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Mini-reviews 121: Even more rose reviews 2019

rose reviews 2019Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month, six rose reviews 2019 in honor of the blog’s 12th annual rose fest.

The 12th annual Memorial Day and rose 2019 post

La Vieille Ferme Rose 2018 ($7, purchased, 13%): This French pink is not what it was in 2017, when it was among the best roses of the season. The 2018 is a little thinner and less interesting, and the fruit doesn’t jump like it did last year — probably from poorer quality grapes. But it’s still dry, still worth $6 or $7, and still worth buying. Imported by Vineyard Brands

La Galope Comté Tolosan Rose ( $10, purchased, 12%): Once again, $10 buys quality rose — this, time from the French region of Gascony. There is a little tart cherry fruit, some flintiness, and it’s fresh, and clean. Highly recommended. Imported by Bridge Imports

Gianni Masciarelli Rosato 2017 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): Beautiful, zesty, and refreshing, this Italian pink shows off montepulciano, not all that common as a rose grape. Highly recommended, and an example of how rose technical quality has improved so dramatically that some older vintages remain delicious. Imported by Vintus

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French pink, made mostly with grenache, is yummy and delicious — another 2017 that has more than held up (though the 2018 is available in some areas). Surprising structure and depth, with tart strawberry fruit and crisp, fresh, and minerally on the finish. Highly recommended. Imported by Pioneer Wine Co.

Paul Mas Cote Mas Aurore 2017 ($10/1 liter, purchased, 12.5%): This is more than competent, Provence-style rose (barely ripe red fruit, a hint of garrigue, clean finish) in a liter bottle, so there are two extra glasses. What more do we need? (The 2018 should be available in some areas.) Imported by Espirit du Vin

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 13.5%): The kind of California wine that used to be common, but now is but a distant memory — well-made but affordable and decent availability. Look for a little orange zest to go with the barely ripe strawberry fruit.

Memorial Day and rose 2019

Check out these six roses — still cheap and delicious — for the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose celebration

Rose is officially mainstream after all those years in the wilderness. How else to explain a “dry” Provencal-style rose from E&J Gallo’s Apothic, the brand that all but invented sweet red blends?

So know, as we celebrate the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that there is a lot of rose out there looks pink. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste like the dry rose we’ve taught the world to love.

In fact, as rose-maker extraordinaire Charles Bieler told me this spring, no-self respecting Big Wine company is going to let rose pass it by. Hence, some of them are making two, three, and even four labels to make sure they don’t miss any of the sales momentum. In this, there’s some talk among wine business types that rose is saving wine from the worst effects of premiumization, and that its popularity is boosting sales that otherwise would be even more flat than they already are.

So yes, there’s lots of plonk out there, which I know because I’ve tasted so much of it. How about thin? How about bitter? How about tannic? How about sweet? To paraphrase Joseph Conrad (though he was probably more of a vodka man): “The horror! The horror!”

But not when it comes to the roses reviewed this post and in tomorrow’s post. These are all cheap, delicious, and rose in style and honesty. What else would you expect from the Wine Curmudgeon?

Prices this year are a touch higher than last year, but there is still plenty of terrific rose for less than $15. Also, don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer, which discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. This year, vintage isn’t quite as important as in the past, and many 2017s should still be wonderful. That’s because technical quality, traditionally a problem with rose, has improved and the wines don’t fall apart like they used to. But still be wary of anything older than two or years, and especially it isn’t pink any more. Brown wine isn’t worth drinking, no matter how little it costs.

For more suggestions, check out the rose category link, which lists 12 years of rose reviews. Today, six standout roses we’ve come to know and appreciate — each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth drinking:

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2018 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The most interesting of Randall Grahm’s California pink of the past several years. It’s more Provence in style, with barley tart strawberry fruit, and even fresher. Honest wine from an honest producer does matter.

Mont Gravet Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French rose is made with cinsault, a terrific grape for pink wine. It’s fresh, bright, and crisp – with more depth than the 2017 and better quality fruit. Plus, the red fruit (berries) taste likes red fruit and not soda pop. Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): The cabernet sauvingon in the blend gives this Provencal wine a little more structure, depth, and body this year, as well as a little darker flavor (almost blackberry?). As it ages, the caberrnet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils

Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2018 ($12, sample, 13.5%): One of the most consistent and enjoyable California pinks, and also made in a darker style (cranberry, blackberry?) that lots of people try but few succeed with. In this, it tastes like rose and not red wine.

Angels & Cowboys Rose 2018 ($15, purchased, 12.8%): This California effort, always one of my favorites, is much more subtle this vintage, with a wisp of strawberry fruit and not much else. Still enjoyable and interestingly different.

Charles & Charles Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.6%): This Washington state rose, from Chalres Bieler and Charles Smith, is fresh and crisp, with tart strawberry and orange fruit and a very clean finish. All in all, another exceptional effort.

