* Final day for voting in Wine Blog Awards 2014, for which this column is nominated in ‘Best Writing On A Wine Blog’. http://wineblogawards.org/ if you intend to vote for me. Otherwise, move along, nothing to see here…
Every time I run into homeboy Michael Korn, wine wiz and—incongruity made manifest—professional paint ball player, I am struck by the fickle tricks that nature plays on us as we age. For instance, when Michael Korn was thirteen, I put the bar in his bar mitzvah: I poured wine for the company that catered his seudat. Now, suddenly, by some supernatural cosmic legerdemain, we are both the same age; at least, we are both middle-aged juice junkies with grey in our beards to whom the phrase ‘wise beyond our years’ has become ‘wise despite our years’.
Anyway, all along the career path that took this young pup from blue balls to paint balls, bar mitzvahs to bar hopping, Torah to pour-a, our swill stars have aligned throughout the state, most recently at Jimmy Lutfy’s Livonia fine wine gem of a retail hole-in-the-wall, not your mom ‘n’ pop’s Boone’s Farm bazaar. Lutfy routinely attracts savvy wine people, visiting vintners to wedge into his postage-stamp-sized specialty shop, Fine Wine Source. Get on his mailing list to find out who and when: http://finewinesource.net/about-us/
On Friday, it was Michael Korn (rep of outstanding Woodberry Wines) pouring a fine selection of rosé, fighting in the vanguard of the fuchsia faction who are campaigning to find a wider American audience for the dry version of less-than-red-colored wines. As a member of the Detroit Action Paintball team, he likely has an egalitarian view of color; thus, no innate reason to trash pink simply because Sutter Home made a fortune sullying the chromatic reputation of rosé, which reaches certain heights of majesty in Loire, Tavel, Penedès, and to some extent, Champagne.
Mike’s spread covered the several stylistic approaches used to turn red wine grapes a shade which can range from melon-pale to coppery orange to a severe, neonic magenta, representing a number of appellations known for their superlative interpretations of this genre.
The most common method of rendering rosé from red grapes is to allow the must only a brief period of maceration on the skins—the source of wine color in the first place. After a day or less, juice from the crushed grapes is drawn off, having picked up only a tint of tint and few sneaky phenolics. French pinks are often made via saignée, a technique originally intended to concentrate the leftover portion of red wine, with the extra juice often tossed out. Rather than throw out the baby with the bath water, frugal vintners realized that If it is fermented instead, it results in a lighter, pinker, more acidic—but quite lovely—wine. This was, in fact, the original incarnation—with added sugar—of white zinfandel.
Another technique relies on lighter-skinned red grapes like cinsault (Vin de Pays d’Oc) and gamay (Côtes de Toul), allowing only the briefest skin contact time and producing gris de gris-labeled wine which is pink in name alone.
Rosé wines from Champagne take a different tack; these wines, representing about 5% of the AOC’s production, are often produced by from a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir—the two principal grapes of the region. By far the priciest of the pink posse, quality rosé from Champagne offers something unique to the profile: Ageability. In general, nearly every bottle of pink you pick, from Brangelina’s heralded Miraval to Wild Irish Rosé are meant to be consumed within a fairly limited time frame; the youthful fruit and fresh spritzy quality of your basic porch-pounder fades quickly, and limited skin contact misses out on some of the essential, natural anthocyanins that we equate with a wine’s ability to change and improve as it sits in a cellar. Rosé from Champagne, made in a slightly more robust style by the addition of red wine, may find itself in an enviable stratosphere: The 10 to 12% of wines, red or white, that actually become more complex with age. These wines, far from being a saignée afterthought, are often a Champagne house’s iconic, prestige cuvée.
Back to Korn on the Job:
Whatever color Mr. Korn decides to paint the town tonight with his paint ball gear, I can assure you that he has become more complex with age. Always great to touch base with old winos; and glad to see that he is still in the pink.
Tasting Notes (given in the order that Mike wanted these wines presented):
‘Biutiful Rosé Cava, Penedès (Spain), NV, around $15: A potent whiff of yeast without a lot of fruit to shore it up, tis winds up being a peasant tipple, good for the price, but a little heavy-handed and tart—the sort of high-acid, citrusy wine you can feel in your mumps.
Montaudon Grande Brute Rosé, Reims (France), NV, around $55: Chocolate-covered cherries and toast in the nose; big and balanced between crisp and cream, fruit and smoke, silkiness and aggressivity. A grand wine; a celebratory centerpiece.
Rack & Riddle Brue Rosé, North Coast (California), NV, about $27: Youthful with a fine, classic, nimble mousse. From a North Coast custom crush facility, this is complex sparkler offers lemon-lime, strawberries, brioche, vanilla and honey.
Sainte Andre de Figuiére Signature ‘Magali’ Rosé, Côtes de Provence (France), 2012, around $17: Pithy and pink, fairly simple, but fresh with strawberry and watermelon notes and a distinct grapefruit finish. Nothing to write tomes about, but a lovely refreshment worth a text or two.
Domaine Mejan Taulier Canto-Perdix Rosé, Tavel (France), 2012, around $20: I’m a sucker for Tavel rosé and this one tickled me pink. The perfect tannic undertow, likely based on a Southern Rhône blend of mourvedre, syrah, grenache, to lift the bright spring berry profile. Lots of juicy raspberry and deep, complex nuances. A connoisseur’s blush; a converter of the cynical.
Moris Farms Rosé ‘Mandriolo’, Tuscany (Italy), 2013, about $15: Sangiovese-based, fruit-driven and gently acidic, Mandriolo is a nice finesse-filled foil for the massive reds of the region. Still plump with cherry and crisp with lime, the wine is vivid, wild and delicious.