Basque grapes Hondarribi Beltza & Hondarribi Zuri. It’s attractive color conceals an equally appealing bitterness on the finish that makes it super food friendly. The Chidaine Touraine is the oddball of the group – orangy in color, it’s made of Pinot and Loire indigenous grape Grolleau and has good grip.
But sometimes you want something with a little more muscle. If you need something to match the ribs, burgers, or tuna steaks on the grill but don’t want to bring a red and think a white is too flimsy, Mulderbosch rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa is a sure thing. It’s dark red hue is sexy like a rosato cerasuolo, and it’s rich with pomegranite and eucalyptus on the palate and lavender on the nose. Another rosé of heft is Le Roc Fronton Saignée, which is made of peppery Negrette. It’s good with BBQ and pizza. The wines are inexpensive, which is always a good thing for afternoon parties, since chances are you’re going to need more that one or two bottles.
The Cotes to Provence will always be the spiritual home of rosé, as well as a powerhouse in production (80% of their output is the pink stuff), and you can generally count on it for a satisfying glass if you’re out at a restaurant or cafe and you need something to sate your thirst. But if you’re feeling adventurous, or if you love the diversity of rose as I do, try something different. I guarantee it will delight.
Yesterday’s Dry Wine Tour hosted annually by Rudi Wiest Selections pulled a quite a crowd. And thank goodness, because the 35 dry German wines reds and whites we tasted ranged from superb to absolute knock outs, rife with the power, intensity, and the sleek minerality that only cool climate wines can amalgamate.
Dry Wine Tour (for whom LA was their 7th stop in 10 days) featured the wines of 7 different houses, and represented the gamut of regional styles, from elegant Rheingau, to exotic Pfalz, Mediterranean Baden, and fresh, fruity Franken. Palpable passion exhibited in the words and gestures of these German wine makers shone through any language barriers. It was a pleasure to listen to Markus Mleinek, winemaker at Dr. Heger/Weinhaus, who is a zaftig sort of guy, giggle about how important food-friendliness is to him in the Pinot Gris & Pinot Blancs he crafts. “As you can see by looking at me, I like to eat, I like to cook [pause] with a lot of butter and cream [laughs, audience laughs] and I want my wines to work well with the foods I cook.” We tasted through his Baden lineup and the whites were like no wines I’ve ever had from Germany, weighty, with some caramel and roasted notes, and lots of hazelnut.
Carl Erhard of Kunstler buzzed like the electric minerality and piercing acidity of his Rieslings. I got a chance to speak with this tall, gentle character briefly after the event to congratulate not only his wines but also his passion. I told him that one really can taste the love and joy that goes into his wines. “With wine it’s all about the passion you put into it,” he said with a smile, “that’s how you make good wine.” I was particularly taken with this man’s inspiration; though he spoke a bit more at length than some of the others, he wrapped by saying “My wife says, ‘when you talk about wine, you talk too much!’” The whole room had a good hearty laugh.
And it’s not all about Riesling. I was pleasantly surprised at how much good dry Pinot Blanc there is for quaffing and also at the richness and density of the Pinot Noir. For varietal expression, Rebholz in the Pfalz that stole the show. Each wine was unique and had its best characteristics teased out expertly. Wines were well-made, balanced, bright, and harmonious. Their 2009 Pinot Noir exhibited characteristics of smoke, red licorice, cinnamon candy, and tea leaves which coalesced in an integration whose result was both pleasurable and intellectual.
The large majority of the German dry wines were make organically and biodynamically. And frankly the more I pay attention to wines made without pesticides and in a sustainable environment, the more I notice how much better they taste, not only from mass produced wines, but also from smaller production wines that spray or fertilize with harsh chemicals. Below is a selection of my favorites – some of which will soon be available here at WHWC. Stay tuned.
2010 Pinot Blanc Estate: Bright, bold, dry, crisp, one of the better Pinot Blancs I’ve had. Guzzlable.
2010 Riesling GG Ganz Horn – Pepper, mineral, spicy, medium-bodied, big finish.
2010 Riesling GG Im Sonnenschein – Briny, saline, lime flower, & white rose.
2010 Riesling GG Kastanienbusch – red slate soil, hay, tea, dusty summer earth, dry herbs
2009 Pinot Noir Spatlese Dry Tradition – Smooth, velvety, sweet fruit, dense, cinnamon, clove
Wagner Stempel Reinhessen
2010 Riesling GG Hollberg – Gardenia, concentrated, ripe, stone fruit, mouthcoating
2011 Heger Pinot Gris Estate – Heavy Loess soil, medium body, round, lower acidity, drinkable, Food friendly, Rhone-ish
2010 Pinot Blanc Estate – Mouthfilling, delicious, ‘sweet’ fruit, lanolin, peach
2008 Pinot Noir GG St. Paul – Beachy, brambly, bright, orange rind, Campari, food-friendly
2011 Riesling GG Kostheim Weiss – Closed upon opening, after 15 mins steely minerality, beeswax, lemon curd, white flowers
2009 Pinot Noir Estate – Slate, smoke, currant, like a good Bourgogne rouge, woodsy, candied fruits, bright
Rudi Wiest imports fine German Rieslings and Pinot Noirs (some consider him one of the pre-eminent importers of German and Austrian wine) and this tasting focused on the exciting 2010 vintage. The quality is extremely high and even the value-oriented Rieslings have muscle and minerality.
