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IS IT ROSÉ TIME?

John Tilson • 5/1/18        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

 

Spring has arrived. And the new vintage 2017 rosés are starting to appear on the market. So with the normal fanfare merchants are now heralding the “It’s Rosé Time” chant. That’s all well and good.

 

But, it was not all that many years ago that Americans paid little attention to rosé. Oh yes, in the 60s some Americans were enthralled with sweet slightly sparkling wines from Portugal such as Mateus and Lancers as well as sparkling Cold Duck. Then in the 70s, thanks to an abundance of Zinfandel grapes brought about by the fall from grace for alcoholic late harvest sweet Zinfandel and an accident in wine making, “White Zinfandel” first appeared from Sutter Home as a pink sweet wine. It soon became all the rage for Americans who did not really drink wine with meals, but liked sweet wine. Later the ubiquitous White Zinfandel would be made by many producers and adopted by many Americans to drink with meals much like soft drinks are consumed with meals. Of course, these pink, sweet and often insipid, wines had nothing to do with the dry rosés made in almost all wine growing areas of Europe. So the wine trade began calling these pink wines “blush” wines. At this time, not a lot of European dry rosés were being imported and those that were were not well known by most Americans. The dry wines from Europe and other foreign  countries were simply called “rosés” as well as the very few dry domestic rosés such as Heitz Cellars Grignolino Rosé which is still being made today.

My wife Laurie and I never joined the parade for blush wines. The reason was simple. We did not like them.  However, not long after White Zinfandel was invented we started drinking dry rosés. But there were not a lot of choices. Wines such as those from Tavel and Provence were available from a relatively small number of producers. Nonetheless, we bought them and drank more and more different rosés over the years as more were imported.  And the more rosés we drank, the more we liked them. People at first laughed at us saying that they were not “serious wines.” But, gradually more and more people tried rosés and as this happened more and more people became converts. In fact, we know people who years ago drank mostly red wine and no rosé who soon reversed and now drink mostly rosé and some red and white wine.

And imported rosé sales have been surging in recent years. Led by imports from Provence (the leading producer of rosé wines in the world) as well as Italy, Austria, Germany, and many other countries, the trend has expanded to California where every year more and more producers are making rosé. Why? That’s simple. There is a lot of demand for rosé, and it is relatively simple to make, affordable, and does not require extended aging before bottling. In short, it is a good “cash flow” wine for producers and more and more Americans want to try “new” rosés. However, the method for making a lot of domestic rosés is a method whereby some of the juice from fermenting red grapes is drained off very early and then continues on its own fermentation. This process is called saignée.  The more traditional method of making most European rosé is to allow the juice from red grapes to ferment on the skins to extract color, and then the skins are removed and the wine continues its fermentation. These latter wines can age very well.

So the marketing campaign for 2017 rosés is just now starting. It will continue into the fall when it will slow and then virtually disappear into the end of the year. Then next spring the cycle will start all over. Why?  Again, that is simple. Americans are being told that rosés need to be consumed as soon as they are purchased. Some claim that the wines will not age and should not be kept for any significant length of time. And, what do I say to that? I say that this is simply nonsense, and I have made my case many times. To fully understand when to buy and drink rosés, I say any time you feel like it! They are very versatile and match beautifully with a wide variety of foods, and they are delicious and easy to drink. And, rosés are great bargains. You can buy really good rosés in a price range of $10-$40. There are also a few good ones below $10 and some really good ones above $40.  And, yes a few have crept above $40 that are worth the price. Approaching the $100 dollar mark I have tasted only handful of wines. And, I have found that these expensive rosés are not worth the money.  One popular one has become a cult wine because of new oak. And, for my taste this is nonsense. One of the great things about rosés is the fruit. So, for me, new oak is a negative, not a positive. Therefore, to pay a huge premium for new oak is a no brainer. I would not like the wine if it sold at a fraction of the price! In looking at the range of rosé prices, I would say the sweet spot for rosé value is in the $15-$40 range. Can you name any other type of wine that is as versatile, delicious, and easy to drink with almost any food as rosé that sells in this price range? I can’t! So there I have made my case for rosé for the zillionth time over the last 30 plus years. And, in case you missed it, want more details, or just want a refresher on how to buy, drink, and enjoy rosés you can click on the following links for articles that will provide a summation on rosé.

