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WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Robin Garr » Wed Jul 26, 2006 1:17 pm

A rosé is a rosé ... not!

In Monday's dissertation on an Australian rosé wine and its cheeky Zork-brand stopper, I mentioned that the ripe, slightly sweet Pink Knot might make a good bridge selection for wine novices seeking to discover life beyond "blush."

This raises an obvious follow-up question that's not to be answered lightly, "What's wrong with blush wine?"

The short, non-snob response is, "Nothing, really, if you like it." Industry experts estimate that the blush category makes up a solid one-sixth of all California wine shipments, suggesting that about 75 million gallons of sweet pink wine went down the hatch last year. That's a lot of wine, and from a marketing perspective, it's hard to argue that so many White Zinfandel drinkers can all be wrong.

From a wine geek's perspective, however, the problem with "blush" wine is akin to the problem with industrial American beer: With few exceptions, it's made for the mass market and styled for the least common denominator. No, it won't poison you. But to be blunt, most of it is simply not very interesting.

As I wrote when we reviewed rosé wines in our Wine Tasting 101 feature in the spring of 2005, "it's a mistake to generalize about pink wines as if they were all alike."

First, true rosé wines are distinguished from "blush" wines by their relative dryness and tart acidic structure. But perhaps even more significant, there's considerable diversity even within the rosé category. Rosé wines may vary from off-dry to bone-dry, totally sugar-free; from feather-light to full-bodied; from soft, low-level acidity to piercing steeliness; from simple fruit to complex swirls of fruit, herbs and minerals; and, not least, depending on how the wine maker has handled the "blanc de noirs" process of extracting light-colored wine from dark-colored grapes, rosé wines may range from the palest pink through rose, salmon and copper to a rich claret color that's all but indistinguishable from red wine.

Of all the world's pink wines, I find the ones that please me most come from Provence in Southern France, as often as not. Today's tasting features a splendid recent arrival from Domaine de la Petite Cassagne in the Costières de Nîmes, a wine region near the famous Camargue at the mouth of the Rhone. A blend of Grenache and Syrah, mostly, with a bit of Carignan and Mourvèdre, it's a rich, dark pink color with the intense berry fruit and subtle herbs that make Provence rosé a treat. Drink it crackling cold as a summer sipper, but don't underestimate its affinity for food.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/cass0722.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Domaine de la Petite Cassagne 2005 Costières de Nîmes ($11.99)

A clear, deeply hued reddish-pink color, this wine is a bit on the dark side for a rosé. Ripe strawberry aromas add a hint of fresh green herbs, tarragon and just a touch of fennel or anise. Ripe berry fruit flavors are crisp and dry in the Provence style and far from lightweight at 13.5% alcohol; it's refreshing and fun, but a bit more <i>serious</i> than a New World "blush" wine. U.S. importer: Robert Kacher, Washington, D.C. (July 22, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> Suitable for aperitif sipping as are virtually all rosés, this one has the heft to stand up well at the dinner table. It was fine with pork chops braised with onions and tomatoes.

<B>VALUE:</B> In the overall scheme of things, it can compete at $12, but competitively, it was shamefully overpriced at Whole Foods Wine Market in Louisville. Many vendors offer the 2005 as low as $8, so shop around, and consider buying it online if the saving is sufficient to cover shipping costs.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Its intense fruit, balance and alcohol will probably hold it better than a lighter-style rosé, but pink wines are still best enjoyed young and fresh; drink up over the next year.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
The U.S. importer has a short article about Domaine de la Petite Cassagne, with links to brief tech sheets on the rosé and the red, at this link.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Find vendors and compare prices for Domaine de la Petite CassagneRosé on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by James Roscoe » Wed Jul 26, 2006 1:51 pm

I'll look for this wine, but not at $12. I agree that is not competetive. You hit the nail on the head with the southern French Roses. They are the best. My wife has been drinking them with red meat this summer while I grab a more traditional blend. The pork is an excellent match as would be any Chesapeake style seafood i.e. w/ some Old Bay seasoning or the like.
Nice Wine Advisor Robin! It leads me to ask if there are any American roses you believe do a good job imitating the S. French?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Robin Garr » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:15 pm

James Roscoe wrote:It leads me to ask if there are any American roses you believe do a good job imitating the S. French?


Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm probably not the very best person to ask, because I don't really love rosé. But I've found Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare consistently "French" (after a blushy spell for a couple of years a while back). Zaca Meza "Z" is a goodie. And I've liked Selby rosé.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Hoke » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:26 pm

James:

I know what you were trying to say, but I think the phrase "imitating the S. French" was...um, unfortunate?

I don't think they are "imitating...the...French" so much as interested in making good rose from their own areas they can drink.

