Well that wine ended up becoming a Vintages Essential, meaning it’s now a mainstay of the LCBO’s catalogue. On the one hand I feel slightly sheepish for having made such a mission out of finding it, but on the other hand the adventure was fun! And it seems the world has rewarded me by making the wine readily available.
I bought a bottle of this delicious nectar last summer and didn’t have the chance to open it, so last fall I thought ‘you know what? I’m going to save it until next summer and then we’ll see how it stood the test of time’.
I’m going to be honest here, I’m not really a fan of summer. I’m pretty sure that when most people think of summer they think of BBQs and swimming and road trips and cottages. I love those things too, but usually when I think of summer I think of sweating from places I’d rather not be sweating from and humidity so high I can barely breathe. And I don’t even have lung problems!
But one thing that can make the oppressive heat and constant sticky-skin-feeling better is indulging in one of my favourite summer treats – rosé wine. A perfect summer day for me would involve a nicely chilled glass of rosé enjoyed on a quiet waterfront dock or leafy, shaded backyard somewhere.
Lucky for me Ontario’s rosé game is on point. Here are some ones I’m particularly looking forward to sipping over the next few months.
A few weeks ago I inadvertently embarked on what became a surprisingly epic quest.
I was perusing the upcoming Vintages release and noticed an interesting looking rosé. It was called Côte de Roses and was from the French maker Gérard Bertrand. I’ve had reds from this maker before but never a rosé. The bottle for this wine was so elegant I wanted to get my hands on it. After talking to my mom and discovering that she was looking forward to it too, I knew I had to make it happen.
Sleek. Elegant. From Southern France. And a glass stopper? I am in.
Alas, alack! Release day came and went and this bottle was nowhere to be found! Not in Toronto, not in Kingston, where my parents live, not anywhere! Despairingly I learned that this wine was hidden within the great depths of the impenetrable citadel known as the LCBO warehouse.
And so, I had no choice to but begin stalking this wine via the LCBO website. Near daily searches proved futile. Staff at my local shop didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Hope was fading, seeping out of me like sand through a broken hourglass.
Just as the last of my faith was slipping away I took yet another trip to my local LCBO. Battle-weary from so many attempts to find this beautiful bottle with pretty the glass stopper, I wistfully shuffled through the aisles, debating whether to even attempt another potentially fruitless search.
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a beautifully shimmering display of light pink liquid over by the Vintages section. Was is a mirage? Some cruel deception my eyes and heart had created? No! There it was – an entire table of Côte De Roses!
Cue Hallelujah chorus…
Sweet merciful universe, there it was! Sitting so demurely, like it wasn’t some sort of holy grail. I looked around, surprised that no one else seemed to realize the treasure in front of me. Not wanting to be greedy and tempt the wrath of the lcbo fates, I took two bottles only and quickly made my exit.
She will be mine. Oh yes. She will be mine.
Even the bottom of this bottle is gorgeous!
And let me tell you, this wine was worth the trial. Light and subtle, the nose and flavour dance on your tongue, sharing with you hints here and there of the essence of Southern France. The Gérard Bertrand website says that Côte des Roses celebrates the Mediterranean lifestyle and I couldn’t agree more. If I can impart any wisdom from this experience, it is to buy this wine if you ever see it in the wine store.
I’ve talked in the past about how to taste wine in general, but it recently occurred to me that I haven’t talked about how I, specifically, go about tasting a new wine.
I should preface this by saying that this isn’t how I taste wine every time I open a bottle. There are definitely some days where I come home from work, pour myself a glass, and turn my brain off as I laze back on the couch, happy that the day is over. In those instances the wine is merely there as a delicious cherry on top of a relaxing, television-filled evening. I mean cake. Or something.
But when I am being intentional about my wine, when I really want to get to know it, this is how I taste.
How I Taste
I don’t usually pair food with the wine. Some might think this is an error, but when I’m meeting a wine for the first time I want to meet just the wine, not how the wine affects or is affected by food. It’s like meeting a blind date – I want to know how they act around me before getting to know how they act at a party.
I’m usually alone. Sad, I know! There are many people in my life who share my love of wine, but I can’t always find someone to sample a new bottle with me on a random Tuesday night.
I usually do it at home, on the couch, in front of the tv, with my macbook in front of me, jotting down anything that comes to mind as I sip, sniff and swirl.
I start by looking at the colour. I love wines that are so dark they become opaque, and ones that take on a purpleish tone – Malbecs and Carménères from Chile and Argentina often look like this.
Then I give the wine a good sniff. Often when I’m tasting I’ve just opened a bottle so getting something off the nose is a challenge for me. I often feel like I should pour the glass and let it sit for a bit, but in all honesty I’m an incredibly impatient person and can’t usually resist starting the process once the wine is poured and sitting next to me.
