Summer is reaching its end, and wine club activities are finally starting. In the advanced-level circle in Munskänkarna in Brussels we alternate in arranging tastings at home, often blind. First for the season was a rosé theme, perhaps to prolong the summer feeling for a little while more. Primarily, it was rosés from Bandol, where the evening’s host G.S.M. had spent the summer together with U.M.
First, however, we toasted U.M. who had finally had his paper on Catalan wines approved, and thus completed the highest course level (”level 3”) within Munskänkarna. This level requires a written test, followed by a practical test (blind tasting of five flights of four wines each), and finally a paper. It roughly compares to the WSET Diploma level, I’ve heard. Hooray and congratulations, U.! For the toast, a sparkling wine was served blind.
Gramona III Lustros Gran Reserva 2001, Cava
€ 29, 70% Xarel·lo, 30% Macabeu, 5 years on the lees, apparently sealed with natural cork rather than the more common crown cap.
Clear, light yellow colour. In the nose yellow fruit, citrus including zest, some biscuity aromas and some development. On the palate quite dry, rather fruity, minerally, citrus, yellow fruit, high acidity, almond, and some bitterness in the finish. Good aromas, elegant, definitely an ambitious sparkler, but the final bitterness reduces the rating somewhat, 87-88 p.
In the nose and in the attack it was rather similar to a serious Champagne Blanc de Blancs (starts like a 90+ p wine of this style), but the finish was distinctly different and in principle excluded Champagne (our local chapter’s official Champagne expert was sitting opposite from me and agreed). I assumed this had to be some sort of varietal character, and in this case from a white grape, because I detected no red berries or other red grape characters. Cava was indeed one our guesses just because who were our hosts (remember that he had written on Catalan wines), but the acidity and minerality indicated a quite cold area. I and another participant started speculating that it perhaps could be a very serious sparkling Vouvray. But it was a Cava, so our hosts were true to their reputation. U.M. pointed out that Xarel·lo can give wines with an earthy and possibly bitter profile. I can imagine that someone who is used to the profile of this variety could see the slightly bitter finish of this wine as characteristic rather than disturbing. In this case, the rating would most likely end up at 90+. I must admit, however, that I’m more disturbed than many other wine tasters by obvious bitterness in wine, when it exceeds a certain level. I do think that a certain citrus-peel-like bitterness in serious white wines can add to their ”food-friendly” profile, but this has to be balanced by other components in the wine to be fully agreeable, and the bitterness should not overpower the other components in the aftertaste, at least if I’m going to give it a high rating.
And now for something completely different, the actual theme of the evening: rosé wines focussing on Provence in general and Bandol in particular. The line-up consisted of three high-end Bandols, three other Provence wines and three completely different rosés (Penedès, Tuscany and Tavel, i.e., Rhône) as reference. The wines were served in two flights. The first flight of five wines consisted of two Provence and the ”other three”, and was served semi-blind. That’s the flight in the photo above. Well, how does one go about trying to identify different rosés? Colour, sweetness and spiciness? I had an idea how a Provence, Tavel and Penedès should be, but Tuscany? Well-known region for reds, but rosé wines in general isn’t what Italy is renowned for, as far as I’ve noticed. Is there perhaps a reason for that?
1. Pey Neuf rosé
Vin de pays de Mont Caume (€ 6)
Very pale colour, pale salmon. Spicy aromas of wild strawberries, nuanced on the nose. Completely dry on the palate, clearly spicy, good acidity, restrained aromas of wild strawberries. A seriously ”foody” rosé, the most elegant of this flight. 87-88 p.
My guess: this should be a Provence, and probably the more expensive one since it was better and more elegant than the other Provence-styled wine (#3). A small reservation that it could be a Tavel, although they’re usually not this pale. And it turned out to be the simpler Provence wine! Apparently bought on location after recommendation, and if I remember right, the same producer is also the source of more expensive appellation wines.
2. 100 Descregut Rosado Tempranillo 2008
Penedès, ≈ € 7.
Bright red colour. Discrete on the nose, some raspberry, cherries, clearly herbal/green notes. Slightly sweet taste, red currants and lingonberries (well, I’m Swedish so those are my references), some bitterness. Rather simple, without doubt the weakest wine of this flight. Some herbaceousness can be a plus in a food-friendly wine, but in a wine with some sweetness, ”green” aromas just become another deficiency when compared to the ”foodier” and more elegant wines. 76-78 p.
My guess: either the simple wine (Vin de pays) or the Tempranillo wine, because Tempranillo rosés often have this ”dark pink” colour. And Tempranillo it was.
