It’s time again to touch on the world of pink wine. A few new things have come in that deserve mention. We aren’t necessarily aggressively looking for additional roses but won’t hesitate if we run across something that truly rings our bell. After all, here in Southern California, pink wine season can last well into October and, as we have often said, rose has a place year around.
Antinori Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri Scalabrone Rosato 2017– This rose is from one of the most prestigious properties in Tuscany (Guado al Tasso) owned by arguably Tuscany’s ‘first family’ of wine, Antinori. The pedigree alone gives it a certain status except, of course, Tuscany doesn’t really have a significant tradition for pink wine. Our first go round with this offering was back in the 2014 vintage if memory serves, and the wine made a significant impression on us. In fact, it was one of the best pinks we tasted in that vintage.
For whatever reason, the next couple didn’t light it up but the 2017 is back in the saddle again. In a place known for Bordeaux varietals, the blend here is a predictable 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 30% Syrah. This is on the more savory end of the rose spectrum, with a firm backbone to the berry and cherry fruit and a subtle infusion of wild herbs. This one begs for food as you would expect for something from Italy, but it is pitched to play with a wide range of dishes and has enough muscle to stand up to grilled meats. This is not a little quaffer for that sidewalk table at the beach. This is a pink wine with more serious intentions.
While they have been making this wine since 1990, it hasn’t been a big player in this market until recently. The grapes were picked and fermented separately, destemmed, and saw a brief low temperature skin contact of only a few hours. Afterward the wine was assembled from the various selected lots, and it was bottled in January. The name (Scalabrone) comes from a local Robin Hood-esque bandit that preyed on ships here in the early 19th Century. Given the prestige of this real estate, the price is attractive as well ($14.98).
Claude Riffault Sancerre Rose 2017– Some of you might recall that last year on these pages, we extolled the virtues of the Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Moussiere 2016, pretty much conceding it was among our top performers in the glass as far as pink wine was concerned. Thus far that importer has not presented us with the 2017 model of that wine, but another striking Loire pink has really gotten our attention. We don’t necessarily have an agenda with respect to this genre of pink, it’s just that for the second year in a row the region gave us one of the big winners. There will be plenty of enthusiasm for this bright, expressive, fruit-driven rose by virtue of its unabashed style.
Like the Moussiere last year, expect it to be everything you might be looking for in a pink wine. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, the nose gives bright red melon notes and there is plenty of expressive fruit on the palate, surprising weight given the varietal and more authoritative flavors to set it apart from the rank & file pink (which there certainly are a lot of out there). Loads of style here. From 10-60 year old vines grown in Kimmeridgeon limestone soils in a single 2.5 hectare site called La Noue, harvested by hand and then assembled from part saignee and part direct press juice, this shows the purity and clarity that redefines the genre.
Delicacy and insistence, there is plenty of strawberry, raspberry, and other red fruits on display here, with deceptive vigor, unexpected depth, and plenty of palate authority. This is one of those pinks that performs at a higher level and, while it can be lustily consumed as a casual beverage, the wine has the kind of panache that will get your attention on a more intimate level. One of the best we have tasted this year.
Le Cengle Cotes de Provence Rose Vieilles Vignes 2017–Given our penchant for estate bottled pinks with a long and clear history in the region, this one is a little hard to explain. We have seen a lot of folks proffering ‘Provencal’ roses where they went to some co-op in the region, bought some juice, put it in an attractive bottle, and proceed to try and ‘brand’ it. Most of these are adequate, but lack the depth and flair of the best examples.
Because of our extensive network of sources, we rarely have interest in this sort of wine. This one, which follows a more specific if rather similar path, has made the cut for a number of seasons in succession. That is saying a lot.
The L’Cengle importer gives the impression that the winery makes this wine to his specifications. We have no way of knowing but if you can produce something this true to appellation, tasty and well priced, let’s just say whatever the ‘story’ is, keep it coming. We don’t even need all of our fingers to count the pinks that have been recurring players on our team over the last several years, but this one has. It’s exactly what you want of a Provencal pink.
Delicate, pale salmon color, nose of currants and berries, plus maybe a little touch of lime and white stone fruits, a fresh, lifted, engaging palate of mixed red fruits with a lick of citrus on the back-end, this hits all the buttons exactly as it should. A blend of 50% Grenache, 25%, Cinsault, and 25% Syrah, it’s crisp and crunchy, refreshing and super friendly with all manner of lighter foods. We buy this one every year because it delivers, and does so at a remarkably attractive price.