Rose Tinted Glasses

With the mercury continuing to rise, it certainly seems like time is ripe for a review of summer’s most glorious beverage – Rose. While Rosé is certainly not the only beverage capable of providing vinotastic relief from the dog days of August (crisp Sauvignon Blanc comes to mind and there is something called Beer floating around as well), it is and always will be the perennial summer wine (although, and similar to Champagne, it is drunk too infrequently and should be enjoyed year-round).

With a beautiful pink color, tons of fresh and tart berry fruits, a typically low(er) alcohol content and crisp refreshing acidity, it’s the perfect summer beverage, best enjoyed out of doors and well chilled.  Rosé gets extra credit for typically having a low price and exhibiting extreme food-pairing versatility.  As you will see from the tasting notes below, Rosé can and is made from almost any red grape including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Carignan, Syrah, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

Rosé wines are made using a number of different techniques and its name (French for pink) describes all wines between red and white on the color spectrum.  One method of producing Rosé is maceration in which, following crush, the white juice of red grapes is allowed to have minimal contact with the grape skins (typically a few hours to a few days) before they are discarded (the longer the contact with the skins the darker in color and the more full-bodied and tannic the wine will be).  Given the limited contact with the skins, almost no tannins are imparted into the juice allowing the wine to be enjoyed well chilled (see my wine-serving temperature newsletter for the negative effects chilling has on the tannins in wine).

Another common method is known as the Saignée method that is a byproduct of making red wine in which the wine maker “bleeds the vats”.  If a wine maker desires to increase the intensity of a red wine, they may drain some of the pink juice prior to fermentation resulting in a higher concentration of red juice and a more intensely flavored wine.  The drained pink juice is fermented as a separate wine giving us Rosé.  Yet another, far less common method and one which usually results in inferior wines, is blending red and white wines.  This winemaking methodology is only utilized in Champagne, where Pinot Noir is added to a Champagne base to create the sexiest of all wines – Rosé Champagne.  Another, less common, method is via maceration, in which the Pinot Noir grapes are allowed very brief skin contact during fermentation.

In the United States, Rosé is also referred to as blush wine or White [X], with the [X] substituted with whichever grape the wine in question is produced.  An example would be White Zinfandel that, for some unfathomable reason, tends to be a pretty popular wine but remains a wine you should never ever drink.  If there were ever a wine that could compete with Bartanura’s Moscato d’Asti for my disdain – White Zinfandel would be at the top of the list (and several rungs above any other potential competitor).  Besides its general inferiority, most White Zinfandel wines have an unpleasant bubble gum flavor and almost every kosher version of this poor excuse for a wine should assume responsibility that folks still associate kosher wine with bad wine.

As noted above, one of the best things about Rosé is how delightfully refreshing the wine can be when served well-chilled, providing substantial assistance in assuaging the exhausting effect of the heat and humidity.  I try to serve Rosé at about 46-50ºF (8-10ºC) – slightly colder than its optimum drinking temperature, as this allows the wine to gradually come to the right temperature in your glass so it can be enjoyed properly (instead of starting out at the right temperature and being too warm five minutes later when you take your first sip).  Rosé is the quintessential picnic or brunch (or breakfast!) wine, matching beautifully with omelets, chicken salad, fried and lightly grilled fish and much of the lighter fare we tend to start reaching for as the mercury skyrockets.

While many prefer a little residual sugar in their Rosé, my personal preference is for exceedingly dry and crisp.  Historically this was a tough find among kosher Rosé wines, especially those coming from Israel.  However, sophistication among kosher oenophiles continues to grow, Rosé (along with white wine) is becoming increasingly popular, leading more and more wineries to add a version to their repertoire (the most impactful addition being the Brut Rosé from Yarden which made it to my list of Most Interesting Wines of 2013).  While many of these new options still contain a bit of residual sugar, more and more crisply dry versions are appearing on the shelves (and there is nothing wrong with a bit of RS from time to time either).

