7 Rosé Wines You Need To Know

7 Rosé Wines You Need To Know

With Memorial Day Weekend in our rearview mirror, it’s officially rosé season in America. The pink wine is so popular, in fact, that there’s a shortage almost every summer. But can you tell the difference between a table rosé and one that will truly impress? Seven sommeliers weigh in on their favorite bottles.

Pamela Wiznitzer, President of the United States Bartenders’ Guild

Suggests Ruffino Sparkling Rosé (Italy)

Why You Like It: Not only can it be found in most liquor stores across the country, but the price point ($12) is friendly. It’s fresh and fragrant with heavy notes of strawberry and slight hints of rose petals.

Drink It With: It’s not too delicate to stand up to robust food, like BBQ, but also mixes well with fresh juices and other spirits. Try putting it in a punch!

Joshua Nadal, NoHo Hospitality Group

Suggests Chateau Peyrassol Rosé (France)

Why You Like It: This is my ultimate benchmark for Provence Rosé—nothing says fun and summer more than Peyrassol. It’s crushable, delicious and very high quality.

Drink It With: Ideally, find this in a 3 liter—one of the sexiest bottles around. Drink it as soon as you are done with your morning coffee, all day long, with or without food, when you are thirsty, into the wee hours, while smoking a joint and in all situations.

Matthew Conway, Marc Forgione

Suggests Juilien Braud Forty Ounce Rosé (France)

Why You Like It: I can drink nice wine out of a 40! The packaging is brilliant and the wine is better than it needs to be.

Drink It With: Going to a BBQ, picnic or party this summer ya gotta have one of these in hand!!

Cedric Nicaise, Eleven Madison Park

Suggests Channing Daughters and Macari Vineyards (Long Island)

Why You Like It: I love rosés grown in coastal regions like Corsica, the Canary Islands and even Long Island. Proximity to the ocean gives the wines a briny, almost salty component. Locally, I enjoy Channing Daughters and Macari Vineyards from Long Island.

Drink It With: Rosé is very versatile.  It can fill the void between red and white; it can go with meats or seafood. [And while] I like young fresh rosé… I think one aspect that’s often overlooked is its ageablity.  Even one additional year of aging can make a world of difference.

Yannick Benjamin, New York’s University Club

Chooses Chateau Minuty Cotes de Provence 2016 (France)

Why You Like It: A magnificent and harmonious blend of grenache and cinsault, the wine offers notes of peach and candied orange. It’s the perfect thirst quencher to beat the heat and the harsh humidity of summer.

Drink it With: Fresh shellfish or a mozzarella tomato salad!

Victoria James, Piora

Suggests Railsback Frères, Les Rascasses (California)

Why You Like It: This pink wine made the old school way will transport you to the south of France without the prices you’d normally have to pay.

Drink It With: Drink with the traditional Provençal goods- artichokes and aioli, olive tapenade, anchovies, olives and, of course, bouillabaisse.

Hannah Grossman, Chicago’s Monteverde & Pastificio

Suggests Malabaila Rosato, 100% Nebbiolo (Italy)

Why You Like It: Nebbiolo is greatly aromatic and as a rosato, it is perfumed delicately.  It is then transformed into a structured experience on the palate, letting Nebbiolo’s firm acidic and tannic quality transfer, even outside of its traditional red counterpart, shown through a delicate, pale pink with slight orange hue.

Drink It With: I love pairing rosés like this with richer dishes to keep the palate from getting too bogged down, but with the structure of Nebbiolo, it doesn’t get lost amongst these bigger dishes. Try a simple grilled pork.

Cathy Mantuano, Wine Director, Terzo Piano at the Art Institute of Chicago

Suggests Estate Rosé Stolpman Vineyards (California)

Why You Like It: At Terzo Piano, we like to support people and products with [non-profit] initiatives. Peter Stolpman and Ruben Solorzano founded the La Cuadrilla Foundation in order to expand their commitment to sustainable employment. The nonprofit donates all proceeds to local health clinics. Plans include sponsoring college scholarships for the children of Agricultural workers in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Drink It With: Delicious with spicy foods. And even in the winter I like rosé with Roast Chicken…if there’s any bottles left!

