EDITORIAL DEBATE: CAN WE SETTLE THIS OVER A ROSÉ?

by Jerry Clark and Susan Manfull

MY MEA CULPA TO SERIOUS ROSÉ
by Jerry Clark
 

Since I began to write for Provence WineZine in 2015, my colleague and publisher Susan Manfull and I have had a sort of running dispute on why I don’t seem to take rosé as a serious wine. Frankly, she is rather incredulous about it, as evidenced by a conversation we had following her recent story, “Is Rosé a Serious Wine?  Some Thoughts on the Subject.”  My position has been that, for me, rosé is a warm weather quaffing wine, and while I admit that surely some winemakers are giving it their best attention from a quality aspect, I have never considered cellaring any of the highly touted names to see how they might improve over time.

Today, two weeks after Susan and I had our conversation, I can say “shame on me.” I am now ready to take that step and seek some top-end rosé to lay away. I experienced an epiphany on Wednesday, June 28, upon learning that a selection of five bottles of Domaine de Tempier Rosé, were included in an auction of fine wines conducted online by Skinner in Boston (lot #1353) and sold for $250, almost double its knock down estimate of $100 to $150. This lot included two bottles from 2009, one from 2010, and two from 2013.  After adding the seller’s commission and Massachusetts sales tax on to the winning bid price, the buyer laid out an average of $64.63 a bottle for his purchase. Given that the recent 2016 release of Tempier rosé can be found for $38 to $50 at various U.S. retailers, it’s obvious to me that this wine was purchased not to enjoy this summer at a barbecue, but to go into seclusion, as it has been up to now.

While I found the price for this lot of rosé a bit surprising, it alone is not what knocked me out.  I sometimes follow such auctions and have often seen wines go beyond estimates. Of the few times I have had a winning bid, it was usually to secure a value in the low bid estimate area. In a way it’s kind of like buying a $2 win ticket on a long shot at the track. You can get a rush, as I did two years ago when I scored a lot of nine bottles of 1990 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon at $25 a bottle. It’s our daughter Capucine’s birth year, and she was delighted when I presented her with the wine.

No, what took me by total surprise was that there was even one lot of rosé in the auction. While I well recall a lot of two bottles of 1994 rosé by legendary Burgundian winemaker Henri Jayer selling at over $2,000 in 2014 (see PWZ Wine Snoop Report 10/23/14), I know of no other Provence rosé ever showing up on the auction circuit—except at a charity event, for example, in the Hampton’s (see PWZ Wine Snoop Report 8/11/2014).

Now that I have raised my white flag, and no longer will bury my head in the sand on this point with Susan, the task of choosing what to buy stares me in the face. Tempier certainly has a lot of good press going for it. I believe it was the first rosé to ever make the famous Top 100 list at Wine Spectator when, in 2010, its 2009 vintage squeaked in at No. 99. Tempier made a second appearance in the Top 100 in 2015, moving up substantially to No. 75, the highest level yet ever achieved by a rosé.

Looking back at the history of Wine Spectator Top 100’s, there were only three other times rosé wine made the list. (No more than one rosé has ever made the list in a given year.) As with the Tempier, they too were from the South of France: Domaine Lafond 2011 Tavel Roc-Epine No. 64 on 2012 list; Jolie-Pitt & Perrin’s Miraval 2012 Côtes de Provence Rosé, No. 83 on 2013 list; and, most recently, Domaines Bunan 2015 Moulin des Costes, another Bandol, came in at No. 90 on the 2016 list, with a list price of $30.

Wine Spectator’s apparent preference for Bandol notwithstanding, Domaine de Tempier is indeed revered. For example, British wine writer Jancis Robinson MW, after a 2015 visit to Domaine de Tempier in Bandol where she had a vertical tasting of rosé going back to 1981, reported that the 1988 sample was the finest rosé she had ever tasted. So for me, the Tempier immediately becomes a candidate though, even at the present retail price (for the current vintage), I find it very pricey.

On the same day as the Skinner auction, New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov listed 20 rosé wines from around the world, including five from Provence. All were between $15 and $20, which he rightly considers “the sweet spot for good value in wine.”

I believe the best place to seriously start my research is in my home park, namely the great deal of coverage given Provence rosé by Provence WineZine. I can just hear myself when I initiate the call to Susan: “Can we talk seriously about rosé?”

 

IN VINO ROSA VERITAS
by Susan Manfull

Please, Jerry, come in from the cold. Let me welcome you with a long line of glasses filled with rosés that merit serious tasting.  Some you can confidently cellar; others perhaps not. 

