Wine Review: July Patio Samplers

6 07 2019

By Peter Vetsch

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

As I sit here writing this on a rainy summer evening (pre-publication, but I bet it’s raining when this goes live too), Calgary has just struggled through a sodden June, and the tide doesn’t seem to be turning.  It is grey, dreary and continually drizzling.  We’ve had hailstorms, windstorms, thunderstorms — all separately and all in the last three weeks.  My kids have declared their nascent skepticism for outdoor sports — who would willingly place themselves outside for an hour at a time in an environment such as this?  Our northern world is free of snow for at most six months a year, and a third of that winterless period for 2019 has been underwater. You get the picture.  It’s bleak.

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So rather than wait for the appropriate meteorological scene to christen this long-planned summery-wine review set, I have decided to pre-emptively invoke summer by publishing it anyway, in the hopes that this trio of deck-and-BBQ-friendly refreshment will nudge our weather towards more appropriate activities.  I will try anything at this point.  Tonight’s bottles will set a blog record that may never be broken, bear a striking resemblance to each other until they don’t, and confirm that even trendy wines can be old-school sometimes.  They may also be the first time since the Tournament of Pink that we start off with back-to-back rosés, but hopefully we can make that a bit more of a recurring pattern.  Game on.

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2017 Gerard Bertrand “Cote des Roses” Rosé (~$15 for 375 mL)

We start with some Pop & Pour history:  Gerard Bertrand’s wildly popular Cote des Roses rosé is the first bottle ever to be reviewed on the blog in normal 750 mL format, magnum (1.5L) format, and now split (375 mL) format.  I feel reasonably confident in saying that this particular distinction might never be duplicated by any other wine (although I am always happy to be proven wrong, magnum purveyors…).  Even better, none of these three reviews were duplicative, as all focused on different vintages of Alberta’s current top-selling French rosé, with this latest half-bottle edition representing the current 2017 vintage of Bertrand’s pink rock star.  The 375 mL version of the Cote des Roses is brand new to market and looks much more like the bouquet of flowers its rose-shaped glass bottom mimics than the baseball bat/caveman weapon of mass destruction its 4-times-larger magnum sibling invokes.  If you want to present your true love with a thoughtful little gift and not threaten them with a blunt object, the split may be the way to go.  That said, this blog is on the record as being a shameless half-bottle sympathizer, so take my undying support for 375 mLs with any built-in bias that may come along with it.

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The Cotes des Roses hails from the Languedoc region at the very southern tip of France and is a blend of Grenache, rosé specialist grape Cinsault and Syrah, each varietal gently pressed and vinified separately at cool temperatures before final blending.  The 2017 rendition is a pale shimmery orange-pink in the glass and initially comes across as pleasantly neutral, if slightly reticent:  orange zest, river rocks, pink grapefruit and pennies mingle carefully on a quiet nose.  Life flares on the palate thanks to a powdery acidic structure that simultaneously dries the roof of the mouth and makes it water beneath, the wine tart and biting despite a medium body and fleshy mouthfeel.  Citrus, watermelon pith, rose petals and purple Rockets join the white version of a chorus of fruits (peach, grape, raspberry), but the flavour largely lurks around the edges, leaving a weightless void in the middle, primary hedonism in holographic form.  This remains electric and all too easy to consume, even if it yearns for a touch more substantive depth.

88- points

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Vinolok (x2!!)/Cork Ratings:  6/10, 7.5/10, 4/10 (Hampton Water wins the branding battle.)

2017 HW Wine Company “Diving Into Hampton Water” Rosé (~$31)

From one well-known pink wine to another, and from a wholly different story to a strangely similar one.  Diving Into Hampton Water is the brainchild of ’80s rock legend Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse Bongiovi (surely at this point you, like me, said out loud: “So THAT’S where ‘Bon Jovi’ comes from!”) during a vacation in the Hamptons.  Jesse came up with the name and the concept, but the father and son team needed help with the winemaking, so they turned to…Gerard Bertrand.  The three met and agreed to try to harness and bottle the laid-back lifestyle jointly practiced in the Hamptons and the south of France.  The latter (“South of France”) is what shows up for regional designation on the front of the Hampton Water bottle, but the back clarifies that this too is a rosé from the Languedoc, and that it too is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, with some Mourvedre added in for good measure.