A Funny Funky Side to Prosecco

A Funny Funky Side to Prosecco

The original Prosecco wasn’t the sweet, fruity, bubbly we know today. Find out more about “Col Fondo” or “Rifermentato in Bottiglia,” a funky, cloudy Prosecco unlike any other.

We’ve all had Prosecco before: as an apertif, for a toast, or in mimosas at brunch. The vast majority of Prosecco is made with the charmat method, where secondary fermentation (the bubbly part) is made in huge pressurized stainless steel tanks. The method was invented by Professor Federico Martinotti in 1895 and the autoclave (the pressurized tanks) were designed, built, and patented by Frenchman Eugène Charmat in 1910.

But how was Prosecco made before 1895?prosecco-col-fondo-illustration-winefolly

The answer is with secondary fermentation in the bottle. One of the first quotes about Prosecco with “second fermentation in the bottle” goes back to before the 9th Century. This esoteric style is colloquially known as Col Fondo – which literally translates in Italian to “with the bottom,” meaning that sediment or lees are present.
Casa Belfi Cal Fondo Prosecco Wine
Casa Belfi Col Fondo on the bottling line at Cantina Vini Armani.

“The resulting wine is cloudy and has a funky, even sour nose and flavor.”

In contrast to the more familiar, filtered Prosecco, there is less sweetness in Col Fondo. And, unlike Champagne, there is no disgorgement. The resulting wine is cloudy and has a funky, even sour nose and flavor, with yeasty sediment settling on the bottom of the bottle. A few even have a pleasantly bitter, lingering aftertaste. Col Fondo Prosecco wines are frizzante rather than spumante, so slightly less fizzy as well.

Col Fondo Prosecco Brands
Col Fondo Prosecco wines are often stoppered with a crown cap.

Col Fondo on the label

Some producers use “Col Fondo” on the label, but not always. The officially designated term for this style is “Rifermentato in Bottiglia.” This is the term to look for on the bottle label.

Ways to Taste Col Fondo

So how is Col Fondo best enjoyed? I asked three wine directors who feature Col Fondo on their wine lists about which wines they feature, and what they love about this type of wine.

Sepia Restaurant, Chicago

Arthur Hon, five-time James Beard Finalist and 2017 Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year, likes pairing this style of Prosecco with salty snacks: pastrami and braised cabbage or breakfast quiche. “I find the Col Fondo-style Prosecco quite unique because it showcases a unexpected side of the wine with more apple-cider-like, savory flavors. This is in strong contrast to the more floral and fruitier profile of the traditional Prosecco.” Hon has featured Bele Casel “Col Fondo” from Asolo on the wine list at Sepia.

Zadie’s Oyster Room, New York City

In the East Village, Christine Wright pairs Rifermentato in Bottiglia Prosecco with both raw and grilled oysters at Zadie’s Oyster Room. “The Mongarda “Col Fondo,” the one I’m currently pouring, is an extremely food-friendly wine, as it has wonderful aromatics and soaring acidity,” she says. “It goes quite well with raw oysters, but it goes equally well with our roasted oysters with bone marrow and ramps. The acidity and bubbles cut through the fattiness of that dish with ease, and the citrus fruit pairs nicely with the saltiness of the dish.”

Bad Hunter and Trench, Chicago

Beverage director Michael McAvena offers Ca’ dei Zago “Col Fondo” and Ca’ di Rajo “Lemoss” at Chicago restaurants Bad Hunter and Trench. “This style is textural, and a little richer,” he explains. “Almost like a Belgian white beer, with notes of herbs, spices, and pears. It’s so fun and so damn refreshing.”

Last Word

In the past few years, Rifermentato in Bottiglia Proseccos have seen a resurgence and are becoming more widely available in the United States. According to Prosecco DOC Consortium data, approximately 30 producers in the Prosecco DOC region are making Rifermentato in Bottiglia Prosecco with a half dozen exporting to the United States. In 2015, more than 252,000 bottles were produced and in 2016 the number rose 25 percent to more than 316,000 bottles. It’s still a drop in the bucket in terms of overall Prosecco production, which topped 355 million bottles in 2015, but it is also a new niche style worth seeking out in restaurants and wine shops, especially if you’re a fermented foods fanatic!

