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A Rose By Any Other Name

Vineyards during autumn in Provence, France

It is springtime in Naples, Florida which here means 80 plus degree days and increasing levels of humidity.  Funny but after a cold and dreary winter humidity feels good!  Springtime means two things to me…boating and rose.

Over the last twenty years or so, Rose has received a terrible reputation from it’s cousin – blush wine or White Zinfandel as we foundly call it here in the states.  Many times I think that rose is misunderstood and undervalued as a premium product due to the popular stereotype and miseducation of many wine drinkers in this country.  So here’s the truth behind rose, how it’s made, where it comes from, and why it is a premium wine…straight from the source in Provence, France.

A little history

In 600 B.C. the Greeks invaded the area now called Southern France – more specifically Provence.  They brought vines over with them and began planting, harvesting, and producing wine.  Since the Greeks moved in, winemaking has become a way of life not only in Provence but all of France.  However, the blush style is one thing that has remained unique to this region.

What is rose?

Rose is a category of wine, pink to be exact which is the French translation.  Rose wine can be made of a multitude of different grapes, but in general you’ll see Grenache or Syrah quiet often especially from Provence.  Roses are dry, crisp wines.  Roses may differ in structure, color and flavor but some of the tastes you’ll experience are often strawberry, citrus, floral but always very fresh, bright, and crisp, clean wines.

What makes it pink?

A true rose is made from red (or black/purple) grapes.  Like red wine, the natural color in the skin of the dark grapes give the wine a pigment as well as more tannins and structure.  To achieve the rose color rather than a dark red hue, these wines are femermented with the skins for a very short period of time.  While some reds are fermented with the skins for an extensive periods, roses may only see skin contact for anywhere between twenty minutes and a few hours.  The longer the wait, the darker the color.

What do I pair it with?

The best part about rose is its exquisite pairings with food.  French style rose melds perfectly with mediterranean cuisine, but also some other types of food that aren’t so easy to pair wine with:  Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Thai, Spanish paella, Tex-Mex…generally anything with strong flavors or spice.  It is also the classic wine to pair with roast turkey and Thanksgiving-like feasts.  We also find it the perfect wine for the beach, pool, even early morning/afternoon.

Charles & Charles Rose, made by Charles Smith & Charles Bieler

What do I try?

I only drink red…

Gargiulo Rosato di Sangiovese
This rose is made from 100% Sangiovese grown in Napa Valley.  It provides intense flavors and structure with even a touch of tannin on the end, perfect for the red wine drinker.

I like my California Chardonnay…

Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel
One of our favorite roses, it is smooth and silky with light strawberry flavors and acidity.  This producer makes some of the very best roses in Provence – their highest end (over $100) is better than some of the best white Burgundies!

I don’t like rose…

Charles & Charles Rose*
My sister and her fiance know very little about wine (just starting to get into it), hate sweet wines, and turned their noses up at the thought of rose.  That was until we ordered this bottle at dinner last year.  Three bottles later they were definitely rose lovers.  Crisp and clean with the right balance of acidity and fruit.

Thank you readers!

Anyone who would like to purchase these wines can get a 10% discount off at Decanted by mentioning this article or using the coupon code BLOG online.

*Charles & Charles Rose is available for pre-order only by email.  The wine is due to arrive in early May.

A Value in France: The Rhone Valley

Rhone Wine Region


In the current economy there are deals everywhere, even in the wine world.  But France, the one region in the world where the deals are sparse, value is hard to be found.  Blame it on the declining dollar (although the Euro is starting to take a fall), pretentiousness, or just the fact that the French make damn good wine.  So it has become my quest to find a value in France. 

Situated in the southeast corner of France, just north of Provence and just south of Burgundy, lies the Rhone Valley.  The Valley runs along the course of the Rhone River providing beautiful views and scenery.  The Valley is divided into two distinct growing environments heavy with their own micro-climates and traditions in winemaking. 

The Northern Rhone 

The Northern part of the valley is characteristized by a continental climate experiencing cold winters and warm summers, much cooler than its southern neighbor.   The cool climate lends itself to grapes that survive and flourish better in these conditions.  The only red varietal permitted to be grown in the Northern Rhone is Syrah.  As for white varieties, wines can include Viognier, Marsanne, or Rousanne.  The Northern Rhone produces unique red wines in which the red grape (Syrah) is often blended with the white varieties of the region.  Produced in the same manner as most French wines, Northern Rhones are terrior driven meaning they are made to showcase the land that the grapes were grown on.  The Syrahs of the region are much different from the sister Shirazs produced in Australia, these wines display strong characteristics of earth, green vegetables, and often bacon. 

