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Our Wine Council, based in Temecula, southern California, recently marked the arrival of summer - with its al fresco dining and long, sunny days - by tasting and pairing six delightful rosés. Two are from France, three from Italy, (all distributed by fine wine importing merchants Taub Family Selections), and the sixth from a local Temecula winery.
Most rosés derive their color from a brief contact (less than 24 hours) with grape skins. Spanning the color spectrum from a pale, sheer blush of pink to a darker, vibrant magenta, rosé wine can be sweet or dry, still or sparkling. The average alcohol by volume (ABV) of the wine is 12 percent (medium body), with sweeter rosés falling below that and drier one rising above.
Côté Mas Rosé Aurore, South of France 2020 ($12)
This wine comes from the Languedoc region, where after more than a century of just growing grapes, Jean-Claude Mas expanded the family enterprise into winemaking in 2000 and established Côté Mas. Made from 50 percent Grenache, 30 percent Cinsault, and 20 percent Syrah, and aged in non-reactive cement, this wine has a dense structure. After floral and wild strawberry aromas greet the nose, the 14.2 percent of alcohol adds a bright acidity and perks up the flavors of ripe berries on the palate. This dry, refreshing, and very reasonably priced rosé was perfectly paired with pistou on sourdough, which complemented the wine’s acidity, and smoked salmon (pistou is a sauce that originated in Provence; similar to basil pesto but without the pine nuts, it’s made from basil, garlic, and olive oil).
This rosé is made from half Syrah and half Nero d’Avola (a grape also known as Calabrese, which is a popular varietal in Sicily and produces bold, fruity wines). After macerating for two hours, which gives the wine its delicate rose-gold color, it's fermented in stainless steel vats. Planeta, founded in the mid-nineties by the late Diego Planeta, who was instrumental in reviving Sicilian wine, is currently a group of six wineries throughout Sicily. This rosé comes from the Dispensa estate in the province of Menfi, not far from Palermo. With the scent of rose flowers on the nose, flavors of fresh strawberries and ripe peaches linger on the palate, this was the wine I was asked to pair, and I chose a guava-and-cheese strudel from our local Porto’s Bakery, because the pastry enhanced the fruitiness and added a sweet essence to this essentially dry rosé.
At the Jean-Luc Colombo winery, established in the Rhône in the early 1980s, the grapes for this rosé (67 percent Syrah, 33 percent Mouvedre) were grown on hills above the Bay of Marseilles and processed using the saignée “bleeding” method –– a certain amount of juice is “bled off” early in the fermentation of red wines, producing a juice with a lighter shade and a more subtle complexity. Fermentation in stainless steel maintains the original grape aromas. With a pale pink hue and a bouquet of fresh raspberries, this wine was luscious, with flavors of melon and stone fruit complementing the saltiness of the tuna and olives in the salade niçoise pairing.
This Italian rosé from Bertani Winery is grown in the northeastern Veneto region above Lake Garda and is made from 25 percent Merlot and 75 percent Molinara (which a lthough a red grape is known to secrete little of its skin color and is used to add acidity to wine). These two juices are fermented individually - with Molinara fermented on the skins and Merlot off the skins - then the two are blended and aged in stainless steel. A lovely pale salmon in the glass, this vibrant rosé has a floral bouquet with red currant and strawberry flavors, as well as a fresh, bright finish. A gluten-free pasta carbonara was an ideal choice in pairing, as the creamy pasta harmonized with the fruitiness of the rosé and the bacon balanced the wine’s acidity.
Valdo Winery is located in the wine growing area of Valdobbiadene, known for its sparkling Prosecco. Made from 90 percent Glera (formerly called the Prosecco grape) and 10 percent Pinot Noir, the grapes are grown on slopes and hand-harvested. Italians refer to Prosecco’s ideal effervescence as perlage, from the French word for pearl (perle) and the suffix -age (to gather), thus perlage evokes the image of a gathering of pearls. The Charmat method is used to create the carbonation during the wine’s second fermentation in sealed, pressurized steel tanks. This lovely Prosecco is a delicate light pink and displays a rush of perfect perlage. Aromas are red berries and pear, with flavors of ripe raspberry and green apple. The subtle sweetness of a shrimp cocktail paired with the Prosecco enhanced the wine’s fruitiness and balanced its acidity.
Carrying on a century of the family’s tradition of growing grapes and winemaking in California’s Inland Valley, Don Lorenzi along with his wife Brenda established Lorenzi Estate Wines in the Temecula Valley. Here the wine country’s warm days are cooled down by afternoon breezes from the Pacific Ocean through the Rainbow Gap, which allows grapes to preserve their acidity and express their full flavors. This wine is produced from estate malbec grapes, and the initial M is for winemaker’s daughter Michelle. With a brilliant dark pink color and 13.8 percent alcohol content, this bold and flavorful rosé has aromas of red berries and tropical fruit, and flavors of lemon zest atop a crown of fresh strawberry shortcake. A contrasting dish of savory feta cheese and olives was our delectable food pairing.