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The winemaking approach is virtually identical to that employed in the Cote des Roses (to the point where each wine’s respective tech sheets are virtually carbon copies of each other when it comes to vinification), with the lone exception that the Hampton Water spent a short maturation period in French oak before bottling and release.  On the shelf, however, they are entirely separate entities.  Diving Into Hampton Water has become an immediate commercial success, selling out its inaugural 2017 release in the US even before its official release and being surprisingly named the top rosé of the year in the Wine Spectator Top 100 list for 2018, placing 83rd overall.  The wine’s concept and approachability overcame its notable price point — you don’t see a lot of pink wines in this province clock over $30.

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See the strawberry?  Bertrand applying his Cote des Roses bottle-bottom lessons…

Weirdly, or perhaps not, the 2017 Hampton Water is the same exact colour as its 2017 Cote des Roses sibling, although it has a much more vivacious bubble-gum personality from the get-go, featuring bouncy aromas of, well, bubble gum (Bazooka Joe to be precise), cream soda, peach and tangerine to go with muskier cantaloupe and bubble tea.  Drier than I expected, it has more heft, more weight and more breadth than the Cote des Roses, delivering expanses of strawberry (as suggested by its decorative punt — check the bottom of the bottle) and Alka Seltzer, burnt orange and parchment, sweet peas and jasmine.  It is here in the now rather than floating in possibility, anchoring itself firmly onto the tongue before its acid kicks in to try to pry it loose.  The price will always raise some eyebrows, and a variety of factors can contribute to Top 100 placement, but this brings the goods and disappears quickly.  It was a good 2017 for Gerard Bertrand.

89 points

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2016 Luigi Bosca Malbec (~$24)

And now for something completely different.  While I have tried a number of different Luigi Bosca wines over the years, across a number of different quality tiers, this was the first time I have come across the winery’s main label meat-and-potatoes base Malbec, the heart and centre of the portfolio.  I am used to wines of the moment playing to trend, aiming to appease the casual-drinking audience that temporarily seeks them.  I don’t begrudge them this at all; everybody needs to make a living, and when the spotlight is on your region or hallmark grape, why not bring people in before showing them what else you and your area can do?  But I am profoundly struck by how much this wine did not go down that road.  This is not your standard liquor store Malbec.  While the high-elevation vineyards (1,000+ metres above sea level), the older vines (35+ years) and mountain viticulture in the shadow of the Andes are traits shared with numerous other Argentinian producers, there is a soul and presence here that is unique to what Luigi Bosca is doing.

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The Malbec grapes for this wine hail from the esteemed subregions of Lujan de Cuyo and Valle de Uco and were hand-picked and cold-soaked for many hours at 8 degrees Celsius pre-fermentation before temperature-controlled winemaking and a year of rest in French oak barrels.  Its colour, a deep translucent ruby-purple, confirms that we have moved on from the rosé portion of our program.  My immediate reaction is that it is not as overtly fruity as I was expecting, but instead forces you to dig for what lurks beneath: topsoil, brambly boysenberry and blueberry, English Breakfast tea, smoked meat funk, pen ink.  Scratchy tannins surface as soon as you take a sip, layering across flavours of raisiny dark fruit, pavement, bitters, smoke, baked earth, grip tape…dare I say this is almost Cahors-like?  This is not out to be showy, but has depth to spare and confirms its seriousness in an open, unpretentious way.  This is a Malbec statement of intent, or a homecoming, but either way a potential peek at Argentina’s next page.

90- points


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