 

Articles On When To Taste And Drink Rosés, Why Rosés Are So Attractive, And A Brief History Of Rosé

ROSÉ ITS TIME HAS COME

WHEN TO DRINK AND TASTE YOUNG WINES AND WHAT ABOUT ROSÉ?

THE PERFECT WINE

ROSÉ IS THE PERFECT ANTI-WINE

Articles On The Attractiveness of Rosés and The Growth Of Rosés In The US Market

ROSÉ WINES AND THE GREAT ROSÉS OF PROVENCE

FOR THE LOVE OF ROSÉS 

Articles with Tasting Notes On Old Rosés

 OUTSTANDING OLD MARSANNAY ROSÉS

WHO SAYS FRENCH ROSÉS DON’T AGE?

So now fully informed, let’s move to the 2017 rosés. I have tasted  only a few so far. First are notes on 2 interesting 2017 Provence Rosés from the standpoint of origin, quality, and price. First is an introduction to both wines which is then followed by tasting notes on the wines.

2017 Cuvée d’ Esclans Provence Sacha Lichine  Whispering Angel Rosé

This is a negociant wine (which can be made from from purchased grapes and/or wine) from Château d’Esclans in Provence. Since 2006, this ancient property has been owned by Sacha Lichine, the son of Alexis Lichine who was the former owner of Château Prieuré-Lichine in Bordeaux.  We visited Chateau d’Esclans in 2011 where we were first exposed to Garrus rosé. This rosé is made from an estate field blend of red and white grapes that is aged for an extended period in new oak. The oak gives the wine richness and flavors that, for my palate, masks the fruit. It has become  a cult wine with a per bottle price approaching $100. As with a lot of other “cult wines,” it has gotten big number scores from the critics.  But, let me just say straight out that this is not a wine that appeals to me. As for “Whispering Angel Rosé” there is no doubt that it is consistently a lovely rosé. The name “Whispering Angel” is very descriptive of the style and is reinforced by the label and embossed bottle. It is made in a large quantity and  brilliantly marketed. You can find this wine in many locations, wine stores, supermarkets, drug stores, and Costco where I purchased this bottle. OK. Having said that, how is this 2017 Whispering Angel? In a very short answer, not much different than it is every year. It is loaded with finesse and elegance and is flavorful. It also has a sexy name that is very descriptive of the wine, comes in a beautifully embossed bottle, and is widely available. These are good things.

2017 Kirkland Signature Provence Rosé

This is another negociant wine. Costco selects and markets many wines under the private label Kirkland Signature brand. The source of the wine and the types of wine can vary from year to year, but the underlying principle (like it is for all Kirkland Signature products) is to deliver the highest quality for the lowest possible price. I know this is true as I have a long history with the company.

My wife and I shopped at the first Price Club in San Diego shortly after it opened in 1976. Later in my investment career our company would own shares in Price Club. I knew Sol Price, the founder of Price Club, and Giles Bateman, the CFO of Price Club. In 1978 Jim Senegal joined Price Club where he served as Executive Vice President during 1978 and 1979.  In 1983 he and a partner, Jeff Brotman, formed Costco. Costco was a new membership warehouse store that was based on the same high quality, low cost and low price principles that were the basis of Price Club. But, the difference was a more consumer oriented mix of products (things like fresh foods, pharmacies, gas sales, etc.) as opposed to the small business orientation of Price Club. The first Costco store was located near a high volume Price Club store. It was a resounding success. In 1993 the Price Club merged into PriceCostco, Inc. Then in 1994 a dispute between Robert Price, Sol’s son, and Jim Senegal resulted in the company being split into two companies – Price Enterprises which owned the real estate and PriceCostco, Inc. which was run by Jim Senegal and  leased the stores owned by Price Enterprises. In 1997 the name of PriceCostco, Inc was changed to Costco Wholesale and Jim Senegal continued to run the business until his retirement in 2011. The combination of Sol Price’s foresight in founding the membership warehouse store offering low prices directed toward small businesses was enhanced by Jim Senegal’s foresight in expanding the business to attract retail customers as well. This combination resulted in one of the greatest retail businesses ever created.

