I have been looking forward to this tasting ever since I heard about Catavino's Virtual Rosé Tasting a week or so ago. Ryan and Gabriella at Catavino want to encourage folks to explore wines of the "Iberian Peninsula" - for the geographically-challenged, this means Spain and Portugal. The rules that Catavino set for this virtual tasting are pretty simple - pick out a Spanish or Portuguese rosé, and compare it to a rosé from virtually anywhere else. You don't even need a blog to join in on the fun - you can post your comments directly to Catavino's forum!
I chose to compare a Spanish Navarra rosado with a French Côte-du-Rhône rosé, mainly because I conveniently had both wines in my collection - no need to drive to Virginia! I also thought: Northern Spain, Southern France - the wines should be similar, yes?
The Spanish wine was a 2006 Viña Rubican Rosado from the Navarra region of Northern Spain. According to Catavino, Spain classifies rosé wines into two categories: rosados and claretes. Rosados are apparently what we typically think of as rosés - light to dark pink in color. Claretes aren't so much a rosé as a very light red wine. How does light red differ from dark pink? I have no idea - but now you know what I know.
The French wine was a 2006 Domaine Guy Mousset Cuvée Réservée Rosé from Côtes-du-Rhône. I would love to give you more information about it (love to find out more myself!) but I have the hardest time finding out anything about specific French wines on the 'Net. With any American wine, Google to the rescue - I can learn what varietals are in it, probably even find tasting notes and technical data from the winery. But with the French wines - nothing. The only link I could find to this wine is on Cellar Tracker. So, I'm not even sure which grapes this wine was made from. I see this as yet another hurdle French wine has in gaining widespread acceptance with American wine drinkers, particularly younger wine drinkers. We demand more information about our products, and the French wine labels and limited online data are unable to satisfy our demands.
Anyway, on to the good part - the tasting!
I didn't even need to open the bottles to immediately notice a distinct difference between the two: the color. Here are two different shots that highlight this - the French rosé has a light salmon color, while the Spanish rosado has a deeper, redish-purple color.
OK, so I probably should have rotated that top picture so that the rosé was always on the left, rosado on the right, but you get the idea. I found myself liking the color of the rosé more - it just looked more elegant in the glass. You'll also notice from the first picture in this post that the two rosés came in differently shaped bottles: the Spanish rosado came in a high-shouldered Bordeaux style bottle, while the French rosé came in a more gently-sloped Rhône style bottle.
As for the nose: the rosado smelled, well, kind of grapey. Actually, if you've ever taken a tour of a winery, it reminded me of the room where they store all of the aging oak barrels - damp, slightly sweet, and a thick grapey aroma. It also reminded me a bit of the smell of port. The rosé had a much lighter, sweeter nose, with hints of strawberries and citrus.
For the actual tasting, I admit - I went full-bore wine geek on this one. I used a wine thermometer. The absolute height of wine snobbery, I know, but I was inspired by Winedeb at Deb's Key West Wine & Garden blog. I always like how inviting her pictures of whites and rosés look - seeing as how she's in Key West, the bottles get a nice layer of condensation on them probably immediately after taking them outside. They also heat up pretty fast, so after she's done photographing them for her blog she sticks them back in the fridge to cool down again before tasting, and uses a wine thermometer every now and then to check and see if they've chilled enough to be enjoyable.
So, I was digging through my kitchen drawer of wine toys, and lo-and-behold: I actually own a wine thermometer! After reading Winedeb's posts, I had to try it out and see how/if the temperature affected the taste of the rosés. After my two bottles were done with their photo shoot, both were at 54° F. Judging from my wine books, this should be the perfect temperature to drink them at: most books seem to say that 50°-55° is right around where you want to serve rosés.
In the mouth, all of the light, sweet strawberry and citrus on the nose of the French rosé completely vanished. I was really just getting textures at this point rather than flavors - medium to full-bodied with some bitterness across the back of my tongue, and a slight creaminess to it. There was something annoying me about this wine though, and after letting it sit in my mouth awhile I decided it was the strong oakiness to it. I've never really been a fan of big oak, preferring "No Oak Chardonnays" fermented in stainless steel tanks to their often over-oaked brethren. So I wasn't too happy when some oak showed up in this rosé, but if you like oaky Chards then this wouldn't be a turn-off for you. The French rosé was otherwise pretty tasty. The Spanish rosado had a very different flavor. There was a tanginess to it, somewhat lemony. It has less body than the French, but more acidity.
By this point the wine had warmed up a bit - 57° F said my trusty thermometer. Both wines now seemed to have a bigger, sweeter nose. I thought I started smelling some vanilla in the rosé, while the rosado had an aroma like a dark red rose. A little bit of fruit flavor also crept in to the taste of the rosado, almost a sour cherry - still quite tangy.
Overall, both Kris and I liked both wines better when they were a bit warmer - warmer than you are apparently "supposed" to serve rosés. I liked to color of the French wine better, but enjoyed the uniqueness of the rosado, and definitely preferred the flavor of the Spanish wine over the French. We had some Parado cheese and crackers as an appetizer, and the rosado went perfectly with this tangy cheese. However, with our dinner of grilled salmon, the French wine paired much better.
Final recommendation - I enjoyed trying these wines side-by-side, but neither offered me what I'm looking for in a rosé. When I think rosé, I think picnic wine - something to sip on a warm summer day while out in the yard or playing croquet or something. Neither of these wines were "refreshing" enough to do that for me. I know, rosés are supposedly the "new thing" in wine, and I'm probably still a little gun-shy from White Zinfandel to have a completely open mind on rosés. I also just don't know enough about rosés to have some idea of what to expect when I pop the bottle. Because of this, I think I feel safer with whites for warm weather enjoyment and meals as I have a better understanding of what the wine is going to taste like.
However, both of these wines were still quite tasty in their own very different ways, and I think I'll keep trying out different rosés this summer. From my experience thus far, I think there are probably better rosé values out there than the wines in this tasting. Both of these wines were purchased for $9 at Total Wine in McLean. For one dollar less per bottle, a couple weeks ago I tasted a 2006 Anakena Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from Rapel Valley, Chile that fit my "summer rosé" criteria perfectly. I recommend going out and giving that one a shot. Perhaps I'll pick up another next time I'm out, and pair the Anakena off against another Euro rosé, and see who comes out on top!