Everyone loved the 2010 roses. The good ones were not just good; they were electrified. The uncommon climatic and weather conditions that created so much beguiling dramatic tension between ripeness and freshness in so many wine-growing regions – Germany, Bordeaux, Oregon, Rhone, Argentina – seemed to play out especially vividly with roses from an even broader swath of the globe, because rose gains its life-force, more so I’d argue than almost all whites and reds, from tendentious and almost post-modernist narratives and counter-narratives of fruit (fun!) and acidity (smarts!).

The 2011 wines are not as exciting as last year’s. It’s like your favorite new band’s second album, failing to shift the earth beneath your feet and call down the heavens.

There are some very good wines, though the thrill of The Vintage hasn’t caught me yet. Emphasis on “yet,” because the unique process by which rose comes into being – red wine grapes, macerated for only a short time – ensures a certain constitutional fragility, and the 2011s have just shipped to market. They may require another few weeks to settle and gain confidence.

Perhaps because of that built-in tendency toward delicacy, the roses that have recently captivated me are the sturdier ones, the wines that by virtue of the particular grapes used to make them, the soil through which those grapes suckled, and the vinification process itself have ended up deeper, darker and more robust. The lighter, more delicate 2011 pink wines, many in the Provencal mode, will have their day, but let’s wait a few weeks.

For now, we’ll talk about rosado and rosato. Those are the Spanish and Italian terms, respectively, for neither red nor white wines. (NRNW, my first original acronym; trademark-registration pending, maybe.) If the maceration process – wherein skins, seeds and stems are brought into contact with crushed juice – were allowed to continue, these wines would be “red.”

And please remember, these deeper-colored, more full-bodied NRNWs are historically what many hot-climate “red” wines used to be. In the days before temperature-controlled maceration and fermentation, crushed grapes left in contact with their skins more than a day or two would adopt too much tannin and ferment too quickly to maintain balance. They’d be undrinkable. In southern Europe, dark pink was as red as it got.

Unlike the lighter styles of NRNW wine, which are often so dainty and fine that their most appropriate role is to be sipped with a salad, a couple of olives or a slice of Brie, these bolder wines are ravenous and invite gulping. They’re great with burgers and other juicy things – piled-high pizzas, roasted peppers, peppery chicken (or even better, chicken sausage), moderate spice-heat, pulled pork.

To emphasize the gulpability, I like them chilled but not cold: Noticeably cooler than a red (which should rarely be served at room temperature), but warmer than a white (which should never be served straight from the fridge). Mmm, NRNW.


Enanzo 2011, Navarra, Spain, $9 (Wicked): Nine out of 10 red Garnacha wines bore me to tears, but somehow the grape is more dependable for rosado, where the plump fruit is not allowed to get all fat and lazy. Especially so with Enanzo, a terrific bargain-based winery that never cuts corners. They use their oldest Garnacha vines for this wine, a key for bringing out that grape’s mineral and herbal aspects to balance its bit-champing fruit. A scrumptious raspberry core, dry but pure, permeated with hibiscus and candied lime. A red zinger.

Argiolas Serra Lori 2011, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardinia, Italy, $14 (National): But for Sella & Mosca’s Sardinian reds, the Cannonau-based wines I’ve tasted have been bruisingly high-alcohol and offensive. Argiolas’ majority-Cannonau NRNW (bolstered by Monica, Carignano and Bovale Sardo) is an exciting way to taste Cannonau (Sardinian for Grenache) and keep the smile on your face from contorting into a paroxysm of brain-squashing agony.

Almost frizzante it’s so exuberant, Serra Lori is for me all about wild strawberries: Their flavor, their environment. Expressing more woods than sugar, the fruit is balanced by a savoriness reminiscent of hardy, wind-blown herbs, all elongated by the structure that most light NRNWs can’t manage. And it’s got bass notes, even. Barry White bass notes. Thank all gods for this wine.

Charles and Charles 2011, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10 (SoPo): Charles Bieler is a semi-legend Provence winemaker whose easy-priced namesake pink is a textbook charmer. Here, he teams up with semi-legend Washington state winemaker (self-advertised “defender of cheap wine and all-around hustler”) Charles Smith, bottle adorned with Jasper-Johns-rip-off label, and the marketing high concept suggests gustatory havoc.

But then, drink it. So many NRNWs “taste like” watermelon or strawberries. This 100-percent single-vineyard Syrah is the actual essence of the ripest watermelon imaginable – not in sweetness, just in embodiment of the unadulterated nucleus of the fruit; a Heart of Redness. Like a Jolly Rancher with 98 percent of its sugar removed, it’s blasting.


Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog, soulofwine.com, continues the conversation, and he can be reached at: [email protected]