3. Rimauresq cru classé 2009
Côtes de Provence (€ 13), 40% Cinsault 40 %, 15% Tibouren, 45% Grenache
Pale pink colour. In the nose wild strawberries and candy, some spice. Similar to #1, but more candy-styled. Rather dry on the palate, wild strawberries, some spice and herbs, good acidity, some bitterness, mint? Food rosé, but not as elegant as #1. 82-84 p.
My guess: this should be a Provence. And it was, but the more expensive of the two, despite the fact that #1 was clearly more elegant.
4. Bolgarello 2009, Poggio al Tesoro
Tuscany, ≈ € 8. 70% Sangiovese and 30% Shiraz
Simply pink – intermediate in the flight. In the nose spicy, wild strawberries and red currants. Almost dry on the palate, wild strawberries, good spiciness, some tannin, and bitter in the finish. Serious, powerful food rosé but perhaps rather coarse than elegant. 83-85 p.
My guess: intermediate in colour and ”foody” in style – this should be the Tavel. But not – it was the Tuscan rosé. Is it possible to blame the fact that I haven’t tried any Tuscan rosés before?
5. Les Vallognes Tavel 2009
Southern Rhône, € 9,99 at Delhaize, Grenache/Syrah-blend
Bright pinkish red, not quite as dark as #2. In the nose rather discrete but fruity, raspberries with some spice. Rather dry on the palate, raspberries and red currants, spicy, good acidity, some tannin. A fruity, spicy rosé, rather ”foody”, well made. 87-88 p.
My guess: rather dark in colour – Tempranillo or Tuscany (I guess Italians have never been in favour of discretion?). But it was a Tavel. When the bottle was displayed I even realised I probably drank this very wine earlier this year (or was it a 2008?), and it’s a common sight at Delhaize. Well, well, well – Tavel is usually good and to my liking, and why did I get the idea that Tavel should be lighter than this in colour? It was possibly a tad sweeter and more fruity in style than what I expected from a good Tavel, and slightly less ”foody”. Still, this remains a very serious wine, and one of the best and most reliable rosés widely distributed in Belgium.
This was definitely a very interesting flight, with clear differences in colour, style and quality. But although we tasted semi-blind rather than fully blind, it wasn’t that easy to identify the wines. Is it possible to blame the simple fact that most of us do much fewer serious tastings of rosés than of whites and reds? Or am I just trying to come up with embarrassing excuses?
And now for the ”power flight” with the three Bandols + another Provence rosé. These wines were served open.
6. Bunan Moulin des Costes rosé 2008
Bandol (€ 16,50), 21% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache, 63% Cinsault, 1% Syrah (Why 1% of a grape variety??? Was there a bucket left over that didn’t fit into the tank when another cuvée was assembled?)
Very pale pink colour. In the nose some animal and leather notes, wild strawberries, raspberries and red currants, a touch of spice. On the palate not completely dry, fruity, relatively full-bodied, clearly food-friendly style. 88-89 p.
7. Clos Cibonne, Tibouren, cru classé 2008
Côtes de Provence (€ 11,90), 100% Tibouren
Pale pink colour. Slightly minty and flowery aromas in the nose, wild strawberries, caramel aromas and some herbal notes. On the palate a food-friendly impression, slight sweetness, red berries, slightly spicy. Different from the rest, quite exciting. 89-90 p. Someone else chose it as the evening’s best, in a very good second flight.
8. Château de Pibarnon rosé 2009
Bandol (€ 21), 50% Cinsault, 50% Mourvèdre (refers to the 2007)
Very pale pink colour. In the nose wild strawberry, some mint, slight spiciness, elegant. On the palate very good acidity, minty, elegant, wild strawberries and blood grape, mineral. Probably the most elegant rosé so far tasted by me, and the first time I really want to describe a rosé as very minerally. 90-91 p.
9. Gros noré rosé 2008
Bandol (€ 15,50), 50% Mourvèdre, 35% Cinsault, 15% Grenache
Pale pink colour. In the nose wild strawberries, initially some stale smell and some mint. On the palate rather fruity, but somewhat non-descriptive, some tannin, slightly clumsy impression. Improved in the glass, became more expressive and developed a herbal character as the staleness faded. Finally rated 85-87 p. This wine came with a recommendation that it should be served last, since it was so powerful. Sure, it had some power, but not obviously more #6 and #7.
A very interesting tasting, with some very serious rosés! One should definitely make room for one or two tastings like this in the annual tasting calendar. #8 was probably the most expensive rosé ”table wine” I’ve tasted, and by that I mean a rosé that has no bubbles or is an obscure rosé Eiswein or Beerenauslese. But the price was probably justifiable. With its elegance and minerality it should be a good match for powerful seafood dishes.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.