One of the standout estates was Monchhof. Monchhof owns parcels from several notable vineyards, including Ürziger Würzgarten (as seen in the photo). Even their simple estate Riesling has great acidity and slate notes. I think their best value is their Auslese. The wine should retail for about $30 for the 750ml and this makes it one of the most affordable on the market. Yet it has the zippiness and pleasure that you would ask for in a more expensive Auslese. Also, check out the photo and notice the slate covered hills. These hills have no topsoil and are steeply inclined. Germany averages three undocumented deaths a year during harvesting! So If you ever go to Germany and harvest grapes, please be careful.
After tasting through the Monchhofs, I moved on to a very popular table laden with bottles from many estates. These bottles are part of a category picking up steam among winos. For some people, kabinett must levels lead to a wine that is too sweet for their palate. Feinherb (literally “Fine Dry”) fits a great niche. Feinherbs possess less sweetness than most off-dry Kabinetts; the American term for these wines is medium-dry. These wines are extremely food friendly, especially since Trocken (Dry) Rieslings tend to have higher alcohol levels, sometimes as high as 14% which doesn’t pair well with spicy food. Medium-dry Rieslings fulfill the need to quench firey food without being too sticky sweet. My wife and I drink these commonly and there is always a bottle in our fridge.
The event took place at Lawry’s Steak House and since the chef is German, he whipped up some delicious German fare for the tasting. I was fortunate to fill my plate up with some of my favorites: pretzel bread (the standout for sure), as well as mustard, German meats and cheese, and cold meatballs. Riesling is versatile and there was a Riesling at the tasting that paired with each food item perfectly. Many people don’t think of drinking white wine with meat, with the exception of fish, but salty meats pair marvelously with German Rieslings.
Rudi also imports some great Pinot Noirs and several other lesser known varietals. German Pinot isn’t always held in high esteem, but Germany continues to modernize their winemaking techniques and the quality of their Pinot has increased accordingly. The small, incremental warming of the weather has also affected their Pinot, allowing the grapes to fully ripen, yet retain all the acidity and minerality we would expect from a good Pinot Noir.
Another even more unique wine I had the pleasure of sampling was a Scheurebe from the producer, Pfeffingen. This wine is fermented Trocken. It yields a wine that is creamy and fruity at the same time. Scheurebe is a hybrid grape created by Dr Scheu from Riesling and an unknown wild grape from Germany. Rebe means vine, so the word Scheurebe means the Dr’s vine. I find this wine fascinating; it shares so many nuances similar to Riesling, yet is a bit fuller and creamier.
If you are as excited as we are about German Riesling, please feel free to contact me via email: Brently@whwc.com. 2010 German wines will be arriving through out the year, but some have already hit the stores. I’d love to gab about your latest Kabinett you’ve popped…
Last night, I had a delicious terroir-driven wine from Hungary. Hungary is mostly known for their dessert wine Tokaji Aszu, but they produce some excellent dry and off-dry wines and they are really ramping up the quality. There is a lot of buzz around the 2009 vintage in France, but 2009 will be a stellar vintage for Hungarian whites as well.
These wines are mostly made from a grape called Furmint. Furmint features flavors of honey, baking spice, nectarine, and lime. I took home the 2006 Demi-Sec from Királyudvar, which wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be. It was perfect with the Mexican-style plate I had, full of meat, beans and rice. The texture was real silky. My first inclination was to think the body was thin, but that wasn’t true, it was just so, well, silky.
So much of the food we eat here in California is spicy. When my family barbecues steak, they add Montreal steak seasoning, which has red pepper in the blend. We also eat a lot of Mexican and Chinese. White wines with a bit of sweetness pair magically with these foods, maybe with exception of the steak, but hey, to each his own. Many people are completely against wine with any sweetness to it. I’m not sure where that comes from, but it is definitely a social thing to some degree. Some people may think they’ll be looked down upon for drinking a German Riesling, most sommeliers love the sweeter style.
I am absolutely in love with Hungarian wine as well as German Riesling. I implore our readers to try pairing one of these wines with spicy food. After all, do we drink our iced tea with no sugar? Our lemonade with no sugar? Our coca-cola with no sugar? Feel free to pop by and gab with me about these wonderful styles. I can also be emailed about my favorites at Brently@whwc.com.