It’s hard to believe, but Canadian Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks.
This month, we chatted with Toronto-based Sara D’Amato, who is a wine consultant, sommelier and Principal Critic and Partner for WineAlign. D’Amato has worked in cellars in Niagara and France, and is a former Sommelier of Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. A graduate of the University of Toronto and Niagara College’s winery and viticulture technician program, she was the youngest and only woman to win the grand prize at Canadian Renaissance Wine Tasting Challenge in 2006 as featured in CBC’s Wine Confidential Documentary. Currently, D’Amato also sits on the board of the Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.
Our chat with D’Amato focused specifically on rosé wines and their rising popularity, and we also discussed Old World Wines in particular in the context of upcoming holidays.
What are some of the key trends in winemaking this season?
It’s harvest time, so it’s wine’s busiest season. Although I like to drink rosé all year round, it has always been difficult, at least in North America, to find much rosé on retail shelves at this time of the year. Fortunately, times are changing and there is now a greater demand for pink wines past the summer months. Here in Ontario, the LCBO and VINTAGES continue to release rosé wine into the fall months. I know that the same applies in Quebec.
Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away! What kind of rosé would you recommend for a traditional Thanksgiving meal?
Rosé is wonderfully versatile with food—it has the acidity, freshness and delicate aromas associated with white wine, but also some of the grip and depth of flavour of a red wine.
Because of this, it can pair with a great number of fish, especially those that are a little more substantial like salmon, tuna and halibut.
It can also pair nicely with filet mignon, roasted poultry and gravies along with duck in bright berry sauces and savoyry roast lamb. Mushrooms, beet risotto and aromatic soups are also a good match for this multifaceted wine.
French wines are considered the best Old-World wines. What makes them stand out?
The “best” is a real generalization, but France is certainly a benchmark for many different grape varieties and styles of wine that are grown worldwide. In terms of rosé, France has the upper hand as it produces so many styles of this wine from a multitude of grape varietals.
In Champagne, rosé styles are produced from skin contact with pinot noir and pinot meunier, resulting in highly coveted wines that command an even greater price than the white versions.
In the Loire Valley, rosés made from cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, gamay, grolleau, pinot noir and other grapes produce very drinkable and food friendly styles of wine.
In the southern Rhône, rosé is also widely produced with the region of Tavel, perhaps its pinnacle of quality.
It is in Provence (Provence rosé), however, that rosé rules. From the heights of Saint Victoire to the breezy peninsula of Saint Tropez, this shrubby, aromatic landscape is prime rosé-growing country. Its pale hue, bone dry profile and elegant, mineral-driven flavours make up a style that has been copied across the globe.
Rosé wine has traditionally been considered a women’s drink. What can it offer to men?
In Europe, rosé is not considered a “gendered” beverage, the idea that rosé is a “woman’s drink” is a North American construct. As many men as women drink rosé in France, this contributes to the fact that 30% of wine purchased in the country is rosé. There is a misconception that women prefer sweet wines—a completely unsubstantiated claim. Besides, these days, the most popular forms of rosé are dry and mimic those of Provence. More and more, rosé is becoming a beverage which both sexes are equally fond of.
What are the top 3 rosé wines you would recommend?
Esprit Gassier 2016, Côtes De Provence, Provence, France
This organically produced wine exemplifies the elegance and wild perfumed aromas of Provençal rosé.
Miraval Rosé 2016, Côtes De Provence (1500ml) Provence, France
This wine became popular when Brad and Angelina bought the property, which is managed by the Famille Perrin. The large format is well-suited to backyard gatherings during the last of the warm weather.
Château La Tour de L’Évêque Rosé 2016, Côtes De Provence, Provence, France
Made from high-quality, hand-harvested fruit, this ethereal rosé offers notes of raspberry and lavender in abundance.
Not specific to rosé, when picking a bottle at a store, what 5 tips would you give to someone who has a very limited knowledge of wines?
- Learn what it is you love. Taste, experiment and don’t be afraid to buy something you can’t pronounce.
- Ignore any biases you may have, as the best surprises lie outside of your comfort zone.
- Read critics’ reviews and not just scores to get a feel for the wine you are about to buy.
- Educate yourself! Take a course, scour online sources and travel.
- Get to know the store’s product consultant and ask for recommendations.