More about Memorial Day and rose:
Memorial Day and rose 2018
Memorial Day and rose 2017
Memorial Day and rose 2016
Winecast 36: Charles Bieler
Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2018

Photo: “Wine o’Clock” by VanessaC (EY) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Wine of the week: Bota Box rose 2018

bota box roseBig Wine delivers price, value and quality with this vintage of the Bota Box rose

Big Wine’s rose offerings have often been indifferent, with little consistency in style and quality, plus more sweetness than dry rose requires. Because, of course, Big Wine. So how has Delicato done so well with the past three vintages of the Bota Box rose, and especially with the 2018?

Call it our good fortune as we celebrate the blog’s 12th annual rose extravaganza. In fact, this version of the Bota Box rose ($16/3-liter box, sample, 11.5%) is the best of the three – more structure, more interest, and more going on than you get in most box wines. And the price is amazing – three liters is four bottles, so this is the equivalent of $4 a bottle.

The 2018 is fruitier than the previous efforts (berries and a little lemon?), as well as crisp and refreshing, just like a dry rose is supposed to be. In this, it’s not just a one-note wine, like last year’s was, and it’s more rounded than the 2016 version. That wine was enjoyable, but not necessarily something you believed in. The 2018 is not just better made with better quality grapes, but you can taste the difference.

Best yet, the Bota Box rose is actually dry. Delicato has resisted the temptation to tart the wine up after it has established a market, something that’s common practice among Big Wine companies. So more good fortune for those of use who care about value and not Instagram posts.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame and the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Winebits 594: All rose, all the time

roseThis week’s wine news: All rose, all the time, to celebrate the blog’s 12th annual rose extravaganza

Under $15: The Refinery29 website lists 14 roses costing less than $15, and it’s mostly a good list – including a couple of canned pinks. Credit for sticking to affordable wines, which rarely happens with rose these days. Availability may be a problem, but there’s nothing new about that, is there? The biggest dud on the list is Aldi’s $8 Exquisite Collection Côtes de Provence, which wowed NBC’s Today show last year (and which underwhelmed me). This vintage, though, isn’t even that well made. I bought it last night, and it wasn’t really Provencal in style, had some sort of weird Jolly Rancher fruity sweetness, and was very disjointed. The bottle is still three-quarters full; that almost never happens in my house.

Rose beer: Because that’s what the world needs, right? MarketWatch reports that two Texas producers, Spoetzl Brewery and Kiepersol Winery in east Texas, have combined for a rose-flavored beer. The beer uses grape must and is aged in wine barrels, and is supposed to be made in a style ro accentuate the rose flavor. I’ll leave the verdict about whether it’s worth drinking to those much younger and much more hip than I.

25 best roses: VinePair lists its 2019 rose honor roll, and it’s proud that the “prices are reasonable” for the 25, since only two cost more than $30. Frankly, I’d rather drink three bottles of the Bieler Sabine than buy a $30 rose, but I may be too old and not hip enough to appreciate rose any more. Plus, save for the $10 Tortoise Creek from the great Mel Masters and the Sicilian Planeta pink, the list is missing a lot of top-notch roses, and especially from Spain.

Land, Kendall Jackson, land: The biggest factor in California wine prices

California wine prices

Jackson Family Estates doesn’t want to make $10 wine, but there it is.

Real estate, not foreign tariffs, determines California wine prices

Consider two wines: Both white Rhone-style blends, both from respected wineries, both speaking to varietal character and terroir, both well-made and enjoyable. One costs $24; the other costs $12. So what’s the difference?

Vineyard land prices in California. The $24 wine is Eberle’s Cotes de Robles Blanc from Paso Robles, where land goes for $30,000 to $35,000 an acre. The $12 wine is McPherson’s Les Copains White from Texas’ High Plains, where land goes for less than $5,000 an acre. Otherwise, save for a fancier screwcap on the Eberle, the wines are the same – mostly the same grapes, the same style, and the same flavors (some lime and stone fruit, very clean and crisp).

We’ve spent a lot of time on the blog over the past couple of weeks discussing the Jackson Family Estates proposal to raise a tariff wall to keep cheap imports out of the U.S. What we haven’t discussed is the role that the cost of California land plays in all of this.

More than anything, that’s why California wine prices are as high as they are. The land – even in the less famous regions like Paso Robles – can be some of the most expensive in the world. Equally as important, a lot of vineyard land in Europe — even quality land — was paid for decades ago, so the price of a bottle may not include the cost of the loan to buy the land. In some parts of California, the cost of the mortgage is the difference between a $50 and $60 bottle of wine.

And the more demand for California wine that there is, the more money people will pay for California vineyards. And higher land prices in California mean more expensive grapes and more expensive grapes mean more expensive wine. It’s that simple.

That’s because all else is mostly equal: The cost of labor, the cost of the bottle, the cost of shipping, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Texas, California, or France. In fact, California might have a slight edge in some production costs, since it’s the center of the U.S. wine business. So, in the end, the price of the land in determines California wine prices.

Jackson Family, like other big California producers, likes high land prices. High prices make the company more valuable. So when it says it can’t afford to make $10 wine, it’s being honest – but it’s also crying crocodile tears. It has decided premiumization is the future of wine, and it doesn’t want to make $10 wine. Smaller producers, faced with the same land price constraints, aren’t nearly as sanguine. Many have told me they see their wines being squeezed out of the market by companies like Jackson Family, who can work on smaller profit margins on an $18 bottle and undercut the smaller producers.

