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World of Wine: Spring flavors bloom with rosé wine varietals

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Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist2 / 2

As the vines slowly come out of dormancy and begin breaking bud, this isn't the first activity to occur since last fall's harvest. The harvested grapes have completed their fermentation, a task that has been going on during our winter months. The end product — wine — is now ready to bottle for sale.

Some of the wines to be enjoyed in our region of the country are not made from wine grape varietals. In making visits to some of the wineries, rhubarb, strawberry, chokecherry and raspberry wines can be purchased. Or, depending on the creativity of the vigneron, one might find a combination of a couple of these, like strawberry/rhubarb wine.

Such a combination is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a rosé, which is really a blend of two separate wines. True rosé wines are produced with grape skins intact, fermenting in separate containers, and then blended according to a prescribed recipe tested and evaluated before making the ideal combination.

The question often arises as to the reason why blend a perfectly good varietal with another one of possibly lesser quality?

Any action the vintner takes in creating a wine is to gain and keep customer satisfaction. In this instance, for example with French Bordeaux wines and American Bordeaux-type blends, great care is taken to ensure each grape has the ability to perform at its best, bringing forth the tannin, flavor and peak ripeness potential for each varietal.

While merlot, cabernet sauvignon and even zinfandel can be enjoyed as separate, stand-alone varietals, combining them with other varietals brings forth something that is greater than the mere sum of its parts.

Stealing a very apt quote from Sommelier Jean Taylor: "Cabernet sauvignon and the violin are both excellent on their own, but when the whole symphony is playing, the experience is inspiring."

The masters of blending are the vintners in Bordeaux, France. Many centuries of testing have given the Bordelais a keen understanding of which grape performs best at particular locations with differences in climate and soil conditions. Each grape is grown where long experience has shown where it will do best and then combined into a blend with other varietals where each will enhance the other in a blend.

In shopping for quality rosé wines, check the back of the label to see if the varietals are listed, such as Chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, malbec and petite verdot. It will have the largest percentage listed first, like 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent Chardonnay, or something close to that, with 4 percent to 6 percent being allowed for petite verdot, to boost tannin and structure.

We recently tasted a Treveri Rosé from Columbia Valley, Wash., made from a blend of Chardonnay and Syrah, giving an enjoyable crisp, dry, fruit taste of berries, creating a delicious flavor that goes well with any meal or as a refresher.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at