Next, and FINALLY, I get to taste it! I alternate between taking quick sips and long ones because the flavour can change depending on the two. While sipping I think about and try to discern the differences in flavour depending on where on my tongue the wine is hitting. I also pay attention to the flavour I’m left with as I swallow (the finish) and how lingering the wine is once it’s gone. I love when a wine stays with you!
Let’s be real. Some days I can’t get past ‘yep, tastes like wine’. And actually, I read an article recently that mentioned a study where they concluded that you can’t really taste more than three or four things in one go. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel MUCH better about times when I’m able to get much off a wine.
That being said, I do love the endless possibilities of flavour and enjoyment that come with each bottle. It’s a game I like to play. What am I actually tasting here? What’s going on on my tongue right now? And when I get stuck (because I do get stuck – OFTEN!) I do as Jancis Robinson says and try to pay attention to the dimensions of the wine, asking myself “how tough/tart/powerful/sweet/ready is it?”
I try to be methodical about tasting, mostly because I get a kick out of that process and am genuinely interested in the world of wine, with all its complications and vagaries.
I’m nowhere near these guys though, they take tasting to a whole other level. Underripe green mango? Crushed hillside?? FRESHLY OPENED CAN OF TENNIS BALLS?! COME ON!!
No, I fully acknowledge that the only real question worth asking is – do I like it? The rest is simply learning ways of learning whether you do/don’t or will/won’t like a wine.
Yes way, rosé! (image from Valerie Hinojosa on Flickr – click through for more info)
They should be hanging out in your fridge,waiting to be enjoyed, because they’re delicious. Rosés are refreshing and perfect for summer and, though you might not already know it, they’re also pretty variable, just like red and white wine.
“But Meg,” you might say, “pink wine? That’s weird!”
Please. Don’t even talk to me about how it’s not cool to drink rosé. If you seriously think that you are missing out big time. I dare you to read on and tell me you’re not interested.
Contrary to popular belief, most rosé wine is not simply mixing red and white wines together. That’s like the swamp water way of making wine – no one does that!
Maybe you can get away with it if you’re this guy.
So really, rosés are like the Goldilocks of the wine world. And who doesn’t like Goldilocks? No one, that’s who.
Fun fact: You can make rosé out of any grape. This is one of the biggest reasons why I think rosés are so interesting. You think they’ll all be the same, but then you realize that since rosés can be made with red or white varietals, they’re as varied as red and white wines put together.
Mind = blown.
Generally speaking rosés work the same way whites and reds do when it comes to varietals. A rosé made from Cab Sauv grapes will be more full bodied and have a different flavour profile than one made from Pinot Noir grapes.
A good place to start when it comes to roses is France, especially Provence. Think about it – a little southern French town, everyone enjoying their summer by the sea, and what better way to enjoy it than with a glass of something that looks like the beautiful sunset in front of you?
My friend Cori jokes that any French rosé with a chicken on the label is a good pick, and I think she’s on to something. For an inexpensive (and French!) good time I usually go with what I call the La Vielle Ferme (note the label!), but this Famille Perrin Tavel is also a good bet. Tavel is a French wine Appellation (fancy word for a place certified for wine-growing) known for making great rosés.
If you want to veer away from the wine behemoth that is France I recommend travelling to Spain (at least in your glass) for some Muga rosé, or to Niagara for their Eastdell rosé. The Muga is lighter in body and flavour and the Eastdell is more full bodied, which you can also see in the saturation of colour – the Muga is a lighter pink and Eastdell is almost a strawberry shade of pinky red.
Cheap and cheerful, that’s what rosés are all about. Interested yet?
My family was a liberal one by North American standards, and as soon as I turned twelve I had crossed the threshold into acceptable wine-drinking territory. My family began offering a tipple of vino as part of the weekly ritual – it was at my Grandmother’s dining table that I began developing my palate.
It might not be a surprise that I didn’t like wine much at those dinners. The taste was often overpowering, or bitter, or just downright unpleasant on my tongue. But, like coffee and olives, I acquired the taste and eventually came to love the flavour of fermented grapes.
Even though I’d been tasting for a while, it wasn’t until meeting my Stepdad that I got serious about wine. An experienced wino himself, he introduced me to the five Premier Cru wines of France, taught me how to choose a wine based on my personal taste and budget, and demystified how and why to choose a bottle to cellar. In short, he turned me from casual admirer to lifelong learner and full-in enthusiast.
I have spent many hours and many bottles in the last few years sipping and learning, and have added winery tours and structured tastings to my self-made roster of wine lessons. Now that I’m well on the path to wine nirvana I want to bring my novice knowledge to the wider world and get to know other wine geeks out there who are just like me.