The Tournament of Pink (1st Ed.)

28 01 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Rosé:  it’s not just for summer anymore.  Well, it was never just for summer, but the shelves of your local wine shop wouldn’t have given you that impression a few short years ago.  I had a tremendously difficult time a couple years back trying to source some pink wines in November/December for use in office client Christmas gifting packages, because for many retailers, the presence of rosé within store walls was decidedly seasonal.  This remains the case to some extent (because it is virtually impossible to beat a chilled rosé as an out-on-your-deck-on-a-summer-evening wine), but I had an agent tell me recently that their pink sales outlook for this winter might just outpace their summer, and I’ve seen more rosé on Calgary shelves with snow on the ground this year than ever before.  This is an enlightened change for the better:  there may be no type of wine more versatile and more universally appealable to all types of cuisines and personalities than a good rosé.

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There can be only one.

So when I noticed that I had a quartet of bottles of rosé sitting by themselves in an unassuming pink group in my cellar, the time of year did not remotely deter me in coming to the obvious conclusion:  let’s open them all and drink them all at once, and let’s do so in a Kickboxer-style fight-to-the-death tournament.  Thus the Tournament of Pink was born.

The actual Tournament took place a week or so ago and was simulcast on Twitter and Facebook, but work commitments have kept me from immortalizing the results on PnP until now.  If you weren’t following along at the time, we played our game by splitting our four rosés into two qualifying heats where they battled for the right to face off for the Tournament of Pink crown in the final.  Game on.

HEAT 1

2015 Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses ($27) vs. 2015 Torres Esmeralda Rosé ($18)

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This may not have been a wholly fair fight, as the disparity in retail price tags above would indicate.  The Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses has been making waves in this market (I had three or four different people tell me that I should try it before I did) for a few reasons:  its absolutely stellar bottle shape (which looks like a rose in bloom when viewed from the bottom – so clever), its availability at Calgary Costcos (which drops the above price tag a few bucks), and above all the Gerard Bertrand knack for melding top quality with tremendous value.  The Torres Esmeralda rosé was no lightweight itself, carrying forward the label name of one of the best-known value white blends on the planet (the Esmeralda white, a Gewurz/Muscat blend and an irrepressible crowd-pleaser) with a wallet-friendly offering geared towards similar public consensus.  The Esmeralda was 100% Garnacha from eastern Spain, while the Cote des Roses took the same grape from a different spot (Grenache, but from southern France’s Languedoc) and mixed in some Cinsault and Syrah for good measure.

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Cork Rating Showdown: 8/10 vs. 6/10 (Vinolok FTW forever!)

Both of these wines — actually, all FOUR of the Tournament of Pink’s wines, which was extremely weird — were almost the identical orange-tinged shade of pale salmon.  The Cote des Roses came out mellow and cautious with an icing sugar-tinged floral nose laced with underripe strawberry and green apple Jolly Ranchers.  In contrast, the Esmeralda was much more jumpy and primary on the nose, catapulting raspberry, peach and black jellybean aromas straight to the back of the sinus cavity.  The tables turned decisively once the wines touched the tongue, however, as the Cote des Roses caught that perfect balance between expansive and incisive, spreading out its pink lemonade and orange zest flavours across the palate but cutting them with fierce acidity and toning them down with earth and iron tinges on the finish.  The Esmeralda felt flatter and looser, if more immediately pleasant, likely thanks to less acid structure and the presence of some residual sugar to bolster the sweet cherry and apricot flavours.  It is a third cheaper and that quality gap starts to show over the course of a glass.  Good show by both, but for Heat 1, it’s…

2015 Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses (89 points)

over 

2015 Torres Esmeralda Rosé (86+ points)

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See what I mean about colour similarities?

HEAT 2

2015 Pure Provence Rosé ($21) vs. 2015 Barone Ricasoli Albia Rosé ($20)

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The second heat is a fair fight on paper, with both bottles coming in carrying virtually identical price tags.  In practice, it was a different story, thanks more to one competitor standing way up as opposed to the other falling down.  The Pure Provence rosé came into the Tournament carrying some hefty international press, having been awarded a 96-point score from respected UK publication Decanter (which scores wines out of 20, so I’m guessing 19.25/20?) and was named Best In Show at the magazine’s World Wine Awards.  Like the Bertrand above, it is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault from the south of France, but as its name gives away, it hails from the Provence region instead of the Languedoc, arguably pink wine’s spiritual homeland.  The Albia is an intriguing mix of Sangiovese and Merlot from the heart of Italy in Tuscany, where its producer is better known for longstanding Chianti production.

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Cork Ratings: 7.5/10 vs. 5/10 (Excellent bug use.)

I should almost have had the Albia before the Pure Provence, because after a single smell of the latter, this Heat was basically over.  Tingly pink grapefruit and orange Life Savers were enhanced by bergamot, cardamom and even blackcurrant, all wound together with such intensity that it inspired a Keanu Reeves-esque “Whoa.” as soon as my nose hit the glass.  The Albia featured a surprising hit of spritz and a more strait-laced but honestly Italian array of violets, canned pear and sunbaked earth.  Unfortunately, the Albia became a touch shrill and overly tart on the palate, its lemon juice, roses, Rockets candy and parchment flavours crescendoing in a cheek-puckeringly acidic finish which would have felt more in place if I had tasted it with food.  The Pure Provence continued where its aromas left off, electric and alive in the mouth, finishing chalky and mineral with visions of wet rocks and mountain streams and in between leaving you counting the various oh-so-fresh fruits it is burning into your memory:  watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberry, lemon-lime, pineapple.  It is almost surreal.  No contest:

2015 Pure Provence Rosé (91+ points) 

over

2015 Barone Ricasoli Albia Rosé (86 points)

THE FINAL

2015 Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses ($27) vs. 2015 Pure Provence Rosé ($21)

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There is no question that these two bottles elevated themselves over the others and are both highly deserving Tournament of Pink finalists.  But there can be only one, so these pink regular season champions were thrust back into a final battle to determine our winner.  The Bertrand Cote des Roses certainly put up a much stronger fight against the Pure Provence than its previous challenger, its alluring mix of sweet and citric, fruits and florals, approachability and Old World soul making it a deserving pink wine go-to.  But there is just something more elevated, yet simultaneously more visceral, about the Pure Provence that makes the wine just LIVE on the tongue.  I was absolutely blown away by this bottle, something I was not remotely expecting.  You can rest pretty well assured that there’s nothing pink that’s a better deal for $21.

Long live the first ever Tournament of Pink champion!

THE WINNER:  2015 Pure Provence Rosé

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2 responses

29 04 2017
Jacqueline Cochrane

Where in Calgary did you purchase the Bertrand Cote Des Roses?

29 04 2017
petervetsch

The Cote des Roses has been on the shelf at a few stores in Calgary, including Costco (best price) and Willow Park. Check liquorconnect.com for updated listings of who carries it, but those two places would be your best bet.

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