By Enologist Michelle Zentmyer Moss
Is 4 the same 4 for everybody?
Are all sevens equal?
What color is the scent of the blue weeping of violets?
Excerpt from The Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda
In the tasting room, one of the most common questions asked to the attendants is “Which wine is your favorite?” If you are the questioner, you many notice that the recipient of this question pauses, looks up in a sort of “thinking” gesture and possibly lets out a quick “hmmmm”. In the span of approximately ten seconds, the questionee attempts to rescue the answer from a gyre of possibilities, swirling around a seemingly endless ocean of additional questions.
First, we attempt to define “favorite” within the context of the current conversation. Is it my favorite…
…Le Vigne wine?
…Le Vigne wine that is on the current tasting flight?
…Le Vigne wine across all vintages that I’ve experienced?
…wine that isn’t bottled yet?
…Paso Robles wine?
And to take it even further, we contemplate the answer to even more questions: My most memorable wine? What time of year is it? What do I want to drink right now? Or this evening? This weekend? This summer? How am I feeling today?
Such a simple question invokes a slew of other simple questions. And given that the answer in that moment is incredibly context dependent, it may change tomorrow. For example, a wine that stands out in my wine-drinking life is an Australian Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend, but I do not remember the vintage or the producer. It was thirst quenchingly refreshing on that picturesque day as I sat at the Opera Bar in Sydney, Australia. Sunlight reflected off the iconic Harbour Bridge and glittered on the soft waves below as passengers disembarked from a colossal Princess cruise ship. The wine was heavenly, the view was magical and the conversation was entertaining. Nearly a decade later, this moment is pinned in my memory along a specific timeline of notable events responsible for my love of wine.
If you were to ask me today in the tasting room about my current favorite wine, I would say “the 2020 Rosé of Sangiovese”. It is merely coincidental that this Sunday is International Rosé Day, as this wine is truly special for the winemaking team here. In observance of this occasion, let’s take a deeper look into the production of this style of wine.
Rosés are commonly produced in one of two ways: direct press or saignée method. A direct press rosé is created by picking red wine grapes when the acid is a bit higher and the sugar content is a bit lower compared to when the grapes would be picked to make a red wine. These grapes are pressed, the juice is separated from the skins, then fermentation of this juice produces rosé. For the saignée method, red wine grapes are picked when the maturity of the berries is appropriate for red wine. The grapes are crushed with the juice and skins remaining together. Prior to fermentation, some of the juice is drained and captured into a separate vessel, causing the main lot of wine to be more concentrated. Some winemakers will simply discard this juice, called saignée, as simply a byproduct of the winemaking process. Others will use it for other purposes, one being rosé production.
At Le Vigne Winery, we harvest sangiovese from our Acquarello Estate Vineyard at three different intervals for our sparkling wine, rosé and red wine programs. The grapes for rosé are picked over a month after the grapes for sparkling wine and a few weeks prior to the grapes that are made into our sangiovese red wine. Juice for our rosé is created using the direct press method, with grapes picked at their peak flavor and chemical composition for our end goal. A yeast strain known for enhancing tropical aromas and varietal characteristics is selected, along with a classic, old-world approach for fermentation. During this process, the temperature is regularly monitored along with the rate that yeast converts sugar to alcohol. The winemakers taste from the fermentation vessel daily, if not multiple times a day, scrutinizing every aspect of this delicate procedure. No two fermentations are the same, so attention to detail is imperative.
These meticulous efforts paid off for the 2019 vintage with an Editor’s Choice award from Wine Enthusiast, a double gold medal from the Sunset International Wine Competition and, most importantly, incredibly positive reception from our club members and guests. The 2020 vintage has received a gold medal from the Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Competition and other results are pending. One of the most rewarding comments to hear is “This is the best rosé I’ve ever had!” or “I don’t normally like rosé but this one is delicious!”.
In addition to the 2020 Rosé of Sangiovese, other Le Vigne wines that have been my favorite include the 2012 Nikiara, 2013 Heritage Series Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 Merlot, 2017 Zinfandel and 2019 Barrel Select Chardonnay (bottled on the day my son was born). While I can list several more Le Vigne and other brand’s wines that have impacted me, I must agree with an unknown author that “The best wine in the world is the one you’re enjoying in that moment.”