Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wine Blogging Wednesday 80 - Rebounding With Rosé

I think it's safe to say that the wine world is as prone to trends as any other topic or product with a high public profile. Whether it be skinny jeans or Viognier, molecular cuisine or indigenous Italian grapes, nouveau alternative folk or restrained Aussie Shiraz, you pretty well know that there's going to be something new and exciting right just around the corner.

From all the internet and traditional print buzz about Rosé wines, you could easily conclude that Rosé is the new "it" in the wine world. Maybe that's the reasoning behind this most recent resurrection of Wine Blogging Wednesday. Is there a more topical taste in the wine world than Rosé right now? Maybe we'll find out by the participation levels in WBW80.

A year on the internet can seem like an eternity - and this is the first Wine Blogging Wednesday to be attempted since this time last year - so, maybe a bit of a re-introduction is apropos. WBW was conceived over nine years ago by New York blogger, Lenn Tompson, as a monthly, virtual event. I was rather late to join to game. My first participation was with WBW65, but the concept is simple enough. It's been described as "people interested in wine, the world over, would coalesce each month around a single theme." Anyone intrigued by the month's topic submits their post or e-mail comments to the coordinator - or nowadays, their Twitter, Tumblr or Google+ witticisms (not that I know what the last two are) - which are then coordinated and shared. This round is the the 80th such outing.

This month's host, Tim Elliot from Winecast announced WBW80 with: "Good dry rosé is one of the most versatile wines in summer matching with light to heavy fare. But like some other wines, Rosé (here in America anyway) doesn't get the respect it deserves. So I'd like to see everyone explore beyond their regular summer Rosés and try something new. it might be an obscure varietal or a region you haven't tried before. Or maybe just kicking it old-school and picking up a Rosé from Bandol, Tavel or Provence from a new producer."

It's a topic that I can heartily support - and NOT just because of the whole "gay" affiliation with the colour pink (as I raise I my eyebrows in mild exasperation). We tend to drink a healthy share of Rosé wines at our household as, on the whole, we tend to like reds over whites but find that a Rosé can give you some extra body and profile than a white while still matching up nicely with the summer's lighter fare and warmer temperatures. In fact, I've taken to drinking Rosé throughout the year. Why limit it to summer?

For WBW80, we invited the beautiful and talented Elzee over for a dinner of moules frites - thinking that a little quasi Provençal fare would be a grand accompaniment to a trio of wines. The Rosés I had in the cellar are all Okanagan wines and I wanted to mix things up a bit. Elzee was going to bring a surprise bottle; so, I thought I'd hit a couple of bottle shops (government and private) to see what they had. The thought was to serve a BC, a French and one other region.

Talk about being disappointed. Despite all of the media hype on Rosé, each of the shops had a small assortment of BC wines and precious little else. The government shop had a few commercial, mass market bottles from a couple of regions and one Spanish Rosado (which I'd already added to The List). At least the private shop (Liberty) had a choice of four French wines. I grabbed one of those to go with my bottle of BC at home.

Turned out that Elzee ran into the same problem. Of all things, she managed to choose the same French wine that I did. Rather than just drink two BC wines along with our French bottle, we made a quick run to another small shop not too far away. They had a total of three Rosés in stock. We grabbed the one Washington state bottle they had as it would offer us a bit of a contrast.

Our lack of choice begs the old chicken and egg question: do these stores not carry Rosé because no one really buys that wine style or does no one tend to buy Rosé because there's so little of it to choose from?

In any event, we had our three bottles and they were very different from each other - and it's interesting in that Boo's, Elzee's and my takes on the wines all changed over the course of the evening.

1391.  2012 Clean Slate - Gamay Rosé (Okanagan Valley)

As a simple sipper, this new entry on the BC wine scene impressed all three of us. Clean Slate has only been around for a couple of vintages and it is a partnership between Ross Hackworth of Nichol Vineyard, Matthew Sherlock from Nichol and previously of Vancouver's wine and restaurant scene and Gitta Pederson of Poplar Grove Cheese fame. She's provided the vineyards and the shared tasting/sales room, while the men look after the wine production.

Clean Slate's total production is only 650 cases and that includes a white and a couple of reds on top of the Rosé. Needless to say, there isn't a whole lot of this Rosé around. I managed to grab a bottle when I stopped in, during the recent Wine Bloggers' Conference, to pick up some of our fave Tiger Blue cheese. The bottle of Clean Slate was a side benefit.

The lightest of the three wines in colour, there was a vibrant acidity that just made you forget the heat of the day. Rosé wines can be made from pretty much any grape the winemaker wants and there are a couple of Gamay-based versions coming out of the Okanagan. The Clean Slate didn't pair quite as memorably with the strong flavours and heat of the mussels but I was still very glad to get a chance to try one of their wines for the first time.

1392.  2011 Château Calissanne (AOC Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence - France)

Rosé is the primary wine of note in Provence and the Château Calissanne is about as classic as Provençal Rosés get. It's a blend of the traditional Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre grapes, with just a touch of Syrah added to round out the wine. We found that it was subtler in its flavour profile than the two North American wines - with most of its soft fruit not appearing until the mid-palate and finish, but the body and acidity was certainly well balanced.

All three of thought that we enjoyed this wine more and more as the evening continued - and all three of us reached for it first when it came to refilling our glass while munching on mussels.

If mussels and Rosé are staples of Provence, I need to get me there!

1393.  2012 Charles & Charles Rosé (Columbia Valley - Washington State)

I had neither seen nor heard of our third wine of the night before but I saw, after the fact, that it was recently picked as a Best Value by Wine Spectator. This Rosé is a collaboration that started in 2008 between Charles Smith of K Vintners and Charles Bieler who started producing Rosé at family-owned Château Routas in Provence until they sold the estate in 2005. The Bieler family then invested in Bieler Père et Fils, a winery also in Couteaux d'Aix-en-Provence. Finally, Charles B. approached Charles S. to consider taking a stab at producing a quality Rosé in the US as the former saw a definite opportunity to fill a perceived void in the American market.

They started with a batch of Syrah grapes that Smith didn't think were ripe enough or big enough for his trademark K Syrah and they now produce 20,000 cases.

Interestingly enough, the Washington Rosé uses the same classic grapes used in Provençal wines - and as in the Calissanne - but the percentages are turned on their head. Instead of playing a small part - as it did in the French wine - here the Syrah takes a dominant position at 81%. The balance of the blend is Mourvèdre (16%), Cinsault (2%) and Grenache (1%). It seemed that, of the three, this was the wine with the most noticeable fruit. It wasn't, however, necessarily overwhelming, or even alluring, with its fruitiness on an initial taste. The C&C grew on us once it was paired with food though. Indeed, it particularly seemed to come alive after it had warmed up a bit and was paired with the tomato and bocconcini salad we started out with.

In the end, all three wines had their moments - which, I suppose, is just how you'd like an evening's selection to go. Despite all three being quite different from the others in their takes on Rosé, I think it's a joy to see that North American wineries are beginning to pay as much attention to making Rosé as the French and Provençal wineries have for a very long time.

I'm also quite enthralled with the return of Wine Blogging Wednesday. Tim and the WBW powers that be deserve kudos for taking another stab. Hopefully, the concept will strike a chord with plenty of other wine loving bloggers out there and we can make a more regular go of the event. Here's to having WBW81 next month as opposed to next year. See you then.

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