For most producers, making rosés that age is relatively uncharted territory.  However, some highly regarded winemakers have long produced certain cuvées for the express purpose of aging.  Guy Négrel’s Mas Negrel Cadenet Rosé and Patrick Léon’s Garrus and Les Clans jump to mind although, of course, there are others.  In fact, enough producers to compel the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence (CIVP) to add a category in 2015 entitled “Les Rosés de Garde” to the annual tasting competition, Concours des Vins de Provence. 

Years from now, assuming you do carve out some space in your cellar, I suspect you’ll discover a few winners as well as a few duds. As you have often said to me, “That’s the fun!”

I recently attended a vertical tasting of Mas Negrel Cadenet rosés going back to 2002 and, very recently, a vertical tasting of Château d’Esclans Garrus (going back to 2010) and Les Clans (going back to 2011). What a fascinating experience to see the effects of evolution coupled with vintage variation. Pure fun!  (There were no duds.)

Patrick Léon, Château d’Esclans’ winemaker, watches as Les Clans is poured for the vertical tasting of Les Clans and Garrus wines at Le Bernardin in NYC on April 25th, 2017. Photo by W.T. Manfull

I’ll also have a longer line of glasses filled with rosés we can quaff. Just quaff. Rosé came to life as a quaffing wine and, there, most of it stayed for many years (albeit with gradually improving quality).  About 20 years ago, some rosés jettisoned those shackles with a vengeance and went serious; but fun-loving rosés to quaff—without much thought or conversation—will always have a firmly ensconced place in Provence and beyond.

Perhaps “seriousness” is not the right word to describe the attention I feel good rosé merits.  Win Rhoades, wine connoisseur, long-time wine collector, and recently retired wine shop proprietor, wrote in private correspondence that “’Seriousness’ to me implies an element of gravity, a connection to important consequences.  It bespeaks a solemnity, a (no pun here…) ‘sobriety’ that is not why I drink rosé.”

I certainly do not want to detract from the pure pleasure of rosé which may be one of its greatest attractions over its red and white brethren. I just want people to think about good rosé, as they would red or white wine.

New York Times wine writer Asimov defends rosé from those who say drinking pink wine is “unthinking drinking.” He wrote, in 2013, “Does anybody really want to think about rosé? Why, yes, we do, because we love rosé….Good rosé, that is.”

Asimov contends that he both thinks about rosé and is transported by rosé. He writes “A good rosé, at a lunch outdoors, preferably seaside or at least poolside, or even a terrace, at a sidewalk table or on a tar-paper roof, will transport me to Provence as quickly as you can say Brigitte Bardot.” And, then he goes on to present his thoughts on the rosés he tastes. Good rosé does both.

When can we talk? I’ll chill a rosé de garde for the occasion!

33 Comments

  1. It’s about 80 degrees, a beautiful day and I was about ready to open a chilled rose, sit on our dock and have a glass with a hamburger, but now I feel I can no longer do that without disrespecting the wine. So one final toast. “Cheers rose, you had your day, oh well, that’s all I have say.”

    Susan, when you ask Jerry to “come out of the cold,” are you suggesting he drink it at room temperature? 😬😂

    • Oy vey, what kind of burgers are you serving that make you feel you can no longer respect your rosé? I shudder to think of any wine at room temperature…although Jerry may not have to serve his rosé ice cold any longer! Thanks for popping by, Richard!

    • Ah, the what temperature to serve wine question. No, I don’t drink rosé at room temperature. But I always remember a Pawcatuck, CT merchant in my early exploration into wine that advised that even white wine at room temperature was the best way to fully evaluate what it had to offer. A test bottle scenario, as it were. Then buy if appreciated, and set into a bucket of chilled ice water to serve.

  2. Jerry, did you check if Susan was the winner of those 5 bottles of Domaine Tempier at the auction ? I am having right now a good rosé from Domaine Les Beates ” Les Beatines ” 2016. I don’t believe that rosés will really improve with time. They should be enjoyed in their youth.
    Regards
    Jean

    • Jean,
      If Susan was the buyer she has yet to confess. I know where you are coming from in your approach to rosé. Yet there is enough of a “what may I have been missing” element to storing rosé so that I must give putting some down a try. But which one(s)?

    • Jean, We must get you back to the PWZ tasting table for some aged rosés — I think you, in particular, may think differently about rosé. Their evolution can be fascinating and I suspect you will appreciate it. As for the Domaine Tempier–I wish I had known!