While value-pricing is a typical hallmark of Rosé  wines, many of the Israeli versions continue to suffer from the Achilles Hell of Israel’s wine industry – price and many of them are in the $20-30 range (or higher) instead of the more appropriate $12-20 range.  That said, there are a number of well-priced options including versions fromRecanatiDomaine Netofa and Dalton (whose 2013 is dryer and crisper than prior vintages), both of whom are reviewed and recommended below.  Obviously heeding my call in last year’s newsletter, Covenant’s Jeff Morgan finally returned to his roots and released a Rosé under his Red C label (which I have not yet tasted but given his past Rosé capabilities, I’m pretty sure it’s worth checking out). Collectively, the number of new Rosé wines is truly astounding, leaving me with almost 20 different wines I enjoyed (far too many to recommend here).  Wines I have recently recommended and/or reviewed aren’t repeated below (includingYarden’s Brut Rosé, Gvaot’s 2012 version and the newly released Rosé from Jezreel Valley) and there are a few newly released wines I enjoyed last year but haven’t tasted this year’s vintage yet (like the 2013 Bat Shlomo Rosé and the new version from the Golan Heights Winery under their Gamla HaShmura label). Another item of note is the rise of the California Rosé. In addition to the aforementioned covenant, Brobdingnagian, Shirah and Four Gates all released Rosé wines for the first time, many of which are quite good, competing nicely (if not on price) with their Israeli brethren.

Two last things to keep in mind when plunking down for a Rosé:  similar to white wines, Rosé wines are meant to be drunk as close to release as possible so always look for the most recent vintage year as they lose their bright, fresh flavors quickly and Rosé is not a wine to be taken seriously – they are meant to be fun – so chill, relax and enjoy!

Agur, Rosa, 2013:  With a slightly eccentric character and offbeat profile, Shuki’s wines are always different and his Rosa is no different, presenting as a Rosé with bite and making for an interesting and enjoyable wine (albeit not for everyone).  As with last year’s version (and consistent with Agur’s winemaking philosophy of sticking to blends), the wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Mourvedre, clocking in at a reasonable 13% AbV.  A delightfully fresh nose of red summer fruit, warm herbs, a whiff of honeysuckle leads into a light to medium bodied palate with plenty of sweet strawberries, tart cranberries, rosewater, some citrus and a hint of ripe pomegranate seeds with a bitter minerality running through keeping things interesting and giving the wine some desirable “oomph”.

Alexander, Rosé Roje, 2013:  Despite building its reputation on big and heavily oaked red wine (not to mention the metal and eye-catching labels), Yoram apparently knows how to make lighter white and Rosé wines quite well.  While slightly ridiculously priced, his recently released Reserve (“Cleopatra”) Chardonnay was very well made and his Rosé made a summarily good impression on me. Whether the recent addition of (former Segal winemaker) Avi Feldstein as a consultant had anything to do with it, the newly released blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre is a welcome addition to Israel’s burgeoning Rosé wine scene with some Petit Verdot added that was grown and harvested specially for inclusion in the wine.  As with the Castel version below, each varietal was harvested two to four months early and fermented separately in neutral oak barrels before being blended into the final product.  A robust nose of minerals, strawberries, crushed rose petals, citrus and a whiff of toasty oak is balanced with good acidity and a slight viscosity that give the wine some welcome presence.  Worth seeking out [Only available in Israel].

Bazelet HaGolan, Rose, 2013:  Blending the low regarded Isabella grape with the noble Cabernet Sauvignon yielded a very interesting and different wine that provides a lovely oenophilic experience, if not a typical Rosé one.  A robust and slightly sweet nose of ripe strawberries, candied cherries and an atypical hint of cassis from the Cabernet Sauvignon that somehow made sense in this 14% AbV wine.  Another substantial Rosé with pleasing bitterness, somehow reminiscent of the versions from Shirah and Agur.

Capcanes, Peraj Petita, Rosat, 2013:  As with last year’s version, the wine is made by bleeding (Saignée method) some wine early on from the Peraj Petita and comprised of the same blend of Grenache, Carignan and Tempranillo.  A bright nose of red cherries, roses and tangy cranberries leads into a medium bodied palate with plenty more red fruit, good balancing acidity and balancing minerals that keep the fruit in check.  A good quaffing summer wine without any pretentions [Only available in the US].

