No Way, Rose!

Stephen Asprinio's summer wine resolution: step outside the box.

Year after year, we hear about the so-called “quintessential summer wine” of rosé (still rosé that is --rosé bubbles rock). Personally, someone else should step up and take the throne, preferably from the white wine world. I’m really not too impressed with rosé as a whole. And so it is, you won’t find me drinking any rosé wine anytime soon, and honestly, probably not throughout the entire summer. It’s more about principle than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a well-produced bottle of rosé as much as the next guy, but does it really deserve all this attention every summer? Frankly, I don’t think so.

First of all, we have given way too much credit to still rosé wines in general. It really was the easy way out, declaring a mediocre style of wine (in most cases) as the poster child for summertime wines. And of course, once this set in, the market was flooded with even more sub-par examples from Spain, Portugal, South Africa and California. The taste profile in the majority of rosés is flaccid and unbalanced. Lastly, most are mass-produced and have no real backbone. Rosé is a “whatever wine.” You don’t really analyze it because there’s nothing much to analyze. I remember attending a rosé wine tasting in New York City in 2000, and ended up leaving very confused. I had a completely open mind at the time, and I could not understand for the life of me, what was all the fuss about? I literally tasted three wines I could actually palate, all of which were from the Tavel appellation in the South of France.

This brings me to the exceptions to the mediocre world of rosé. It is in the South of France where the majority of serious rosé producers exist. As I mentioned previously, Tavel stood out amongst the masses at a tasting of over 100 rosé wines, the best being the Château d'Aquéria. Tavel is the only appellation in France to make rosé wine exclusively. It is here they truly specialize in rosé, and do it better than almost everyone else. The only superior rosés to those of Tavel that I have found are from the appellation of Bandol. Bandol is the true king of rosé in the South of France, with top producers such as Château Pradeaux and Domaine Tempier.

So, here’s my “summer wine resolution” for 2008: Step outside the box, put the rosés aside, and seek out white from more obscure wine regions from around the world. These types of wines are very value-driven, and most importantly, they are fun to drink, which is what summertime is all about. Austrian winemakers are putting out amazing Riesling, as does New York State in some cases. The Austrians have been very successful with Gruner Veltliner as well. Slovenia is producing some very interesting Sauvignon Blanc, and in India, they are making great wine from Chenin Blanc. I’m also a huge fan of Albariño from the Rias Baixas region of Spain. Below, I have listed several summertime wines that I highly recommend tasting:

weingut prager, riesling ‘federspiel steinriegel’, wachau, austria 2006

movia, sauvignon blanc, primorje, slovenia 2005

nora, albariño, rias baixas, spain 2006

royal tokaji, 'furmint' hungary 2005

sula, chenin blanc, nashik, india 2006

craggy range, sauvignon blanc 'te muna’, new zealand 2007

lucien crochet, sancerre, loire valley, france 2005

hirsch, grüner veltliner, kamptal, austria 2004

hermann j wiemer riesling, finger lakes, new york 2006

It’s hard to justify drinking a rosé now, especially when you know there are winemakers breaking their backs in say the vineyards of Slovenia or New Zealand to produce a far superior summertime alternative to rosé such as Sauvignon Blanc. The same goes for all of those funky, cool white wines that we seem to ignore during the cooler months, but are perfect for the summertime. In the restaurant, and as sommeliers, it is our duty to provide each and every guest with a wine that will enhance his or her experience, not take away from it. So why settle for a mediocre rosé just because it’s commonplace to do so in the summertime? I say not, and go for one of those rockstar white wines you’ve been meaning to check out, but have yet find the right time and place. Well now you have. Cheers!