  3. Jerry,
    If you are looking for an aged rose, if you can find it, try Lopez de Heredia – Vina Tondonia Rosado or believe it or not the Gran Reserva.
    I have not seen this wine mentioned on this website.

    Woody

  4. Hi Jerry, I don’t think you can go wrong with stashing a few Tempiers away. I am a big fan of Chateau de Pibarnon rose. I put one away for 4 years before opening the bottle and it was terrific. Lost a bit of fruit but gained in complexity and it held its freshness beautifully. At least you do not have wait 15 years for it show well like a decent Bordeaux!

    • Peter,
      At this point in my life I give a lot of thought to cellar time expectations, thus find your comparison with aging Bordeaux of particular value. One of the reasons I follow wine auctions such as the recent Skinner is to see what might fit my wallet that could be put down for short term storage.By chance we will be in Provence in a week and perhaps will take a drive to Bandol to see why it is so highly touted.

    • Your experience is a great segue to Elizabeth’s comment (below) about how rosés change across time and how we must change our expectations to appreciate them! Thanks!

  5. Elizabeth Gabay MW July 3, 2017 at 3:25 am

    Just as not all white wines and all red wines can be classified as been fun or serious, neither can all rosés. Just as you would not think of a serious Beaujolais villages wine being a simple quaffer like Beaujolais Nouveau, the same goes for rosé. There are plenty of examples which I agree are perfect for serving iced on a hot summers day. But there are also rosés which are incredible with age. My oldest rosés in recent weeks have been a 1959 Cabernet d’Anjou and a 1992 Provence rosé, a few 2000s, 2001, and 2003s. All amazing. But – this is a bit big but – they are still a ‘new’ taste. They obviousy do not taste like a young fresh fruity rosé and I have watched some wrinkle their nose at the mature flavours. I think they can be wonderful if they retain their essential acidity. The biggest problem is that it istill impossible to classify the quality by variety or region. There are Bandol rosés with very little Mourvedre which age differently to one with large amounts of Mourvedre, there are oak aged rosés which fall apart, there are unknown rosés from small corners of Portugal which astound. It is still a steep learning curve – and I am battling to try and write about them …

    • Elizabeth, What an experience to taste rosés going back to 1959. My Mas Negrel Cadenet flight, stretching back as far as 2002 was an extraordinary experience, but 1959! Your point about aged rosés being a “new” taste and not what one expects is really important ~ that’s part of what makes aged roses so fascinating. Thanks for chiming in!

  6. Elizabeth,
    You describe a fascinating, yet seemingly daunting, world of complex rosé experiences. I have not picked up any of the recently published books on rosé and wonder how deeply they delve into aging characteristics. For my part I am ready to take up my staff and trek out to the wine estates with Schweitzerian fervor. Well, perhaps that is an over statement. But as we are staying in Lourmarin next week, so the moment to do so is soon upon me.

  7. Jerry,
    Have you changed vacation locations from Cucuron to Lourmarin?
    Woody

    • Woody,
      You are a good observer. The place we like in Cucuron has always been a two week rental, until last year when we were only in Provence a few days in November and used Airbnb for a place in Lourmarin. Next week we are back in that area for a week, so came up with another Airbnb selection in Lourmarin that can accommodate four. The nice thing is that there are several nearby villages in that area to draw upon beyond the two mentioned, such as Vaugines and Ansouis.

      • Jerry,
        I have been through that area before many years ago on a long drive trip through out France and loved it.
        How do you all get their transportation wise? Do you fly to Paris? Lyon? Nice? Rent a car?

        Thx,
        Woody

        • In terms of proximity to the Sud Luberon area we target each year Marseilles is closest airport. If coming from Paris area, as we did a week ago, then TGV down to Aix-en-Provence special TGV station and rent a car there. it is located midway between Aix center and Marseille airport. TGV from CDG airport is 3 1/2 hour journey.

  8. Maven,

    We think you have missed the meaning of “serious wine”. By analyzing the purchase price points, you are discussing the proclivities of “serious” experts like yourself. However, we see a “serious wine” as one that is enjoyed by a large number of consumers. Thus, we think you should be reviewing the volume of consumption as the measure of whether a wine is “serious”. In the small sample of our household, Rose is a very serious wine, and the year round favorite of my wife.