Castel, Rose, 2013:  Ever since bursting on the scene with its inaugural 2009 vintage, the Castel Rosé has established itself as a force to be contended with (with a somewhat heavy price tag to go along with the quality).  While tasty, last year’s version was the weakest of the bunch with the 2013 redeeming itself and then some.  A blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 20% Malbec, all of which were harvested early to keep the acidity levels high and avoid any hint of overripe fruit.  A light to medium bodied wine with plenty of ripe red summer fruits including strawberries, watermelon, cherries and red grapefruit, accompanied by lemon, pleasing minerality and mouth-puckering acidity and ending with a hint of bitterness on the finish that reminds you this is a serious wine.  A great wine for summer Bar-B-Qs, this is a wine I would drink daily if not for its somewhat high price-point.

Dalton, Rose, 2013:  Historically the classic entry-level Israeli wine, well made and on the slightly sweeter side without any complexity or pretentions – Rosé as it was (more or less meant to be – in Israel).  This year’s vintage is a welcome change, bringing with hint more than a hint of complexity along with a crisper and dryer profile that I loved.  A traditionally aromatic nose of ripe strawberries, tart raspberries, delightful citrusy notes and a pleasing spiciness accompanied by flinty minerals that provide the wine with a mature character that was not present in recent vintages.  Easily a YH Best Buy and well-worth stockpiling.

Domaine Netofa, Rose, 2013:  Slightly increasing the percentage of Mourvedre (by 5%) from last year’s version, this delightful Rosé from a serious winery clocks in at 55% Syrah and 45% Mourvedre.  Made in the traditional Provence style and crisply dry, this wine is another home run from a winery already nearly batting 1.000.  While 2012 was a treat, the 2013 version managed to school it, presenting an increasingly level of complexity while remaining fun and unpretentious.  A rich and non-traditional nose of tart apple and cranberries, stone fruits including apricot and peach along with some warm spices leads into a medium bodied and somewhat austere palate of red and sweet summer fruit, with hints of citrus and heather honey along with great acidity and bright minerals.  A really delightful option that makes you crave more and more.

Flam, Rose, 2013:  As with everything else they make, Flam’s Rosé is the benchmark for top-notch and innovative quality (albeit with an unfortunate (for Rosé) price point to match) among Israeli Rosé wines.  In a change from last years 100% Cabernet franc, this year’s version is a blend of 80% Cabernet Franc, 17% Syrah and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon resulting in a heavier mineral bite (with slightly less acid).  A refreshing and crisply dry version, loaded with strawberries, pomegranate, red cherries, red grapefruit and minerals with great balancing acidity and a pleasing bitter finish.  The only obstacle to my enjoying this wine on a daily basis is it’s relatively high ~$30 price tag, which places it in the same company as the exceptional Castel Rosé (both qualitatively and cost-wise).

Galil Mountain, Rose, 2013:  A perennial performer year after year, embodying Israeli Rosé – well-priced, uncomplicated, rich red summer fruit, ever so slight hints of RS and well-matched to an array of summer fare, this years version is no exception to the rule.  A highly aromatic nose with plenty of lime accompanying the more traditional strawberries and crushed rose petals, with some tart raspberries and spices combining to make this a very easy-drinking wine and a refreshing quaffer to imbibe in, all summer long.

Goose Bay, Reserve, Pinot Noir, Rosé, 2013:  Utilizing Pinot Noir grapes specially harvested to make the Rosé, the grapes sat in the press for two days before being lightly pressed and fermented along with oak staves.  An interesting wine with plenty of character and a medium bodied palate with a viscous feel and nice notes of cherry, raspberry, earthy minerals and a pleasing spiciness with great balancing acidity and a touch of sweetness that somehow makes sense in this wine [Only available in the US].

