Somewhat recently made aware of the potential health benefits of moderate wine consumption, and also how tasty wine is, Americans have finally decided wine is a good thing and should be consumed regularly. But could it be that American wine-lovers take wine too seriously? Sometimes I think so.
Consider a couple debating the merits of their Chardonnay over dinner. The wine costs $17 (including the restaurant mark-up) and carries a generic California appellation, but these people spend at least 20 minutes debating its merits and demerits, comparing it to the $14 Sauvignon Blanc they had the previous week. They swirl, nose, and gurgle their way through it as if it were a Montrachet from a great year.
I’m delighted they’ve found the pleasures of wine, but I can’t help contrasting this to the behavior of ordinary Europeans having wine with nightly dinner. Most Europeans grow up with wine. To them, great wine certainly deserves comment, but everyday wines are simply serviceable components of a normal meal.
I’ve had my share of great “philosophical” bottles, but for quotidian use, I’m all in favor of “quaffing wines” made for effortless drinking. And for summer, my favorites are rosés — like these three bottles.
JEAN-LUC COLOMBO PIOCHE et CABANON ROSÉ CÔTE BLEUE 2002 ($10)
Over the past decade, the talented Jean-Luc Colombo has secured a reputation as one of the leading winemakers in France. He was born in Marseilles and has never strayed far from his Southern French roots, or from this region’s best-known grape, Syrah. Colombo’s early successes came in the still underappreciated Cornas in the northern Rhône, and now his portfolio includes wines from nearly every important Rhône appellation, as well as wines from Languedoc-Roussillon. More recently Colombo has championed the new Côte Bleue district near Marseilles, which could soon qualify as an official appellation of its own.
This nicely balanced dry rosé is a nearly equal blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Counoise grapes, all grown in the Côte Bleue district. Lush and fresh with rich berry fruit, it delivers bright acidity and a long, smooth finish. Is there a lovelier way to pass a summer afternoon than with a glass of this stuff and a novel by Pagnol?
SOLOROSA ROSÉ CALIFORNIA 2002 ($15)
Former saxophonist Jeff Morgan was once a bandleader at the Grand Casino in Monte Carlo. Living on the Riviera, he developed a taste for the local rosé wines. Later, Morgan worked in production at a small winery on Long Island, and then he began a successful career as a wine writer. His SoloRosa label takes him back to his days on the Mediterranean coast, but with a California twist.
With his business partner, 20-year veteran winemaker Daniel Moore (who also makes the wines at Lynmar Winery), Morgan founded SoloRosa as a rosé-only house. The relatively small volume of 1,800 cases is blended from Sangiovese, Merlot, and Syrah, sourced mostly from Napa and Sonoma. This is a bone-dry rosé in the Southern French style, and a subtle dose of French oak adds complexity and sophistication. The racy and crisp 2002 SoloRosa is one of the best bang-for-the-buck rosés around.
RENÉ BARBIER MEDITERRANEAN ROSÉ CATALUNYA NV ($6)
Just across the Spanish border and around the bend from Languedoc-Roussillon lies the Mediterranean coast of Catalunya. These regions are very similar geographically and have important historic ties as well. The Penedès area south of Barcelona, now an official Spanish appellation, has been a source of wine since at least the time of the Phoenicians (if not before), but these days, Penedès is mostly known for cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. León Barbier, a Frenchman, established his vineyards here in the 1880s after his Languedoc vines were wiped out by a phylloxera epidemic. He eventually renamed the estate René Barbier, after his son.
In 1984, the Barbier estate was purchased by the Freixenet group, whose headquarters is in nearby Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. The René Barbier Mediterranean Rosé is a non-vintage wine with smooth texture and tangy strawberry fruit. This is an ideal everyday quaff for warm weather, and its very modest price tag makes it perfect for summer parties.
Jean-Luc Colombo Pioche et Cabanon Rosé Côte Bleue 2002
cools down a summer afternoon
SoloRosa Rosé California 2002
crisp and very dry
lovely with picnic foods
René Barbier Mediterranean Rosé Catalunya NV
great for parties