   

The Kirkland Signature Brand was started as a private label brand that would be tested against the best products in category for quality and value. Costco does its own in house testing. Over the years I have consistently found that no matter the product, the Kirkland Signature brand stands for the highest quality at the lowest price.
So given that, it comes as no surprise to me that this Kirkland Signature brand Provence Rosé is at a very high level of quality at a very low price. So while I have a very slight preference in this instance to the Whispering Angel Rosé, the Kirkland Signature Rosé is also delicious and sells for 1/2 the price. I would call that great value. And, as I tasted and drank these 2 wines with my evening meal over 2 days I consumed almost equal quantities of each. That says a lot for me. But, even more important, it is just my taste. I have no doubt that if you tasted these two wines together you would find them both very attractive. But, I also would not be surprised if some people preferred the 2017 Kirkland Signature Provence Rosé to the 2017 Whispering Angel. It’s a matter of taste (to read my article Drink What You Like & Like What You Drink click here).

Tasting Notes

My tasting notes on the Whispering Angel and Kirkland Signature rosés are shown below:

2017 Cuvée d’ Esclans Provence Sacha Lichine  Whispering Angel Rosé
Very pale pink color with a golden hue and edge this rosé has an enticing perfume with a floral nuance and faint hints of peach. Very elegant and finessseful with beautiful balance, the wine has subtle floral undertones and peach and citrus tinged flavors with a nice underlying crispness. Harmonious and easy to drink this is a really lovely rosé – Outstanding.      $18.99      Imported by Shaw-Ross International,  Miramar, FL

2017 Kirkland Signature Provence Rosé
This is a lovely Provence Rosé at a great bargain price. It has a pale salmon pink color with a faint golden hue and edge. The perfume is lovely with tinges of melon and a very faint kiss of spice. Flavorful and nicely balanced the wine exhibits hints of melon and citrus with a very subtle expression of peach and a nice crispness on the finish – Highly Recommended Plus.       $9.49      Best Buy

I think that my notes on these 2 rosés make my earlier discussion of Rosé pricing very clear. Here you have 2 really lovely rosés from Provence. One is priced at under $2o per bottle and the other is priced at under $10 per bottle! They both are very appealing and delicious. This is simply amazing any way you look at it.

I also recently tasted 2 stunning 2017 rosés from Tablas Creek Vineyard. Tablas Creek is making great rosés in California that can compete with the best rosés in the world (to read about their Spring 2018 releases including the 2 2017 rosés click here).

But, before we get too involved with the 2017 rosé vintage, let me say this at the outset: For all the years I have been drinking rosés there has never been a vintage where there were not a lot of delicious rosés. And, now with each passing year, this is even more true as there are more rosés on the market. I’m sure there will be an abundance of new rosés this year including many the you have never seen before. So it is time to start delving into the 2017 rosés. That is what I am doing and my articles with be forthcoming soon. But, if at the same time you find 2016s for sale at distress prices as retailers try to clear the decks for the 2017s, buy them! They are delicious now and will remain so for some time just as I have reported in the article listed above under the heading Tasting Notes On Old Rosés.

For the entire calendar year, here in our Mediterranean climate, we drink and enjoy rosés young and old. And each spring we are afforded the opportunity to enjoy more new ones and add those to the rosés that we have in our cellar from earlier vintages. So, for us, all the time is rosé time! Bon degustation!

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson

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