Wine review: Château l’Ermitage Rosé 2009

I was drinking rose the other day, and a question came up. Why, if so many roses are supposed to be dry, do some California roses seem sweet?

Two reasons. One is the idea of perception of sweetness, in which our brains assume that something that tastes fruity is going to be sweet. Hence, a rose with a lot of strawberry fruit is going to seem sweeter than it is, since our brains associate strawberry flavor with sweetness. (Thanks to the great James Tidwell, who told me about this and explains it much more eloquently than I do.) The other follows from the first, and is part of the difference between New World and Old World styles. New World wines, like those from California, are fruitier than Old World wines, and the extra fruit flavor implies a sweetness that isn’t there.

Which, in a roundabout way, is where the l’Ermitage ($10, purchased, available at Central Market) fits in. It’s the opposite of a New World rose — a classic French blend of syrah, grenache and mouvedre that makes a surprisingly complex $10 wine. It has a very stony finish, a dazzling light pink color, and a touch of red berry fruit without any perception of sweetness. In this, it’s one of the best-made roses I’ve ever had, and is as enjoyable as many, more expensive ones. Don’t be surprised if it shows up in the 2011 $10 Hall of Fame.

Chill the l’Ermitage, and drink it over the Labor Day weekend on its own or with whatever picnic or barbecue you have planned.


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