The March-like weather that blanketed the northeast over Memorial Weekend depressed more than the air mass. It blew away any desire to write about sunny roses and lithe white port.
Port conjures up glasses of deep red or tawny wines—possibly aged for decades—sipped at the end of a formal dinner. Rarely do we think of the white style mixed with tonic water, and slices of fruit and herbs. This latter version can be sipped poolside, in the garden or on the patio. And that’s the beauty and versatility of Cockburn’s Porto Branco.
Made from grapes grown on young vines at high altitude in Cockburn’s Douro Valley vineyards, its white port is perfect for pre-dinner sipping with green olives, salted nuts, prosciutto (or the Portuguese Iberian style from Alentejo if you’re lucky enough to find it), smoked fish, miniature crab cakes or bite-sized pieces of smoked Gouda.
Here’s how to do it: Pack a rocks glass with ice cubes. Add one part tonic water to two parts Cockburn’s Porto Branco, a slice of lemon (some prefer lime) or orange and a sprig of mint. Start sipping. 88 points. Retail price is approximately $14 to $15.
Jean-Luc Colombo’s degrees in pharmacology and enology established him as the cutting-edge winemaker in the Rhone Valley. In his early years—mid 1980s and 1990s—he upset Rhone’s traditional winemakers, but by elevating the level of Cornas with his pinpoint winemaking silenced the critics and brought him clients throughout the Rhone and other French regions.
Along the way, Colombo started a vineyard in Cape Bleue, an area near his hometown of Marseilles. From there, he produced the 2020 Cape Bleue Rosé Mediterranee; two-thirds syrah and the balance is mourvedre. Its faint orange hue and citrus aroma is augmented by the light body and mouth-filling watermelon and strawberry flavors. A soft, clean finish is just what you want on a hot summer day. 89 points. Retail price is great value at $10 to $15.
The Planetas have lived at Sambuca di Sicilia since the 1600s, but it took until the 1980s for the family to pursue its wine vision. By 1995, they built their first winery and within a few decades had six wine estates in five regions across Sicily, one of which is Dispensa at Menfi where the 2020 Planeta Rose Menfi Sicilia is made.
Composed of equal parts nero d’avola and syrah, the harvested grapes are macerated with the skins for one to two hours to extract a suggestion of red hue. Its citrus nose is more obvious, and the pungent cherry and strawberry flavors with mild acidity are lively. Try this delightful rose with a mayonnaise-dressed chicken salad. 88 points. Retail price is $15 to $18.
With more than 150 years of winemaking, Bertani is one of the historic families of the Veneto wine region. From vineyards above the picturesque Lake Garda—Italy’s largest lake—Bertani harvested molinara and merlot grapes for its 2020 Bertani Bertarose Rose.
After vinifying the grapes separately in stainless-steel tanks, Bertani blended 75% molinara and 25% merlot, creating a nearly white-as-water rose with pronounced cilantro and lime aromas. Its tangy citrus flavor is underlined with a hint of sweetness in the finish that will please those who like their wine soft and round. 86 points. Retail price is approximately $19.
The La Petite Perriere Rose is the handy work of the Saget family whose three centuries of winemaking have culminated in owning four estates across the Loire Valley where sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and pinot noir rule.
Its 2020 La Petite Perriere Rose Vin de France is a pretty wine in both look and taste. The pinkish color pleases the eye and nearly everyone will find its floral and strawberry aromas flattering. The pinot noir grapes in the wine are grown in the Loire Valley and the south of France permitted under the Vin France regulations that allow cross-regional blending. They bring fresh red-fruit flavors and balancing acidity that is so likeable you have to have another sip. Behind all the niceness is the craftsmanship of winemakers Laurent Saget and Phillipe Reculet, who seem to have a perfect touch for pinot noir’s seductive aromas and flavors and the minerality and acidity of the Loire. 90 points. Retail price is good value at $14 to $16.
As they say in most unpredictable climate regions, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. Then, pour yourself a Port cocktail or a glass of rose.
photos by John Foy