In this edition I would like to start by thanking everybody for their attendance and participation in the last Wine Extravaganza. It was an amazing evening highlighting some outstanding summer wines. We had 48 different wines to taste and fall in love with. Some of the big names included: Krug, Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d’ Or, Vanderpump Rose, Deutz Brut Rosé, Louis Boillot 1er Cru ‘Fremiers’, Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir, Hourglass H3, and lastly Chateau Minuty Et Or rosé. These are just a few that everybody enjoyed.
The next event occurred on June 6th in the evening. It was an honor to meet Master Sommelier, Jason Heller. There are only 229 Master Sommeliers in the world and he came here to The Club. We were able to pick his thoughts on the upcoming trends in the wine world as well as taste some of his wines. This was a meet and greet exclusively to show appreciation to our members of the Cellar Club at no charge to them. We served light bites and had a great time. Jason then transitioned over to the Wednesday night tasting table held in the Twin Sisters Lounge.
On June 9th, we had another sellout crowd for our Crafted Dinner Experience. This was the last Crafted Dinner Experience for the summer. As to be expected, Chef Isaac and the culinary team blew everybody away with the meticulous and artistic plated cuisine. The wines selected were from many different continents and hit the mark.
The New Member Orientation and Churrasco Festival took place on June 14th. Argentinian food and wine were set up in stations. Eight different wines accompanied the menu that consisted of carved meats, empanadas and a chimichurri station with all of the trimmings.
There is one wine event solidified to date for August. It will take place on August 30 and it will be an Orin Swift Wine Dinner. The first 40 people to sign up will enjoy the expertise of Dave Phinney’s winemaking. He is one of the best winemakers out there and his wines span the globe. Unfortunately, August is wine-making time and he will not be able to attend personally, but we will have a brand ambassador to speak and tell us all the back stories behind his labels, which are very unique.
I’m changing gears now as the summertime heat is upon us, and I want to jump into rosé wines. Rosés are at their all-time peak status in sales and distribution and many will say that rosés from Provence are the best. Without trying to get too technical, I want to break down the entire process. To learn what makes a true rosé, you have to understand how it’s made — the vinification process. All fine wine production takes the right vines, equipment, knowledge, experience, instincts and passion, yet the rosé-making process is more delicate and complex than the making of white or red wines.
Step by Step:
Let’s back up and review how rosé is made, from the vine to the bottle.
1. Harvesting. Each Provence AOP rosé is derived from multiple growths of red grapes. Initially, the producer harvests and produces wine from each growth separately. The grape harvest (vendange) starts in August or September in some parts of Provence, and October in other parts. Harvest begins when the grapes are fully mature — when they have the ideal ratio of sugar to acidity.
Many vineyards conduct the harvest at night or in the early morning hours when the air and the grapes are cooler. The hot days of late summer can raise the daytime temperature of the grapes on the vines to over 95°F, which would be too big a shock for crushed grapes entering vats in 57°F cellars.
Provence vine-growers conduct the harvest in one of two ways:
• By hand, with clippers.
• Mechanically, with a harvesting machine that cuts, cleans and transfers the grapes. Machines can be used only with certain types of grapes and in vineyards where the vines are easily accessible.
2. Washing and destemming. The harvested grapes are brought to the chai — a wine storage building where the grapes are washed. Before crushing, the producer may also destem the grapes, though this step is optional. Most producers use a destemming machine, which separates the stems from the grapes by catching the stems in a net.
3. Crushing. The winemaker then crushes the whole grapes using a machine designed to just burst the skins. The resulting substance, called must, consists of juice, pulp, seeds and skin.
4. Vatting or Pressing. At this step in the process, the rosé producer chooses between two vinification options: direct pressing, which yields a pale pink wine, or maceration/bleeding, which yields a darker-colored pink wine.
Direct Pressing. This technique, which is used by the majority of Provence producers, yields a rosé that’s light in color because the dark skins stay in contact with the clear juice for a very short period of time. In direct pressing, the grapes — either destemmed or in clusters — are immediately pressed in a wine press (pressoir) to release the juice. The pale pink juice is then delivered to the fermentation tank.
Maceration and bleeding. This is a steeping-and-draining process. During maceration, the crushed grapes soak in a tank for between two and 20 hours at a cool, tightly controlled temperature (usually ranging from 60° to 68°F). As the juice and skins comingle, the skins release their pigments and delicate aromas. The winemaker tests for color and, determining that the maceration period is complete, opens a filter in the bottom of the vat to drain — or bleed — the juice into the fermentation tank using the force of gravity. Exactly how long the vatting time should last is one of the questions that make rosé winemaking so delicate. It must be long enough for the red pigments to give the wine its pink color. But it mustn’t be so long that the tannins in the skins begin to detract from the wine’s lively elegance.
5. Fermentation. Provençal rosés are typically fermented in large tanks made of stainless steel, cement or wood. The temperature is carefully controlled at around 64°F. This step generally lasts from eight to 15 days.
6. Production in vat. During this crucial phase, the producer ensures that the wine has the needed oxygen and that the yeasts are well brewed, revealing the rosé’s true taste.
7. Tasting/testing. Here the sommelier analyzes the wine’s taste, aroma and visual aspects, such as color, brilliance, clarity and fluidity.
8. Blending (Assemblage). This is the art of evaluating rosé wines made from different lots and blending them to achieve the precise color and style of rosé desired. Following time-honored vinification principles, a rosé producer will carefully review batches of wine made from different grapes and different sections of the domaine. He’ll then assemble them together, adjusting the proportions to reach a final cuvée that is balanced, harmonious and reflective of the terroir of each original growth. The complexity of this process is why in Provence, assemblage is often likened to the task of an orchestra conductor.
9. Bottling. All Provence AOP rosés are estate bottled — made and bottled by the grower.
I will leave you with a short list of some of my favorites: Domaine Ott, Cave de la Bargemone, Chateau de Esclans Rock Angel and Hecht & Bannier.
I hope and wish everyone traveling a safe and very memorable vacation.
See you at The Club!
Jeffrey Cohen is the Wine Specialist for The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at email@example.com.