Prosecco Wine Types Quality Pyramid
It pays to hire consultants, according to Bordeaux

It pays to hire consultants, according to Bordeaux

Consulting is pervasive in many industries. Yet, the use of consultants remains controversial. Why would firms give away key activities to hired guns? Why would these “mercenaries” perform these activities better than in-house employees? To evaluate the impact of hiring consultants and figure out when they might offer the most value, one study examined the Bordeaux wine industry, where over two thirds of wineries hire consultants to improve the quality of their wines. Looking at 311 wineries over a ten-year period, the study found that consultants improved wine quality at all wineries they worked with, but the ones that benefited the most were those who had the worst resources — e.g., the lowest-quality terroir. The firms most likely to hire consultants, however, were those who had good terroir (and thus could afford to pay consultants). The wineries that produced truly outstanding wines were the least likely to use consultants.Consulting is pervasive in many industries. Yet the use of consultants remains controversial. Why would firms give away key activities to hired guns? Why would these “mercenaries” perform these activities better than in-house employees? Many employees dismiss consultants as people who “borrow your watch to tell you the time” — and then charge you for the privilege.

To evaluate the impact of hiring consultants and to figure out when they might offer the most value, I turned to the wine industry, where over two-thirds of wineries hire consultants to improve the quality of their wines. As a winemaking consultant put it: “My job is to make my client’s wine better. Even if the wine or the winery is awful, we have to do our best in the conditions we have.” The underlying rationale is straightforward: Better wines can be sold at high prices. Overall, I studied 311 Bordeaux wineries over a 10-year period. Wine quality was assessed using tasting scores from Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

In this study I distinguished between mean quality and variance in quality. On average, I found that wines made with the help of consultants had higher quality ratings. However, they also had less extreme quality ratings. Use of consultants, therefore, correlated with middle-of-the-road, less extreme wine ratings: neither excellent nor terrible. Many outstanding wineries did not use consultants, preferring to use only in-house talent. For instance, the owners of Pétrus have never used winemaking consultants. From 1963 to 2007, wines were made by Jean-Claude Berrouet, an in-house winemaker. When he retired, in 2007, his son Olivier took over as the in-house winemaker.

This is because the coin of the consultant’s realm is knowledge, which has two main origins: expertise, gained through education and training, and experience, accumulated by working with clients. Importantly, the raison d’être of consultants is not to provide their clients with ordinary knowledge. It is to develop best practices and to use them to improve their clients’ performance. The wine industry is no exception. As a winemaking consultant explained: “I studied the history of the great harvests we’d had here in Bordeaux, I looked for the common denominators. And what I found was that on those years there had been a lot of sun and low production. Very simple, very obvious. So I thought, OK, here are two factors that we can act on. What we’ll do is lower the production and seek to harvest more mature grapes.”

Because best practices are more tested than the practices of individual firms, they decrease the likelihood of very low performance. On the other hand, uniqueness is a necessary condition for outstanding performance. Because best practices are less unique than the practices of individual firms, they also decrease the likelihood of very high performance.

Moreover, I found that the quality of a winery’s resources make a big difference in how valuable it will find consultants. In the Bordeaux wine industry the terroir is the main resource. My study found that wineries with low-quality terroir benefit more from the help of winemaking consultants than wineries with high-quality terroir. For instance, so-called “garagiste” wineries are properties that have a low-quality terroir. They produce wines in small quantities (hence the label of “garage wine”) using the most advanced winemaking best practices. Without the help of wine consultants, some of them never would have been considered “outstanding producers” by wine critic Robert Parker.

My study focused on winemaking consultants. However, there are many similarities between winemaking consultants and other consultants. Like other consultants, winemaking consultants are essentially “knowledge workers” who create and disseminate knowledge. Thus, this study provides two important implications for firms that contemplate hiring consultants.

