Rosé and sparkling wines

"... four French rosés, two Champagnes, and three traditional method sparkling wines ..."

available in Ontario from August 5, 2017

This is the second of three review articles presenting recommendations from the August 5, 2017 Vintages release, focusing on rosé and sparkling wines. Given that there has been an upswing in the popularity of rosé, it’s not surprising that I’ve come across a number of silly, uninformed “backlash” articles, lamenting the trend and denigrating the wines.

Rosé has been around since the beginning of winemaking. In its purest form, the juice is removed from the skins after a short period of skin contact and before fermentation has completed (or even started, in most cases), once the desired level of colour has been obtained. Certainly the ancient Greeks understood that the depth of colour in a red wine was related to the length of maceration or skin contact, and it may well be that better quality red wines were lighter coloured. And it’s well known that the first, famous Bordeaux reds were clairets, lightly coloured wines with very short periods of skin maceration.

So while rosé may be trendy now, it’s not new. And what’s there to like? Well, what I think of as good rosés are generally very dry, are driven by acidity and freshness, with moderate, balanced alcohol, very light tannins, and the potential for interesting fruit and savoury aromas and flavours. In other words, they hold out the promise of being elegant, food-friendly, and highly quaffable wines. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Of course, there’s lots of bad wine out there of all colours and types, and our job is to point you to the good stuff! And I think we’ve fulfilled that mission this summer, providing recommendations for 22 fine rosés since May.

Until now, I’ve kept price in mind, and affordability has been an important component in my recommendations. But in this report I’ve removed all constraints, and the first wine from Domaines Ott is the most expensive rosé I’ve ever recommended. You’ll have to judge if it is worth it, but it is an excellent wine. The second, also pricey but considerably closer to “normal” price levels, is a very good wine made by the négociant branch of Domaines Ott. The third is the popular Miraval rosé in magnum format, so divide the price in half to compare, while the fourth is simply a good, drinkable rosé.

  • 2016 Domaines Ott Château De Selle Coeur De Grain Rosé, AOP Côtes de Provence
  • 2016 By Ott Rosé, AOP Côtes de Provence
  • 2016 Miraval Rosé (In Magnum), AOP Côtes De Provence
  • 2016 Château Clamens Julie Rosé, AP Fronton

The next two wines are Champagnes: the first is a very good wine priced fairly for the genre, while the second is an interesting example at the very bottom end of the Champagne price range.

  • 2008 Huré Frères Instantanée Extra Brut Champagne
  • Tribaut Origine Brut Champagne

The final three wines are fine, traditional method sparklers from Tasmania, Spain and Alsace.

  • Jansz Premium Sparkling Rosé, Tasmania
  • Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut Cava
  • Cave De Hoen Mausberg Blanc De Blancs Brut Crémant D’Alsace


Vintages #74617 • $47.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
I recently glanced at an article about a wine merchant serving the super-rich on their super-yachts, and noticed that Domaines Ott was the rosé producer in high demand. That makes perfect sense: their rosé sells at ultra-high prices — apparently a prerequisite for inclusion on the lists — but in this case largely justified by a superlative wine. This Grenache blend, supplemented by Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre, is extremely pale, with a blush of salmon-pink colour. The nose is subtle, with notes of dried herbs, perfumed red apples, strawberries and lemon zest. Bone-dry, with firm acidity, the wine is slim, elegant and almost austere, with a pleasing apple-skin bitterness. If you are part of the super-rich, or just want to act like you are for an evening, then you must try this wine.
Tasted July 25, 2017 • AUTHENTIC WINE & SPIRITS MERCHANTS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


BY OTT ROSÉ 2016, AOP Côtes de Provence

Vintages #490896 • $28.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
By Ott is the négociant label of the premium producer Domaines Ott. Pale salmon in colour, the nose fills with crisp strawberry, red apple and riper peach fruit, with a subtle note of peach blossoms. The palate has some weight, with a lightly creamy texture and riper-seeming fruit balanced by firm acidity. The wine is bone-dry, and the finish shows a pleasant, lingering phenolic bitterness. A premium price, but a very satisfying rosé that has the substance to work throughout the year.
Tasted July 25, 2017 • AUTHENTIC WINE & SPIRITS MERCHANTS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


MIRAVAL ROSÉ (in Magnum) 2016, AOP Côtes De Provence

Vintages #490870 • $46.95 • 1500ml. • WD Score 89/100
This is the magnum size — because of course when you are drinking rosé you need more a single bottle! The wine is pale salmon in colour, with pretty aromas suggesting strawberries, raspberries, and perfumed red apples, with an apple blossom grace note. Dry, with lively acidity, the fruit is pleasantly ripe on the palate and there is a slightly bitter (read tannic) undertone. Of course you are paying a premium for the label, but the wine is very good.
Tasted July 14, 2017 • CHARTON HOBBS INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #491910 • $18.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
This blend of Négrette and Syrah comes from Fronton, north of Toulouse. Apple blossoms and lemon zest frame aromas of strawberries, raspberries and red apples. The wine is nicely structured: dry, with brisk acidity, moderate alcohol but a little weight that supports a lightly bitter edge. Simple and direct, and quite elegant.
Tasted July 14, 2017 • REGAZZI SELECTIONS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #491761 • $64.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 92/100
Almost equal parts Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, this is a firmly acid-driven and elegant, dry Champagne. It is medium-depth straw-yellow, with glints of gold. Lightly bruised apple is followed by aromas of lemon and melon, and is underlaid by toasty, leesy and roasted almond notes. The hint of oxidative bruising recedes on the palate, as the crisp acidity brightens the fruit, dries the palate, and lengthens into a salty-citrus finish. Complex and quite lovely — and an excellent value.
Tasted July 14, 2017 • BURGUNDY DIRECT LTD. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #485912 • $39.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100
Pale straw-yellow in colour. Toasty, with a sweet brioche richness to the nose, then lemon, red apple and honeydew melon. While it's not quite dry, the suggestion of softer sweetness on the attack immediately dries as the bright acidity builds on the palate, and shapes the dry, lingering lemon and wet stone finish. Priced at the extreme low end for Champagne, this is an excellent value.
Tasted July 14, 2017 • VINICOLOR (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #37499 • $27.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
A coppery salmon colour. The nose shows subtle, crisp strawberry, raspberry and red apple fruit, cushioned by some toasty and resin elements. The wine is dryish, with vivid acidity masking a modicum of residual sugar that adds a creamy weight. The palate shows fresh, tart fruit that contrasts with a deeper evolving character that is just starting to hint at bruised apple and fennel. Fascinating, lively and bright, if not perhaps fully in the main stream.
Tasted July 14, 2017 • B AND W WINES (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #392548 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This is a very good Cava from Freixenet, based on Chardonnay, with contributions from the traditional Cava grapes Macabeo and Parellada, along with some Pinot Noir. Overall quite subtle and sophisticated, the nose is lemony and toasty, with a hint of leesy resin. Moderate residual sugar is largely hidden by firm acidity, and the palate has a creamy texture with a pleasant weight, and a taut, lightly bitter undertone. Perhaps not a general crowd-pleaser, but a very interesting and sophisticated Cava well worth trying.
Tasted July 14, 2017 • DIONYSUS WINES & SPIRITS LTD. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #171785 • $17.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
Here's a great value for a traditional method sparkling wine. Lemon and green apple aromas are backed by notes of toast and honey. Crisp acidity dries the palate — it's balanced, with a slightly creamy texture, tart lemon and apple fruit, and a stony, drying finish. Everything you could ask for at this price.
Tasted July 14, 2017 • FAMILY WINE MERCHANTS INC. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



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