At First Blush
Viña Real Rosado 2015
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s spring (even if it hailed over the weekend), and that means the beginning of rosé season. Every year, around this time, the LCBO shelves fill up with pink wine and you know that you’ve made it through another winter. It’s a sign that it’s safe to put away your woolly socks and boots, pack up your heavy coat, and open your windows. Rosé’s arrival is as much a sign of spring as the tulips in my garden.
Plus rosé, when it’s good, is very very good, so I’m always so happy to see it in such plentiful supply. Most of the year we’re limited to cheap mass produced plonk. But come spring, it’s easier to confidently grab a bottle of blush and know you’re in for something dry, balanced, and flavourful.
But I was still wary of this bottle.
We don’t get a lot of Spanish rosé in Ontario, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. And in Rioja they have an affinity for oak, so I wondered if that would come into play here (it didn’t). Then add the fact that this wine is made in a controversial way, and you can see why I wasn't sure.
See, most rosé is made either by bleeding off some wine early on in the red-wine making process (the saignée method) or by giving red grapes a short soak on their skins before pressing and vinifying them (the maceration method). Not this wine. This wine is made in the blended method, which you almost never see outside of Champagne and other sparkling wine regions. It’s made by blending 15% Tempranillo (a red grape) with 85% Viura (a white grape). Yes, it’s made by dumping red wine into white wine. Like when you’re at a dinner party and haven’t quite finished your red when someone offers you the wine. But on purpose.
Traditionally Viura (aka. Macabeo) was used to soften Tempranillo in red Rioja. It’s also used as part of the white Rioja blend, but it’s neutral and not particularly aromatic and other grapes do the heavy lifting. Given the high percentage of Viura in this bottle, I really had no idea what to expect. But that’s what I kind of love about this wine. It has switched traditional ratios and roles to create a lovely rosé, turning expectations on their head.
You might expect this bottle to be boring. It’s not. It’s subtle, sure, but the more you get to know it the better it gets. You might expect this bottle to be light, but it’s got a bit of tannic structure, lovely body, and slow moving legs. You might expect this wine to be forgettable or weird, but it’s actually really fun and reminds me of the dog days of summer.
Now, I’m not saying this is the best rosé you’re going to drink all summer. (I mean it might be, who knows?) But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. You’re probably going to spend most of your summer drinking pretty pink wine from Provence, and it’s going to be fantastic. And I’m going to make sure I tell you about those wines too, because god knows I love ‘em. But I also like to try things that are a bit different, and while this doesn’t jump up and wave you down in an oxidized whiff of funky aromatics, it’s certainly different enough to make it interesting and worth drinking. And isn’t that what life is all about?
Nose: Savoury and lightly herbal, but with a twinge of orange popsicle. The orange popsicles you’d split in two and share with your neighbourhood crush, or you could until someone lost their sense of joy and now they only come in singles. Those ones.
Palate: This is one salty sipper. It’s got an undeniable minerality that’s buffered by the orange crush, white blossom, and grapefruit flavours. Herbal notes slip in and out, and, as the wine warms up there’s even a bit of tart red berries, flowers, and some tomato. It’s totally dry and refreshing. I really like the bright acidity and subtle tannins. You could drink this with almost any food, and you could totally use it in place of a popsicle on a really hot day just so long as you serve it really cold.