First, the decision to hire consultants should hinge on a firm’s strategy. If the objective is to improve performance, a firm should consider hiring consultants. If the objective is to achieve outstanding performance, “playing it safe” by hiring consultants is unlikely to be the right decision. Because their advice is not unique, consultants may actually be an obstacle to achieving success. As Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, once explained: “We don’t hire consultants. The only consultants I’ve ever hired…is one firm to analyze Gateway’s retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made [when launching Apple’s retail stores]. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products.” Importantly, uniqueness does not guarantee success; it may also lead to failure. Some of Apple’s products were huge successes (Apple II, Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad), whereas others were complete failures (Lisa, Newton, eWorld online service).

Second, the decision to hire consultants should depend on the quality of a firm’s resources. Compared with firms with high-quality resources, firms with low-quality resources tend to benefit more from the help of consultants. When clients have low-quality resources, consultants have a lot of room to add value by leveraging their best practices. Hence, their (positive) impact on performance is very strong. Compared with low-quality resources, high-quality resources tend to be very productive no matter how well they are managed. Thus, consultants have fewer opportunities to enhance performance by implementing their best practices.

However, my research also found that firms may not be making their decisions about consultants in this rational way. Wineries with the best terroirs were actually more likely to hire consultants, despite benefiting less from their advice. The problem seems to be that these wineries were the ones with money to burn. By contrast, the firms with low-quality resources tended to be less profitable and less able to afford consulting fees. Paradoxically, the firms that could benefit the most from help are the very ones that are less likely to hire the help they need.

Building a Disney World for Wine

Building a Disney World for Wine

To encourage the country’s passion for the grape, China is building French-style chateaus and Italianate castles around the country.

Chateau Changyu Reina has honey-colored brick towers that enclose wide cobbled courtyards. Wood-beamed halls look as if they are prepared to host an imminent medieval banquet. It seems the Italianate castle and winery could have been built hundreds of years ago, in Italy’s Tuscan hills.

The chateau is but one part of an ambitious 600 million yuan ($86.9 million) complex completed four years ago just outside the city of Xi’an, in Shaanxi province in central China. It is a prodigious winemaking operation powered by more than 2,000 acres of vines. Currently, it’s annually churning out 5,000 bottles, mostly merlot—and the goal is to drastically scale up. The cellars at Chateau Changyu Reina have room for as many as 150,000 oak barrels.

The faux-historic halls of the castle are also home to an interactive exhibition that walks visitors through the history and making of wine. Mirrors encourage visitors to stick out their tongues to examine their taste buds; there’s a statue of Bacchus, plus a wall that showcases the various strata of soil, or terroir. Inexplicably, a giant, smiling face resembling a cartoon grape beams out from one corner. An oversized globe spotlights the world’s other wine regions, while a table covered in Perspex tubes and buttons asks users to see if they can match a region to a scent. There’s even a room dedicated to former Chinese leaders (none of whom seem to be enjoying a glass of wine).

A Country Enchanted by Wine

This mock castle isn’t unique. It’s one of a network of so-called chateaux built across the country, from Ningxia province to Beijing, by China’s oldest winemaker, Changyu.  These grand castles, each inspired by a different European winemaking country, are a concrete sign of the company’s ambitious plans for Middle Kingdom wine.  According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, China is the second-largest wine grower by vineyard area, behind only France, with land under vine roughly the size of Puerto Rico.

The challenge Chinese winemakers face, though, isn’t quantity. It’s improving the quality of whatever juice those lands can produce, and that’s where Changyu has tapped an experienced, new partner for help. 77-year old Augusto Reina isn’t just the namesake of that Shaanxi chateau; he’s also the head of Illva Saronno Holding Spa, the Italian winemaker best-known worldwide as the producer of Disaronno liqueur. Reina has imported his know-how to help China’s nascent industry produce vintages that even the sniffiest wine snob might deign to sample. In return, Changyu named a castle after him and even crafted a life-size bronze of the Italian sitting on a bench in the vineyard—raising a glass. 

Is Quality There?

Sitting in a hotel near that castle (and sculpture), Reina anticipates what you’re thinking. “When we came to China seven or eight years ago, I had a stomach ache, I must confess it, from the quality of the wine. It was not so good,” he explains, via a translator. Yet the entrepreneur saw potential in both the product and the market; by 2013, China had become the world’s biggest consumer of red wine and has continued to grow. For more than two and a half years, Reina negotiated with Changyu. “They were very demanding, challenging negotiations. I don’t think this kind of thing would be possible for an American or a French company, because they have such a different business culture,” he continues, diplomatically.

