I don’t often write at length about rose wines. To me, the buying process seemed pretty straight forward. When we think about roses, we tend to see them as simple, light to medium bodied summer wines. We choose what “intensity” and dryness we want, the price we are willing to pay, and that’s it. When I first curated the rose selections for our bottle shop at Tanjong Pagar, that was my idea I had. The roses were meant to complement the entire store. We didn’t need any fancy options. Just something pink to brighten up the space and to offer to our customers who can’t handle reds but find whites too boring.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve tasted a lot of rose wines and I’ve always found them to be delicious and inviting. But they do taste somewhat similar after a while. I may find some good references but I will be hard pressed to name a potential blockbuster amongst the wines. That is especially the case when I attend region specific rose events. I will still be oblivious to my own misconception if not for the internal tasting session we recently had.
A large part of my job is to taste all potential new additions and put the interesting ones in the shop. For the recent session, my colleagues and I tasted close to a 100 labels in a week. As you can imagine, that was a lot of work for our livers. For the first time though, we decided to choose our roses like how we would choose the other wines. That meant instead of automatically selecting established labels, we would taste all of the roses we have and choose the best ones to feature. I’m glad we went through the exercise, because it made me realize that I had been very wrong in my earlier understanding of roses.
As mentioned earlier, the rose tastings I attend are mostly region specific events. So I will be tasting roses say, from only Provence or Italy. At trade fairs, wineries may feature only one rose out of the many other wines they make. The problem with tasting roses like that is that we lose sight over the context with how this style itself is the attraction. It’s like standing in front of a painting and looking only at the red colours to decide which shade of red is the prettiest, instead of stepping back to see how the different colours and strokes come together to make up the masterpiece.
The internal tasting we had gave us an insight into how roses can be so fascinating if we take the right approach. We tasted not only prominent Provence roses, but also looked at those made from free run (“saignee”) Pinot Noir juice in New Zealand, to Sangiovese in Australia and Merlot in Spain. The greatest takeaway was not whether a wine was good (they were all to varying degrees), but how each contributed to the whole rose spectrum.
As you know, there is no official grape for roses. Basically any red skin grape can be made into one. In fact, a lot are made from a mix of grape varietals. What this means is that with each bottle of rose, you are going to discover aromas and tastes that can differ very greatly from another rose. And this really is where the fun lies. The excitement of exploration and discovery is the reward.
Some notable references we had that demonstrated this point perfectly were the Whispering Angel (France), Otazu Rosado Merlot (Spain), La Spinetta Casanova (Italy) and Coriole Rose (Australia).
Whispering Angel Rose from Provence is one of the bestselling roses around the world. Made primarily from Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle, Syrah and Tibouren, this wine exhibits the traditional characteristics of Provence roses and explains why every rose fan loves Provence. Light and crisp, we find raspberries and red currant aromas and flavours. On my own palate scale, I will put this at the delicate level, great for lunch time drinking.
Otazu Rosado Merlot comes from Navarra in Northern Spain. In a land where Syrah and Garnacha (Spanish for Grenache) are more often the ingredients for roses, Bodegas Otazu uses Merlot instead and the result is amazing. We find ripe plums and wild strawberries on the palate with a hint of candied sweetness, yet it remains positively light-medium in body. I think it is great with grilled salmon.
La Spinetta Casanova Della Spinetta Rose too is a pleasant discovery for us. We first came across this when the winery representative slipped a bottle in with their samples of Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera d’Asti. We all know wineries can be a little sneaky in pushing their products but anyhow, we are glad we tasted this. Made from Sangiovese in Tuscany, more known for Chianti reds, this rose exhibits the acidity common to this varietal. Peaches and flowers are prominent, with a tiny bit of saltiness thrown in. It is a complex and energetic wine that will go down well especially with poultry.
Coriole Rose on the other hand is a great example of how the same grape from a different part of the world can produce a different rose. This wine, like the Casanova Rose, is made primarily from Sangiovese. Coriole is the Australian pioneer for making Italian grape varietal wines, and their affinity with this country’s grapes is demonstrated with this rose. The Mediterranean like climate in South Australia definitely helps. Vibrant and fresh, full fruit flavours are present yet supported by a nice dose of acidity to keep it versatile. The Coriole is bolder than the La Spinetta. Actually, this is my own go-to wine when I have a party going on, as my guests are often amazed and curious after a sip and keep coming back for more.
We will be hosting a rose appreciation event at our Tanjong Pagar shop to accord our new found respect for the style. More information will be posted in due course. In the meantime, if you are curious for yourself why I am devoting so much effort to talk about this, you may want to take advantage of our Summer Rose Sale happening right now. They are going up to 25% off and it’s really a good time to explore this style yourself.
Have lots of fun as always and I look forward to seeing you at the upcoming event. Cheers.
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