There are plenty of good roses throughout CA (and Oregon, and Washington, and the Okanagan, and elsewhere, like Australia). Pretty much anywhere you find a good wine culture developing, you're going to find people interesting in both making and consuming good roses.

Heck, a lot of winemakers I know go gaga over roses, usually both their own and other people's versions.

There are several...probably hundreds, right around the North Coast. Some of them are made for commercial release; some of them are sold at/by the winery.

Sorelle (Mendocino Wine Company) does a killer Syrah Rose. Lynmar does an impressive (though ridiculously overprice) Vin Gris of Pinot Noir. Sinskey, in Napa, does a truly awesome Rose.

I go into my fave local store (the buyer is a rose lover too), and find...oh, maybe forty or fifty rose wines, usually in stacks, all summer long. Lot's of S. French, Italian, Aussie, but lots of various and sundry CA and other American versions as well.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:31 pm

Thanks for the info there Hoke. Gonna open a rose this evening in celebration of the `04 Pepiere arriving!!!!! LOL..........the `05 Artazuri Garnacha from Navarra.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Howie Hart » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:40 pm

Robin Garr wrote:.....and, not least, depending on how the wine maker has handled the "blanc de noirs" process of extracting light-colored wine from dark-colored grapes.....

I believe some rosés are made by blending white wine with just enough red wine to give it a bit of color and structure. Whether this is not allowed in some appelations, I don't know. I'm also not sure if such wines would be considered "true" rosé, but a few I've tasted that were made this way were pretty nice while most are sweet, bulk cheapies.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Robin Garr » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:46 pm

Howie Hart wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:.....and, not least, depending on how the wine maker has handled the "blanc de noirs" process of extracting light-colored wine from dark-colored grapes.....

I believe some rosés are made by blending white wine with just enough red wine to give it a bit of color and structure. Whether this is not allowed in some appelations, I don't know. I'm also not sure if such wines would be considered "true" rosé, but a few I've tasted that were made this way were pretty nice while most are sweet, bulk cheapies.


You're right, Howie - it's done on occasion, and I have no particular reason to doubt it makes a nice wine. As a general rule, though, I think <i>blanc de noirs/saignée</i> is the standard for pink wines, and legally required for pink wines in many regions. And of course, it's what White Zin (etc.) is, by definition.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Bob Ross » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:47 pm

Hoke, in a book review "Extremely Pale Rose" at http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/vil ... 6176#16176
I quoted a winemaker who asserted:

"There's not a great winemaker in France who hasn't learnt his trade by producing a good rosé. It's the hardest wine to make, much more complex than red or white."

Is it true that rosé is the hardest wine to make? I hadn't seen that assertion before.

It reminds me a bit of what I learned about Sparkling Shiraz in Australia -- I was lucky enough to taste a large number of aged SS, every one of which was delightful. The speaker said that every winemaker in Australia "had to have a go" at SS -- that a good one proved that they had learned their craft.

Any insights?

Thanks, Bob
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by James Roscoe » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:59 pm

Hoke wrote:James:

I know what you were trying to say, but I think the phrase "imitating the S. French" was...um, unfortunate?


Mea Culpa! My bad. You are so right. I did not express myself well, although it was well enough to get the information I wanted. Thanks Hoke and Robin for the info. I will look for some of these dry-style roses the next time I'm at the store.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Hoke » Wed Jul 26, 2006 3:26 pm

Is it true that rosé is the hardest wine to make? I hadn't seen that assertion before.


Don't know that I'd say that, Bob. But I know what the writer is getting at: that it's hard to make rose because it is such a delicate process of knowing exactly how much maceration from the skins you get before you rack over for fermentation and finishing. Very easy....very, very easy...to miscalculate and muck up what could've been a great rose by not paying attention or letting things go too far. Or not far enough.

More art than science...and it's a heck of a lot harder to be a successful artist than a successful scientist, in that respect.

Another point for roses: they are an excellent "early indicator" of a vintage. Since they come out a lot earlier than most reds do, they give you a pretty clear idea of what those reds may eventually be like. You could generally spot the 2003s, for instance, withouth having to look at the vintage date. The wines are so delicate...transparent, as the Germans say about Riesling...that everything shows clearly, and things like acidity and tannin and sugar show in stark relief.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Bob Ross » Wed Jul 26, 2006 3:38 pm

Very interesting, Hoke -- thanks so much.

Based on my tasting note on Château de Puligny-Montrachet Rosé de Pinot Noir here today, the 2005 Burgundy vintage must be a real winnner.