The irony? There’s plenty of cheap land in California to make $10 wine, which is where Barefoot, Two-buck Chuck, and much of the state’s cheap wine comes from. It’s in the Central Valley, where a ton of grapes can cost as little as $300, one-sixteenth of the price in Napa. And, in another irony, premiumization has made this land even cheaper – so cheap, in fact, that some farmers are replacing grape vines with almonds, which offer higher profits.

In other words, Jackson Family Estates could do what E&J Gallo (Barefoot), The Wine Group (Franzia), and Bronco (Two-buck Chuck) do – use Central Valley grapes to make $10 wine. But it’s easier to ask for a tariff wall and punish U.S. wine drinkers. Which should demonstrate exactly where Jackson’s interests lie, and it’s not with the wine drinkers.

Will the next great wine movie be about drink local?

drink local

Todd Kliman

Todd Kliman’s “The Wild Vine,” a story about regional wine and drink local, could become a Netflix–style series

Could the first truly interesting wine movie be about – gasp – drink local? We can only hope.

That’s because Todd Kliman’s terrific 2010 book, “The Wild Vine” (Clarkson Potter), may have a decent chance of becoming a film. The production company that bought the rights to the book has even hired a publicist, which doesn’t happen unless the producers are convinced something will come of their efforts.

“The Wild Vine” tells the history of the norton grape and Daniel Norton, the man who accidentally created it, Virginia winemaker Jenni McCloud of Chrysalis Vineyards and her fascination with norton, and the role regional wine has played in U.S. wine history. As I wrote in my review: “It’s a perspective that says, ‘Look, pay attention. Long before Robert Parker and scores and California, there was a U.S. wine industry. And if a few things had happened differently. …’ ”

So what about the movie’s chances of actually being made?

“When people say they’re going to option a book for a movie, traditionally nothing happens,” says Kliman, a D.C.-area freelancer and author who has been down the book option road enough times to know how the system works. “So when a book is optioned, there’s no reason to get giddy. But this time, the producer has real enthusiasm for the book and the story, so there may be a better chance than usual that something happens.”

The producer is Dax Phelan, who not only has Hollywood credibility, but grew up near St. Louis and was fascinated by the idea of norton, a red grape that thrives in Missouri and whose norton wineries produced some of the best wine in the world at the turn of the 20th century.

Kliman says the film future of “The Wild Vine” could be a Netflix-style series, where Phelan has contacts, a traditional film, or a documentary. Much depends, of course, on who will pay for production, and that will ultimately decide if anything gets done. No studio, no film – unless there’s a drink local aficionado reading this who has very deep pockets and wants to bankroll the project. My hope is the Netflix option, which would be better suited to the book’s depth and complexity. There’s too much in the book to cram into a 100 minute movie.

And before I get nasty emails and comments, know that there haven’t been truly interesting wine movies. “Bottle Shock” turned the legendary Judgment of Paris into a snoozefest, and “Sideways” – despite Paul Giamatti’s incredible effort – was mostly two guys whining and trying to pick up chicks.

Ask the WC 19: Supermarket wine, plastic wine bottles, corked wine

supermarket wineThis edition of Ask the WC: Understanding supermarket wine, plus plastic wine bottles and returning corked wine to the store

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question .

Guru of cheap wine:
Your review the other day about the Evanta malbec from Aldi said it was a supermarket wine. I don’t understand. What is that?
Likes cheap wine

Dear Likes:
There are two kinds of supermarket wine — more generally, mass market wine of varying quality made by the biggest producers and sold mostly in supermarkets. More specifically, and what I was talking about with the Evanda, is wine made exclusively for supermarkets, the private label wine made famous in Europe for quality and value and that we don’t see much of in the states. These private label are only sold in  one retailer, like Two-buck Chuck in Trader Joe’s.

Hi, Wine Curmudgeon:
What are your thoughts about plastic wine bottles?
Alternate wine

Dear Alternate:
Plastic wine bottles are another of my quixotic quests (like the Linux desktop). They are a terrific, non-traditional way to bottle wine that the wine business has shown almost no interest in. Plastic bottles — which are the same size as glass — were supposed to be the next big thing in the 1990s and again last decade, but nothing ever happened. Their advantages are obvious: Much lighter than glass, so cheaper transportation costs, more durable, and easier to recycle. But they never became popular. But then again, we’re still using corks, so why should I be surprised?

Hello WC:
Can you return a bottle of wine to the store if it’s corked or off in some way?
Loyal reader

Dear Loyal:
Of course. Just make sure you have the receipt and return it in a timely manner. Having said that, some stores have goofy return policies where they’ll charge you a restocking fee or only issue store credit. And some stores, even though they say they’ll accept returns, get cranky about it. Then you know not to shop there again. As noted many times here before, the best independent retailers want your business over the long haul, so will be happy to take a flawed bottle back.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 18: Sweet red wine, varietal character, wine fraud
Ask the WC 17: Restaurant-only wines, local wine, rose prices
Ask the WC 16: Grocery store wine, Millennials, canned wine