FINALLY IT’S PINK WINE TIME: PART ONE

We’ve been tasting roses literally since January, and selling them in earnest since the 2001 vintage, so we have been ready for rose season for quite some time. The weather had not been as cooperative on that front until mid-July but now, at long last, it’s pink wine time. As a vintage, 2018 wasn’t as broadly successful as some. The’hit ratio’ wasn’t as high as it has been, in part because there is simply too much mediocre pink wine out there trying to cash in on the craze. But we did find plenty of really exciting stuff over the course of some 200 offerings we tasted. Good times.

Solitude Cotes du Rhone Rosé 2018-This may be the best value of 2018. It is certainly one of them. The property has a glorious past and wines have been made at this place for several hundred years. The owners have had connection to the church and the three hats on the label refer to two bishops and a pope among the forefathers of the Lançon familiy. The medal on the label refers to an award from Napoleon after the battle of Waterloo to one family member. We have sold a number of Chateauneufs from this domaine over the years as well. Cinsault takes te lead here supported by Grenache and Syrah. Pale pink/salmon color, the delicacy of the CInsault is evident with notes of red melon, berries and a backnote of garrigue in the finish. Delicious and versatile.

Cardwell Hill Cellars Rosé of Pinot Noir 2018We have watched as this winery has become a very consistent source for quality red Pinot and, more recently, producers of a very appealing and very cost-effective Pinot Rose. They are very natural in the vineyard, and are devoted to being Salmon Safe by doing their part to protect the water quality and biodiversity in the Willamette Valley and other important northwest salmon watersheds. This is made from 100% Pinot Noir ( about 70% Pommard and 30% Dijon 777 clones if you are into that sort of thing) that is grown specifically to make this rose. The color is a moderately deep rose pink and the flavors have a definite varietal signature as well as floral aromas and immediately appealing notes of strawberry. Tasty, easy to quaff, ‘green’ environmentally, and well priced for what it is.

Fontenille Luberon Rosé 2018- While we have danced a few rounds with Fontenille and sold lots of their red wine over the years, this is the first time we can recall buying (seeing?) the rose. It stood out in our tastings as showing lots of engaging fruit and complexity at a very affordable price. The Luberon is a little more of a rustic area and the wine shows a bit of a wild, mineral side as well as a surprising depth and substance for its modest fare. The mix here is 50% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah, 20% Cinsault and 10% Mourvedre that gives the traditional berry/red melon profile but also an unexpected streak of yellow stone fruits. A lively pink with evident terroir notes.

Thivin Beaujolais Villages Rosé 2018Now for something completely different. You won’t find many rosés made like this, in the Beaujolais or anywhere else. It is fermented with ambient yeasts, completes malolactic, and is bottled only when the wine is deemed ‘ready’. Thivin makes it like any other serious wine and allows it to run its natural course rather than manipulating it to “some ‘designer’ specs and rushing it into bottle”. The result is a sleek, nervy, mineral laced, suave rosé that expresses the nuances of where it comes from…granite soils outside the cru of Brouilly. From a one-hectare parcel of 50-year-old vines in sand and pink granite, there’s succulent flesh and a mouthwatering finish punctuated by a pleasant salinity, but the insistent minerality is a definite stylistic distinction.  

Meyer Nakel Spatburgunder Rosé 2018-A few years back when we started to see the first Germans roses, our first thought was that the ‘fad’ had gone too far. But as soon as we started tasting them, we were convinced that this was something that went beyond mere copycatting. One of our first experiences with Deutscher pinks was this one and we have been fans ever since. So what does a 100% Pinot Noir Rosé crafted by the best Pinot Noir producer in Germany taste like? It is pretty special stuff. It is light and fresh enough on the palate but still feels like a red wine by virtue of its palate weight and presence. What is it with Pinot Noir Pinks and the Germans? These guys are making better pink wine from this grape variety than anyone else in the whole entire world. This one excites with its red cherry and strawberry echo, dense yet pinpoint mid-palate and that elusive combination of ‘serious’ and ‘joy’ that separates the great pinks from the good ones. It can play with ‘serious’ food as well.

Pradeaux Bandol Rosé 2018-Last year’s(2017) was something of a best of show for us, and the 2018 is in the same mold with perhaps a little more perceived palate weight and slightly lower acidity. The blend here is 50% Cinsault and 50% Mourvedre, with the latter imparting the wine’s distinctive undercurrent of that unique musky minerality that seems to be proprietary to how Mourvedre performs in this particular terroir.  In more rustic versions it can be overwhelming, but here it is another instrument in a virtual symphony of flavors.  The effusive nose speaks of red berries, blood oranges and that earthy/mineral thing that is so indicative of the region.  In the mouth it shows layers of flavor including, strawberry, orange, earth, mineral, and spice.  There’s enough outgoing fleshiness to easily make friends who aren’t necessarily even fans of Bandol but the flavors are unmistakable. If you were as big a fan of the 2017 as we were, you will be quite happy with this one.

Pinot Noir auf Deutsch?  Sehr gut!

Pinot Noir has been a hot topic for some time now.  And the usual discussion about whether the pricing and performance is currently more exciting in California’s Central Coast or Russian River, or in special vintages from the Motherland (France), is the norm.  But with global warming, there are new considerations to the Pinot discussion, particularly in a juicy vintage like 2015.  Like …Germany?

No, we are not talking about some leafy tasting, brownish Spätburgunder that garners little interest outside of Deutschland itself.  We are now talking about extremely appealing examples of German Pinot Noir these days, wines that are competitive on the world stage.  At the top of our list in that category is today’s selection from Meyer-Näkel.

This player is no surprise either to us any more, though we must admit our surprise from our first trip to the region more than a decade ago.  We have sold several vintages of the Meyer-Näkel wines  since that time and they only seem to be getting better.   Werner Näkel himself is credited with putting the Ahr on the map internationally back in the 1990s and nothing has changed, other than the Pinots have taken on a deeper fruit component and a more tender mouth feel,  while never losing the lift, clarity and purity that make them special.  The Ahr Valley has a long history with the varietal and is only elevated by the current weather trends.

Yes there are easier things to sell than German Pinot Noir, but the quality at Meyer-Näkel has earned them the right to be included in any serious discussion about the varietal.  As you might have guessed, the 2015 vintage that was a watershed for the Rieslings was also very kind to Pinot Noir.  So the Meyer Nakel Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) Estate 2015 has a bit more flesh and sweetness on the palate, making it perhaps the most ideal ‘crossover’ Pinot they have made.  Yet it still speaks of the unique micro-climate in this river valley.

Lively cherry and red berry fruit is accented with some smoky tones, cinnamon, slatey minerality, and a whiff of damp forest.  The fruit takes hold on the palate but there is a perfect tension that keeps everything bright and expressive.   For under $30, it can hold its own in any arena, with the personality best pegged as somewhere between Oregon and the Cote de Beaune, but with its own spin.  A must for Pinot lovers.