CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Summer’s heat means refreshing rosés and light whites
By Lawrence B. Johnson
The dog days are upon us. Time to lap up some cooling summer wines – whites and rosés to accompany a picnic or simply to enjoy, to sip for their own mellow rewards.
Let’s start with a clutch of blushing rosés, all three of which happen to be from the south of France. If there is a place in the wine world that prides itself on rosé, it is Provence, where the cuisine and the warming sun of the Southern Rhône Valley create an ideal setting for these salmon-pale refreshers.
Haut de Buisson Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2017. The blend here is definitive Côtes du Rhône: 40 percent each of Grenache and Syrah plus 20 percent Cinsault. And typical of rosés, the Haut de Buisson is comparatively low in alcohol at 13 percent. Rose petal and mango flavors mingle in this quaffable wine, which the producer recommends as an accompaniment to barbecue. Excellent idea. It has the depth and acid frame to stand up to hearty backyard fare. ($15)
Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé 2017. From the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, this lovely wine is a blush bundling of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache and Counoise. The last of these is a dark-skinned grape indigenous to the Rhône Valley and among the multitude allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Essence of strawberries rules this exuberant wine, which draws its zip in part from a fine acid frame and displays a lingering finish. ($18)
Hecht & Bannier Côtes de Provence Rosé 2017. Syrah dominates the blend, but you’d be seriously challenged to identify it in the pink grapefruit flavor core of this seductive wine. Here’s an exceptionally focused expression of rosé: medium bodied, bracingly acidic and richly engaging on the palate. Like any of these examples, it is best served quite cold, like Champagne. ($18)
Switching from pink to white, here are three other attractive, modestly priced options for picnicking.
Gérard Bertrand Perles de Sauvignon Blanc 2016. Presented in a funky “pearl”-draped bottle, this is a well-made Sauvignon Blanc, inexpensive and delightfully suited to summer consumption. Grapefruit and white melon combine on the palate, and good acidity gives the wine a winning zest. It comes from the Pays d’Oc in the deep south of France – a source of many terrific wines that somehow continues to hide in plain sight. ($16)
Ataraxia Sauvignon Blanc 2016. Another overlooked wine region is South Africa, and this elegant Sauvignon Blanc points up the bargains to be found there. Not surprisingly, tropical fruits swirl on the palate, supported by finely balanced acid. The Ataraxia stood out in a tasting of summer-oriented wines, and on follow-up still showed the qualities of pedigree. ($15)
Errazuriz Max Chardonnay Reserva 2016. This light, uncommonly vibrant Chardonnay comes from Chile’s Aconcagua Valley near the Pacific Ocean. Its first citrusy impression on the palate is suggestive of Sauvignon Blanc, but as the wine opens up, it displays a distinctly tropical but nonetheless recognizable profile of discreetly oaked Chardonnay. And its vitality is just the summer ticket. ($18)