Hajdu, Pinot Gris, Rose, 2013:  Another great wine from one of the top young kosher winemakers out there.  As would be expected from the purveyor of theBrobdingnagian labels, this wine is big, special, interesting and certainly different than most Rosés you have experienced.  Made from 100% Pinot Gris sourced from the Carneros AVA, the wine is a tremendous match to many different foods.  I enjoyed this wine with two heavily creative fish dishes to which it was near-perfectly matched despite its relatively heavy 14.5% AbV.  Give this wine a few minutes in your glass or decanter and the slightly sweet red summer fruit dissipates leaving behind a wondrous salinity and balancing acidic bite that is amazing with a nose of minerals, citrus, warm spices and sweet and freshly picked strawberries.  As with nearly everything Jonathan produces, this wine is to be reckoned with [Only available in the US].

Herzberg, Sitrya Village, Rosé, 2013:  In a marked departure from prior visits to Israel, I only managed one (gasp) winery on my most recent visit which was primarily work driven (even this visit has a work bent to it), hitting up Domaine Herzberg for a Friday morning, open house visit.  Made from the winery’s acclaimed Malbec which was harvested two weeks early specially for making the Rosé, the wine has a subtle nose of ripe red summer fruits, some pleasing bitter minerality and sufficient acidity to keep things interesting and refreshing through Israel’s hot summer days (and nights, especially in Sitrya, right outside of Rehovot).  A limited run of 750 bottles, it’s worth searching out and picking up a few bottles [Only available in Israel].

Kishor, Kishor Vineyard, Rosé, 2013:  Another of the wineries I alluded to in last week’s newsletter, Kishor Winery has managed to create a slate of really nice wines at its first try.  The fact that (a la Tulip Winery), the winery also houses special needs adults is only an additional reason they are deserving of your support.  At the recent Sommelier Expo in Israel I had the opportunity to taste through their entire range of wines and came away happy with their Rosé being no exception.  Made from 100% Merlot (the inaugural 2012 version was a 50-50% blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and was slightly on the dryer side), the wine had really nice balancing acidity to keep thinks light and lively.  Plenty of red summer fruits, refreshing citrus and decent minerality combine to make this a pleasing wine, albeit on the slightly expensive side [Only available in Israel].

Luria, Rose, 2013:  An interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with some Barbera included that provides an interesting twist in the fruit and aroma profile of this well made wine from the up and coming winery.  Plenty of red cherries, roses and tangy cranberries on the nose and palate with lush strawberries, hint of stone fruits including white peaches and ripe apricots with some medium bodied heft from the Cabernet Sauvignon making its contribution felt, in quite a pleasing wine (while differentiating the wine from its lighter and more quaffable siblings). A worthy addition to Lueria’s growing portfolio.

Recanati, Rose, 2013:  As with the versions from Dalton and Galil Mountain, this wine is a perennial winner with great QPR, balancing acidity and lovely red fruits. Year after year, Recanati succeeds without faltering or trying too hard.  Primarily Barbera with some Merlot blended in for a hint of lushness, the wine has bright summer and red fruits with a nice Mediterranean herbaceousness that is immensely pleasing.  While the wine is slightly sweeter than I prefer, it will be most enjoyable to many and should be high on your list for a summer quaffer that won’t break the bank or take up much (if any) of your brainpower.

Shirah, Rose, 2012:  After a substantial production increase in both the 2012 and 2013 vintages, I am happy to see that the creative Weiss Brothers continue to delight with new creations every year.  For 2012 they produced a smashingly delightful Rosé made from 100% Grenache with so much acidic character that if you close you eyes, you would be hard—pressed to identify it as a Rosé.  A bright and aromatic nose with loads of strawberries, cherries and cranberries accompanied by warm roasted herbs, steely minerals and plenty of citrus, much of which is present on the expressive medium bodied palate.  Plenty of balancing acid keeps the wine lively and fresh while the earthy minerals, candied cherries and raspberries and more bright fruit give it serious presence.  Kudos [Only available in the US].

About the Author
Yossie Horwitz has been tasting, drinking and learning about wine for over 20 years and has been writing a weekly newsletter – Yossie’s Wine Recommendations – on kosher wines, wineries and other wine-related topics for nearly seven years. Yossie practices transactional corporate law in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and four children.
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