Fear not rose lovers, 2018's wines set to arrive soon
With Chicagoland sommeliers and wine merchants eagerly RSVP'ing to preview tastings of the 2018 vintage, our continued thirst for rose may be the hot topic on everyone's lips. But it's nothing new.
In 1942, Portugal's Mateus rosè hit the U.S. By the 1950s; it was the pink drink of choice for urbanites and the new suburbanites. By the '70s, their kids were living the "hang loose with Mateus" lifestyle, endorsed by Professor Dave Jennings (Animal House) and rock royalty including Jimi Hendrix, Graham Nash, and Elton John.
White Zinfandel is still California's crucial cash machine, quickly-made and quickly-sold to fund a winery's labor-intensive private reserve bottlings.
The difference between these and our current palate is in a word: dry. (In wine-speak, 'dry' generally indicates the absence of sugar.)
Mike Corso of Michael Corso Selections, an importer of fine French wine, has lived dry rosè's trajectory.
In 2010, while visiting French producers, Corso thought it might be fun to introduce their traditional dry rosè's to Chicagoland customers; he carried bottles home in his suitcase. In 2019, preseason rosè sales are so important that he imports 70 cases of samples (840 bottles) for his national wholesalers.
Corso's explanation of the trend is also in a word: food.
"One of my most memorable experiences was many years ago, a simple chicken on the grill: cut in pieces, marinated in olive oil, lemon, and garlic, grilled over charcoal. When served with rosè, the dish was a complete revelation, something I've enjoyed many times since. This meal was 25 years ago, and I still remember it vividly."
Mike finds particular affinity of rose with grills of all sorts including fresh sardines, whole sea bass or branzino, shrimp, clams, even boneless leg of lamb.
Then there are France's classic pairings: bouillabaisse and -- one of my peak culinary experiences -- a riverside cafè, Salade Nicoise and rose.
At Corso's recent tasting we learned that 2018 offers ripe, soft wines with generous flavor, not necessarily high alcohol, compared to the leaner 2017's. Orders are being assembled now for April delivery, so check with your favorite wine merchant or sommelier. A few of my favorites, along with Ross's Choice, include:
Coteaux Varois en Provence, Chateau Margui (Provence): A substantial and complex Rose, rich enough for cured and grilled seafood and meats. A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Cabernet, Syrah and Rolle (Vermentino). Better wine shops and some chains, about $29.99
Chinon, Domaine Dozon (Loire): With 40- to 60-year-old Cabernet Franc vines reserved for the Domaine's fine reds, this Rose has the benefit of 30-year-old vines, for dry and bracing flavor, combining citrus and berries with this grape's characteristic bell pepper and herbs. Limited availability, $15.99.
Touraine, La Vignette, Thierry Delauney (Loire): Rich and pretty with generous fruit and creamy palate, from a 5th-generation winegrower. A blend of Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. The Loire is France's longest river, emptying into the Atlantic, so sauteè your favorite river fish and serve with butter sauce for a Loire classic, Poisson de Rivière au Beurre Blanc. Wine shops, about $14.99.
Sancerre "Les Lys," Domaine Moreaux (Loire): 100 percent Pinot Noir, with elegance and racy acidity, rich enough for filet, grilled salmon and aged goat cheeses. Extremely limited, $25.99
Reuilly "Petit Gris," Domaine Dyckerhoff (Loire): A unique expression of Pinot Gris, the grey-skinned Pinot. Round and expanding on the palate with firm acidity. Fine wine shops only; $29.99
Ross' choiceWine Name: Cotes de Provence "Le Provencal''
Producer: Maitres Vignerons de la Vidaubanaise
Region: Provence, France
Availability: Widely, about $14.99
Distributed by: Maverick Wine Company, Bensenville
Founded in 1912, the Maitres Vignerons de la Vidaubanaise cooperative controls 600 hectares in the heart of Cotes de Provence, itself the heart of America's favorite rosé style. The blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Syrah, ripened in Mediterranean sunshine, offers a gentle waft of strawberry aroma, delicate weight and flavors sitting comfortably between fruity and dry. Zippy finish with citrus peel and mineral accents. Bottled in the 'flute a corset Provençal' (nicknamed the 'Mae West'), exclusive to Cotes de Provence wines. While 2018 arrives in late March, the rich acidity of 2017 (if any remain on the shelf) may endow mature wines with extra finesse. Check availability of this and other Michael Corso Selection rosé's with your wine merchant.