    • Fred,
      Touché! Defining one’s terms is always the correct starting point. Serious for me goes beyond enjoyable. There are other elements, such as age worthiness. But volume of sales is not necessarily a good indicator of quality, though it points out that the product has a broad user base, so it can’t be that bad.
      I am very impressed that in your household rosé is a year round source of drinking pleasure. Bravo to you, and especially Pat.

    • Hi Fred, Your point underscores how varied the rosé category is ~ like reds and whites, there are “serious” wines, fun wines, and everything in between (and there are some pretty awful rosés trying to reap the benefits of rosé’s popularity!). Enjoy your rosés!

  9. Jerry Being Croatian, I just had a nice Milos Rose from the Peljesac Peninsula of Croatia. The Milos Family is 100% focused on one spot planted with one grape, Plava Mali. So France isn’t the only place for good Roses. Just saying. VTL Isky

    • Joe,
      You are absolutely right ~ I wish we had access to more of those good rosés! (I’d love to go to Croatia!) Provence is the largest producer in France where, in 2015, 30% of the world’s rosés were made, and they market them very well and they are, over all, exceptional…but there are others! Thanks for making that point clear and for recommending one!

  10. Brother Isk,
    Though I likely have less of a Croatian bloodline than you (only my maternal grandfather), you are way ahead of me, both on going back to the old country, or trying its wine. But I am taking note of what you advise.
    Needle

  11. Hello to Jerry and Susan – and thanks to both for bringing up a conversation about rosé. Rosé seems to be emotionally situated somewhere that white and red wines just never enter. I will say that my most popular post continues to be one titled Rosé or Rosato? Is There a Difference? This causes me to wonder if people are looking to understand rosé, which may prove to be more enigmatic — causing each of us to come forth with a certain style of drinking it… some of us defending its credibility as others want to glug. And the education lies everywhere in the middle! I find rosé to be fascinating and appealing, but a much broader and more complex wine category that many conversations let on.

  12. I suppose because rosé’s heritage as a simple, fun-loving wine (in fact, an afterthought in most cases early on), it needs to fight harder to break out of the glugging category. With education and experience–and the dramatic quality improvements in rosé–people are learning and having a great time doing so! Thanks for popping by, Jill!

  13. Jerry and Susan,

    I have to say that I enjoyed this article – and the sparkling repartee between the two of you. Always good to find out something new about ourselves! “Quaffing wines” is a perfect term for any color of wine, actually, and there are plenty out there. As Fred points our, “serious” is in the eyes (and on the palate) of the beholder. There are many serious Italian wines that don’t get a second whiff from me, because to my palate, they are too tannic and unpleasant.

    This brings me to something Susan and I have discussed – is there a study out there on how people’s palates are different? Why is Pinot Grigio so light, refreshing, and appealing to some, and akin to vinegar to others? Who do some like tannic wines, while others look for jam and pepper? I suppose it is no different from how people perceive art. It is fascinating!

    I hope you have both had wonderful weekend… we sit here in the desert hoping and praying for rain.

  14. David,
    I am answering you from the tourist office during the market morning here in Cucuron, so must be quick as I am the packhorse for the provisions my wife is grabbing. There is a study on this subject which indicates just where in our brain our tastes are determined, but it will have to wait before I can get you the reference.
    Ciao,
    Jerry

    • Hi David,
      It’s such a fun discussion. We had a small tasting of mostly premium roses the other night. They were all outstanding but, interestingly, the least expensive rosé — one that I tossed in the ring at the last moment because I love it so much– tied with the most expensive. Price is not the best indicator although if no other information is available, it is informative.

      To your second point, that is a fascinating subject. Wine Folly has some very basic but interesting material on why our individual experiences are different.

      While tasting wine with Sue Tipton at her Acquiesce Winery in Lodi, California, the subject surfaced. She recommended at new book which I later purchased–Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine. Thus far, very interesting. The author says that, the taste of wine (and food) “engages more of the brain than any other human behavior.”
      Wine and food certainly keep the brain stimulated!

    • Jerry, I know exactly where you were standing! One of my very favorite markets! I am sure you had a wonderful dinner with all the goodies you took back from the market! What wine accompanied your repas?
      Enjoy!

  15. Hah! I know exactly where you are (were) standing, too, Jerry! Cucuron is my favorite market if, for nothing else, its sheer beauty!

    I look forward to reading more on the subject – perhaps the Neuroenology book is the same you were thinking of, Jerry? If not, I will be curious to find out what your reference is.

  16. David,
    It seems to be the same book Susan references. I have yet to get into it. Will do so on our return home.
    We love Cucuron and now end in Lyon. Small to large, yet each so enjoyable.

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