Hermitage, provided by


As with all French appellations, the AOC  (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) designates which grapes can be grown in the area in order to obtain a certification to be sold under the appellation name.  All French AOC wines are named for the region they are grown in, rather than the grapes themselves.  Within the Northern Rhone, the AOC designates eight different sub-appellations and therefore eight distinct wines.  The sub-appellations (and the grapes in those wines) are: 

Cote-Rotie:  Red – Syrah and up to 20% Vigonier
Condrieu:  White – Viognier
Chateau-Grillet:  White – Viognier

Saint-Joseph:   Red – Syrah and up to 10% Marsanne or Rousanne; White – Marsanne or Rousanne
Crozes-Hermitage: Red – Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne or Rousanne; White – Marsanne or Rousanne
Hermitage:  Red –  Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne or Rousanne; White – Marsanne or Rousanne
Cornas:  Red – Syrah
Saint-Peray:  Sparkling – Marsanne or Rousanne 

Southern Rhone 

With a dominant mediterranean climate, the Southern Rhone experiences mild winters and hot summers.  The region often endures drought conditions but very cool nights.  Much of the southern valley is divided into even smaller microclimates due to the rough, almost pebble like soil in some areas in addition to the strong, dry wind that may affect some areas and not others. 

The diverse climate in the southern Rhone allows many different varieties of grapes to thrive in the environment.  The most common red grapes produced in the region are Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Carignan, and Cinsualt.  White varieties include Ugni Blanc, Rousanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc,Picpoul, Clairette, and Vigonier.  The different climates also produce distinct flavors in the wines.  Reds from the left side of the valley are typical to display flavors and aromas of chocolate and rich black fruit with heavy tannins in youth; while right side wines are much lighter, and fruit forward. 

In all, there are ten sub-appellations of the Rhone.  However the two most recognizable and famous of the regions are Chateaneuf de Pape and Cote du Rhone. 

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, roughly “The Pope’s New Castle” in French, can be made in a white, rose, or red from up to eighteen different varietals as of this past year.  Red varities include Cinsaut,  Counoise,  Grenache Noir,  Mourvèdre,  Muscardin,  Piquepoul Noir,  Syrah,  Terret Noir,  and Vaccarèse (Brun Argenté); white and pink which are allowed are Bourboulenc,  Clairette Blanche,  Clairette Rose,   Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris,  Picardan,  Piquepoul Blanc,  Piquepoul Gris,  and Roussanne.  There are no specifications on the percentages that must be used, so it is possible to have a Châteauneuf-du-Pape with all eighteen varieties, however Grenache is usually the dominant grape in this wine.   The reds from this area are characterized as strongly tannic in their youth developing into spicy, full-bodied, dark fruit wines.  Whites range in flavor and aroma from lean and crisp to strong, silky and heavy. 

By definition a wine from Cote du Rhone has no specific sub-appellation thus can be made from any grapes within both the northern or southern regions.  In actuality, most Cote du Rhones are a blend of grapes from the southern region dominated by Grenache on the red side and Grenache blanc on the whites

Discovering the Rhone  

Here are some suggestions to get your travels started to this Southern French region.Whites

Ferraton Pere & Fils Cotes du Rhone Samorens Blanc
Flavor : nicely balance wine. Clairette brings the freshness and white Grenache body and softness
Grape : White Grenache (50%) and Clairette (40%)


Ferraton Pere & Fils Crozes-Hermitage La Matiniere
Flavor : very aromatic attack, aromas of ripe fruit (cherries, raspberries). Round wine with smooth tannins
Grapes: Syrah
$19.50Domaine Monpertuis Cote du Rhone
Flavor:  Dark purple, spicy, dense, and strong.
Grape:  Grenache (90%), Syrah (10%)
Best Buy

Domaine Monpertuis Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Flavor:  Mineral and earth aroma that lingers on the aftertaste with ripe fruit and faded flower notes.
Grape:  Grenache (70%), remainder from Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and other varieties.

Our New Year’s Resolution: Drink More Wine

Since we have tasted and hand selected almost every wine, beer, and sake in our store, we’ve decided our new year’s resolution is to drink more.  We’re determined to find new and different varietals, wineries, countries, and off-the-wall crazy winemakers.
We’d love to find a great wine out of China, a small producer in France that provides a good entry level red Burgundy, an excellent Mexican wine, and even a new grape varietal we’ve never seen produced before.
We pursued the same goal in 2009 and came up with some pretty great stuff.  Here’s a review of our favorite finds…
Favorite Winemaker:  Charles Smith.  We love him for being a little ‘different,’ for his crazy labels and names (Eve Chardonnay, Boom Boom Syrah) but mostly because he is making the best syrah in Washington.
Favorite Winery (Domestic):  Orin Swift.  Love Dave Phinney’s wines.  From the popular Prisoner (Zinfandel blend) to the big and bold Papillon, his wines are balanced, bold, and brilliant.  Dave Phinney was also our runner-up for favorite winemaker.  Combine Orin Swift with his Soda Canyon wines (Barrel Chaser) and we are completely impressed.
Favorite Winery (International):  Fontodi.  This small production winery in Italy makes what we believe is one of the best Chianti Classicos.  Not to mention their 99 point Flaccianello.
Favorite ‘Unique’ Find:  2008 Naucratis, Scholium Project.  This wine produced by Abe Schroeder is just different.  We know its mostly verdelho, but that’s about all we know.  Abe likes to do things differently, push the boundaries and we applaud him for that.
Favorite non-wine find:  Sake.  We have to admit, a year ago we barely touched the stuff (except for a sake bomb here and there).  But we’ve found so many great ones this year, it was hard not to become a sake geek.  Our favorites?  Karen Coy, Hiko Sake Milky, and Mutsu AI.
What do you want to discover in 2010?  Send your comments to info@decantedwines.comto be featured in the next Inner Circle newsletter.