Eugene Weekly : Wine : 8.5.10


The Roséy Maze
Pinks tickle the taste buds
By Lance Sparks

Picnics, parades, concerts and celebrations, the weather in Oregon almost never cooperates. It’s high summer, supposed to be steaming hot, just the right time for our annual rosé report. The idea, see, is that in the heat red wine just blangs the brain, but most white wine just doesn’t pack the flavor profile that wine-fiends pursue, so — rosé, the happy compromise long ago developed by those wily Frenchies who apparently want their vins with every meal but breakfast.

That’s a reasonable wish, considering what Europeans have been doing to their waters for the last couple thousand years: Drink beer, drink wine, but don’t drink the water, deadly stuff. Back to the equation resulting in lovely rosés: It’s hot, ’K?, and rich red wines make people’s eyes cross, but white wines, even good white wines just lack the flavor punch of reds, check? That last part is dubious — many whites just jump, riffing notes of citrus, minerals, tropical fruits, yummy — but some wine-geeks would rather French-kiss a zombie than drink white wine, which leads us to the First Law of Rosé (actually of All Wine): There’s no arguing with taste. This is followed by the First Corollary: If you like it, it’s best (even if what you like is that schlock some California marketeers peddle as white zinfandel).

Rosé, when it’s made seriously by wine-makers who intended to make a rosé and not just pale run-off of juice not good enough to go in the good stuff, can take its rightful place among the most jazzy and food-friendly of wines, but it’s especially suited for the foods we want when our world turns hot and our air heavy. Then, give us light grub, often served cold — salads, white meats, lovely cheeses, backed by crunchy breads and crispy crackers — or maybe BBQ with spiky sauces and snappy condiments. Such times, rosés just shine. And they come in a broad spectrum, from the very palest, with delicate flavors of red fruits (mainly strawberries, raspberries, hints of citrus) to wines so dark in color as to approach real reds (with flavors edging over into red currants, cherries, peppers). Prices also vary, from a few bux to mid-20s, but rarely reach beyond (mostly) affordable. Exception: Domaine Tempier 2009 Bandol sets the standard for classic rosé, so $37.50, see?

Time was, not too long ago, when even a specialty wine shop like Sundance might shelf a dozen rosés in the high season; now they offer more than 60, and shoppers need experienced wine-scouts as guides through the roséy maze.

We’ve been fairly diligent in this year’s pursuits of pretty rosies and have mentioned some in recent columns, particularly Evesham Wood 2009 Rosé of Tempranillo ($13) and that effervescent Basque cutie Gurrutxaga 2009 Rosé Txacholi ($15) (kinda hard to find, snagged at MoC). We really liked Broadley 2009 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($15). All these were fine, crisply dry, aromatic, fresh. 

Excellent is Abacela 2009 Grenache Rosé ($14), a vibrant pink with forward fruit and loads of flavors, all the red fruits, with a whiff of boysenberry for depth, crisp acidity for summer chow. Grenache is a traditional rosé grape and it really delivers.

Cardwell Hill Cellars 2009 Rosé from Pinot Noir ($11.50) is tasty; these folks make really good pinot noir, hence really good rosé from that grape. This is delicate, with aromas of red fruit and dried roses, flavors that run to red berries. It’s quaffable, just what we want in a summer sipper. 

Summer itself might be elusive, but if it comes again, we can be ready with the light wines that light up summer’s best food.  

Lance Sparks, Ph.D., is an award-winning instructor in the English, Foreign Languages & Speech Department at LCC.