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Woman on the Verge of a Glass of Wine

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Rosé By Any Other Name...

I know that I sound like a broken record, always rambling on and on about how much I like rosé, but I just can't help it. You see, one of the most exciting things to me about this time of year is the arrival of the newly released rosés into the market. It reminds me that summer is just around the corner and lazy weekend afternoons sipping rosé in the sunshine of my back patio are not so far away. I'm lucky because I actually have a pretty wide variety of rosés on my wine lists right now, so I'm a little spoiled for choice when it comes to finding one to drink. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the world seems to be in a rosé renaissance right now, with some pretty incredible and well-respected wineries producing outstanding pink wine.

To celebrate the season, our last Monday Larder Wine and Cheese Club featured four rosés from southern France that spanned the regions from Côtes du Rhône all the way down to Cassis. In fact, the highlight of the night, and my new favorite rosé, was the 2009 Clos Sainte Magdeleine, Cassis Rosé. Clos Sainte Magdeleine covers over 20 very special hectares of land that directly face the Mediterranean Sea. Most of its vineyards are planted on terraced slopes of Cap Canaille, an insanely beautiful rock formation that juts out into the water and is actually the highest maritime cliff in Europe. This is an amazingly picturesque area that is like a French version of Malibu's Point Dume, only covered with rows and rows of perfect vineyards. This place is so beautiful that I am dying to go visit just to experience it in person.

The Magdeleine estate itself has belonged to a Greek family named Zafiropulo since 1920, though wine growing in this area dates far back to antiquity. The winery makes only white and rosé wine from vines that average 30 years in age. They farm meticulously, picking and sorting by hand and de-stemming before fermenting and aging the wine in tank for 14 to 18 months. This wine is a blend of 65% Grenache, 18% Cinsault and 17% Mourvedre, a mix that seems to result in the perfect balance of fruitiness and acidity. On the nose, the wine shows notes of strawberry, melon and fully bloomed roses. It is bright and fleshy, bursting with bright red plum, tart acidity and long finish. Though the flavors are vibrant, the wine is clean and crisp, and manages to tame its fruity exuberance with a touch of salty minerality.

Rosé is one of those wines that I feel is under-appreciated in general, and is so often relegated to the afternoon aperitif role. Just like with Champagne, I could easily pair rosé wines with a multi-course meal, skipping white and red wine entirely. In fact, I re-tasted this wine last night with a variety of cow's milk cheeses that we are selling in the Larder at Tavern and was blown away by the wine's versatility. It worked with both the stinky and the mild, playing well off of the funky "animal" character and saltiness of the cheeses.

Fortunately, I bought the majority of the available Clos Sainte Magdeleine for Lucques and Tavern, so if anyone wants to taste it, you know where to get it...that is, if I haven't finished it off myself first.

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