Eventually, Reina brokered a deal that included Illva taking a significant equity stake in Changyu. The pact also initiated an in-depth cultural exchange, sending Illva’s winemakers to various Changyu sites to help school their new colleagues, as well as bringing Chinese staffers to Italy on a tasting tour. The Italians helped Changyu select the grapes to grow and offered advice on how to tend to its existing vines. They pitched in with expertise in selecting machinery for production, too, such as bottling lines.

One conundrum that even the Italians can’t crack, though, is the dominance of red wine. Redolent of such renowned regions as Burgundy and Bordeaux, red wine shares a color with both the Communist Party and good luck. Unfortunately for lovers of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, white is the color of mourning and is mostly worn at funerals, which stigmatizes blanc plonk long before it’s opened.

Coastal Wines

Nowhere is that partnership more evident than at a second Changyu site, in the resort city of Yantai on China’s northeastern coast, just across the Yellow Sea from North Korea. This is the location of the company’s most aggressive and surreal project so far: Wine City. Set on more than 1,000 acres and costing an estimated 6 billion yuan ($870 million), it is aptly named, a sprawling hybrid of a production facility, tourist attraction, and trippy fantasia. The inevitable rows and rows of vines pale next to the manmade structures that dot the landscape. There’s already one chateau, a white neo-Gothic structure that looks like the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and two others are nearing completion. Another Gothic-inspired pile, complete with an artificial moat, will be dedicated to championing and producing red wine, while the squat and sturdy Romanesque chateau next door—imagine the home of any Disney princess—is a temple to brandy making, a first for the company.

A swirling skyscraper is under construction on a nearby hill, too: Six abstracted champagne flutes decorate the façade of this Wine Research Institute. (Bordeaux’s new Cité du Vin seems a flimsy rival in comparison.) It will house scientists working on perfecting those vintages, as well as tasting rooms and bars offering views of the countryside, at least on days when pollution from Beijing doesn’t descend in a thick, white smog. Such fumes don’t have much immediate effect on vines, compared with toxins in water or soil, so China’s notoriously noxious air have not yet impacted its wine output.

State-of-the-Art Technology

Most impressive of all are the winemaking facilities themselves, fewer caves than a series of cathedrals, or gleaming airplane hangars, jigsawed together with articulated roofs that look like giant caterpillars. A shy guide leading a tour around the humming, spotless facilities says this is the world’s largest wine production site. It’s a plausible claim. With 95 tanks here already for a storage capacity exceeding 40,000 tons, more are planned; when Wine City hits peak production capacity, it will churn out 450,000 tons of wine and brandy per year, she said. (Compare that with Château Petrus, which might produce around 30,000 bottles, or just under 200 tons, over the same period)

The glass clinks noisily as it trundles around 10 snaking automatic bottling lines, and the cleaning system automatically sterilizes 120 cold stabilization tanks, which help forestall the broken glass-like crystals that form in chilled, bottled wine if it’s not properly handled. While the Changyu brand is emblazoned on almost everything, occasionally other names peek through—Italy’s Tecninox and ERsistemi, for example, collaborated on that cold stabilization room; almost every piece of major tech in the plant is Italian-designed, thanks to Reina’s investment and influence. “All the technologies here are exactly like the ones we have, but since our plant was built two years before them, this is even more modern,” he says, proudly.

Tourism, Too?

Can Changyu’s deep-pocketed attempts under Reina’s tutelage really create a new winemaking hotspot? “It’s definitely one of the recognizable big brands, along with the Great Wall and Dynasty. Thus, it has instant brand recognition for many Chinese consumers, “explains Edward Ragg, of (Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting) in Beijing by email. He is cautious about the Italians’ impact on what goes into the bottle. Euromonitor International Ltd. analyst Spiros Malandrakis is more bullish, drawing parallels with the surging British sparkling wine industry, which has been buoyed by climate change and a few canny blind tastings in which it beat Champagne. “Considering the amount of money being in, and the people involved, we will soon be seeing not just award-winning sparkling wine from England, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see super-premium red wines from China, too,” he tells Bloomberg.