As I ascended the stairs in the world famous restaurant Babbo Ristorante Enoteca, in the West Village of New York City, I knew that I was going to take part in an extremely cerebral exercise of analyzing Brunello wines dating back to 1985. I get great pleasure out of such intellectually focused pursuits, yet, in such situations, there is always a danger of ignoring the playful side of wine or losing that vibrant inner child of oneself that is open to the whims that wine can inspire. As time marches on, we can feel as if there are no more surprises or thrills in our daily lives; this may also happen to those who get too serious with wine… But is it life or wine that has changed, or simply our view of it?
Rosé is a Playful Reminder
When I entered the room, I immediately knew I would need to find my spot so I could get out my pen and paper to prepare myself to start taking notes of the Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino wine vertical. An informative speech was given about the history and current status of Brunello, to which I gave my full attention, noting every important point. But it was announced at the end of the speech that before we officially “started” we would enjoy a class of Rosato.
As the whole room turned to look, there were beautiful glasses of Rosato wines on the table near glistening prosciutto and other fine Italian cured meats. The light that entered from the skylight lit up the glasses, creating a shadow that highlighted the exquisitely pink color of the wines. Almost simultaneously, everyone in the room leapt from their seats with a joyful sound of glee, and made their way to the table of pink delights. The room quickly filled with boisterous conversations, delightful giggles and the fun and frivolity that only Rosé, or in this case Rosato, can bring to an occasion.
Gradual Decline of Our Spark
After that, of course, people needed to get into the zone for the Brunello vertical and tap into their skills of intense concentration. But it was a great reminder that no matter the wine, or situation, we cannot completely forget that wine should bring pleasure, excitement and bring us closer together instead of creating a hierarchy that pushes us further apart. Entropy is one of those laws of physics that cannot be ignored. I know it sounds counterintuitive that we have to place lots of effort into staying bright, light and playful, but the law of gradual decline demands it. There is nothing better than the wealth of knowledge, experience, and enriched perspective that time brings to a person, but if we are not careful, we could very well lose that childlike spark that makes one excited to take on each day.
The ultimate achievement is to gain the true maturity and self assurance that only comes with age, while keeping that open spirit and shear wonderment for life alive… And sometimes, it simply comes down to indulging in a pink libation that, in its best form, combines both beautifully.
In the spirit of childlike curiosity, I thought it would be fun to recommend Rosé wines from areas other than Provence (in France – probably the best known region for Rosé).
Everyday Drinking Wine (less than $15)
2016 Bodegas Valdemar, ‘Conde Valdemar’ Rosé, Rioja, Spain ($13.99): 75% Garnacha and 25% Viura. A stunning pale pink color with zingy flavors of grapefruit and lemon zest with dried flowers on the finish.
2016 M. Chapoutier, Belleruche Rosé, Côtes-du-Rhône, Rhône, France ($14.99): Mainly Grenache with a small amount of Cinsault and Syrah. A spicier, weightier Rosé with white pepper and fresh raspberry flavors.
Special Occasion Wine (from $15 to $50)
2016 Il Poggione, Brancato Rosato, Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($18.99): 100% Sangiovese. A fleshy body that delivers delicious strawberry flavors with an underlying gravelly minerality and a cherry blossom finish.
2016 Sanford, Pinot Noir Rosé, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, California: 100% Pinot Noir. Santa Rita Hills is a cooler area that is able to produce Pinot Noir with finesse while still giving lots of juicy fruit. The nose on this wine is simply sumptuous with sweet cherries and lilacs dancing about, and the rich body had plenty of bright acidity to lift it at the end of each sip.
Fantasy Wine (over $50)
1997 Il Poggione, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($85): 100% Sangiovese. I realize that this is not a Rosé, but it was too good not to mention. Out of all the Il Poggione Brunello vintages that day, none other sticks out like the 1997. This vintage was actually not shining as bright a few years back, but somehow, someway, it came back and came back with spectacular glory. It was really singing when I had it recently. It just goes to show that although we may find ourselves in dark times, and all of us, sooner or later, will get overwhelmed by life, we can still find a way to pull ourselves up and be better than we ever were before. Layers of complexity with leather, anise seed and moist earth leap from the glass with plenty of full-bodied goodness displaying plums and kirsch. The tannins are fine, giving this wine an elegant shape with a long, expressive finish.