May 29, 2008
Buying a Rose? Select Cautiously

After tasting more than 60 roses during today's session of the 2008 Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition, I'm having difficulty seeing why the sales of rose wines are so brisk. I don't have precise market reports at my fingertips, but I've been reading sales surveys and hearing plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that consumer interest in the sort of dry, lean, pink wines often associated with Provence and elsewhere in the South of France is on the rise.

For the most part, however, the roses we tasted just didn't justify the purported excitement. Too many didn't deliver fruit, finesse or finish. They often were pretty, but as a group they tended to be one dimensional and dispirited. Maybe it was the context. Roses are wines to be drunk outside, alongside the pool or under an oak tree on a picnic. We were in an exhibit hall at Fairplex, the grounds of the Los Angeles County Fair. At one point we were so discouraged by the few gold medals we were giving we asked if we could move our table outside in hopes that sunshine and the spring breeze would provide a friendlier environment for assessing roses.

In the end, two sub-categories of rose proved the most encouraging. One was roses blended from grape varieties common to the Rhone Valley of France, such as syrah, grenache and mourvedre. Of the 18 such wines we tasted, five got gold medals, a pretty high percentage for any class in any wine competition. I look forward to learning the identities of those wines. I'm also looking forward to learning the identities of the roses made from the grape sangiovese. Of the six we tasted, two got gold medals, and another two got silver medals, indicating that sangiovese may be more suitable as a rose than as a more traditional table wine. I'm assuming here that the sangiovese roses were mostly from California, where the grape has struggled to find its groove.

We will wrap up the judging tomorrow. The final round will be a tasting of an anticipated 40 to 50 wines nominated for sweepstakes.

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