If you live anywhere in the Midwest, I’m sure you’d agree that this winter is taking forever. However, the rosé wines from the 2018 vintage should be in a bottle soon, and early tastings with several Illinois producers have shown me that the 2018 vintage could very well be the best one yet!
Last fall, I had a great opportunity to pour rosé wines for the Northfielders Garden Club in Northfield IL, a suburb on Chicago’s north side (hence the name). The evening’s focus was to be Illinois rosé, and I created a lecture on backyard grape growing and a brief overview of the Illinois rosé project. Those discussions went very well, but after about an hour it was clear that the group was ready to taste some wine.
This group consisted of about 40 Gen-Xers to Baby Boomers, upper middle-class, and very enthusiastic about wine. Their level of wine experience varied from casual to obsessive, but none had a professional relationship with wine. These are people that buy wine, and love to share it with others. While discussing wines, I was impressed with their thoughtful comments and open-mindedness.
However, instead of the traditional taste and talk session, I thought it would be more fun to pour blind, meaning the participants did not know what the wines were until after they evaluate them. I provided each attendee with a hedonistic scoresheet, along with space provided for their notes. What I didn’t tell them was that I slipped a French rosé from Provence into the lineup! I really just wanted to see how we stack up compared to the industry standard. Full disclosure – I had not tasted the French wine before the session. I just wanted a standard, moderately-priced rosé from southern France that was widely available at places regular folks would shop. I think this one was picked up at Target for $15.
Here’s the rundown:
This first wine seemed more old-world to the group: lighter in color, but with crisp acid and bright flavors. I love this wine because it’s so difficult to define. It usually stands out in a typical lineup of rosé wines. This was a great wine to start out the session:
Average score: 6.16
This wine was bigger in every way: intense color and berry flavors, very dry with good tannin on the palate, smooth lasting finish. It reminded me of rosé wines made from “big” red cultivars like Cab, but exhibited more complexity and finesse.
Average score: 5.43
The room got very quiet when it was time to discuss this one. Again, the group was under the impression that this was an Illinois wine, and I think they were hesitant to say something unflattering. Their silence spoke volumes. This wine was incredibly light and delicate, and a touch reduced, especially when compared to the wines before and after it. All things considered, I think it was just fine, but the group was more critical. Average score: 4.90
This was the sweetest of the group, but it still had bracing acidity on the palate and finish. Very nice berry and citrus aromas and flavors. I had chose to include this because not everyone likes bone-dry wines, and it’s important to me to have something for everyone.
Average score: 5.57.
The Illinois rosés did very well! I wasn’t surprised, but was delighted to see them hold there own when poured next to a French rosé. While hedonistic data should never be used to prove a hierarchy of good to bad, it was nice to see us in the mix. On a sale of 1-9, 9 = extremely like and 1= extremely dislike, anything above 4.5 could be interpreted as a positive and less than 4.5 being a negative. All the wines scored above 4.5, which was nice. The other issue with this scenario is that less experienced wine evaluators tend to hedge to the middle, which is why all of the scores are so close.
This spring, the 2018 vintage rosé wines will be announced, as will a new brand and logo for the project. Check back soon, just a little more winter to go!