Thanks. Bob
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Clinton Macsherry » Wed Jul 26, 2006 4:11 pm

[quote="James Roscoe]I will look for some of these dry-style roses the next time I'm at the store.[/quote]

James--
A perennial purchase for me is Toad Hollow's "Eye of the Toad" Rose of Pinot Noir from Sonoma (I think). Usually, it's under $10. I don't know if Corridor carries it, but it's usually available somwhere or another hereabouts. My understanding is that "Eye of the Toad" is a play on the phrase "eye of the partridge," one French descriptor for a certain tint of rose.
FEAR THE TURTLE ! ! !
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by James Roscoe » Wed Jul 26, 2006 4:34 pm

Thanks Clinton. How's the restaurant week eating in Baltimore? We'll be at Taste Friday.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Hoke » Wed Jul 26, 2006 6:48 pm

You're on the money, Clinton: the Toad is pretty good rose.

Another one from Napa is the Sola Rosa. Jeff Morgan is a real rose freak too. It's one of his passions.

And right now is the best time for sampling the latest batch of roses---especially in this extraordinarily hot season.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by James Roscoe » Wed Jul 26, 2006 7:09 pm

How are you surviving out there Hoke? Are you in the tripple digits again? I wonder what the heat will do to the vines?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Rahsaan » Wed Jul 26, 2006 8:10 pm

How are you surviving out there Hoke? Are you in the tripple digits again? I wonder what the heat will do to the vines?


They have vines in CA?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by James Roscoe » Wed Jul 26, 2006 8:33 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
How are you surviving out there Hoke? Are you in the tripple digits again? I wonder what the heat will do to the vines?


They have vines in CA?


I understand they make some great grape jelly for your sandwiches smart a**. Can I help it if I'm not some independently wealthy rich kid touring all over Europe sucking up the good stuff?I live in the USA where most of what we see comes from the left coast. So shut your pie hole, preferably with another nice fruity '03 Cotes de Rhone.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Hoke » Wed Jul 26, 2006 10:38 pm

James Roscoe wrote:How are you surviving out there Hoke? Are you in the tripple digits again? I wonder what the heat will do to the vines?


James: I'm doing okay....just getting tired of this heat. If I wanted heat like this, I'd move back to Texas! Looks like we're starting a gradual cool down though. Hovered between 90 and 100 today, which is better than the 111 it got to over the weekend.

But it looks like now we'll revert back to 80s and 90s, which is closer to normal. Especially if it cools down every afternoon like it's sposeta.

The vines haven't been harmed yet---that I've heard of. It's not good, mind you, but if we keep from any more prolonged heat spells it will likely even out. If not, who knows. Every season is a gamble until the minute the grapes come in.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by Rahsaan » Thu Jul 27, 2006 5:33 am

I understand they make some great grape jelly for your sandwiches smart a**. Can I help it if I'm not some independently wealthy rich kid touring all over Europe sucking up the good stuff?I live in the USA where most of what we see comes from the left coast. So shut your pie hole, preferably with another nice fruity '03 Cotes de Rhone.


Whoah, sorry if I somehow offended you. I was mainly joking with Hoke as I think he (and others here) are aware of my preference for other wine growing regions besides CA. But it was all in good fun, I mean these are all just personal preferences.

For example just a few hours earlier on another forum Hoke had written: "Loirestan and Bojostan? Didn't you hear? They merged into Rahsaanistan." So I was responding in the same type of joking manner, but perhaps I shouldn't have done it in your post as we obviously haven't met and therefore were more likely to fall into misunderstanding.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: A rosé is a rosé ... not! (2005 Petite Cassagne)

by James Roscoe » Thu Jul 27, 2006 8:56 am

Rahsaan wrote:
I understand they make some great grape jelly for your sandwiches smart a**. Can I help it if I'm not some independently wealthy rich kid touring all over Europe sucking up the good stuff?I live in the USA where most of what we see comes from the left coast. So shut your pie hole, preferably with another nice fruity '03 Cotes de Rhone.


Whoah, sorry if I somehow offended you. I was mainly joking with Hoke as I think he (and others here) are aware of my preference for other wine growing regions besides CA. But it was all in good fun, I mean these are all just personal preferences.

For example just a few hours earlier on another forum Hoke had written: "Loirestan and Bojostan? Didn't you hear? They merged into Rahsaanistan." So I was responding in the same type of joking manner, but perhaps I shouldn't have done it in your post as we obviously haven't met and therefore were more likely to fall into misunderstanding.


No offense taken. One smart a** comment deserves another I always say. As the world's greatest actor EVER once said, "Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness." (John Wayne) So get with the program, I share your taste for the most part. There was no misunderstanding until I put my foot in it. (ignoring my own advice I will apologize.) Don't let it happen again or I will have to throw some Monty Pyton taunts your way. Otto has some good ones.

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