A Rose By Any Other Name

My dear friend (who also happens to be a scratch winemaker) says I struggle with my professional confidence because there is “no right answer” in winemaking. Yes, there is a science behind fermentation chemistry, but there is also an “art.” Oh the “A” word, that indefinable, ephemeral, je ne sais quois, that makes my wines Bruliam as opposed to any other brand. In fact, one wine salesman accused of my wines of tasting like “they’d all been made by the same person.” I think he meant it as a snub. In contrast to pathology, where definable criteria differentiate low-grade from high-grade cancers, there are no rigid boundaries in winemaking. And as an obsessive rule-follower, I sometimes struggle without definite structure. Most recently, I was struck by the roundtable of rose styles featured in the September issue of our trade publication Wine Business Monthly. Nine winemakers submitted their 2014 roses for a panel discussion. They tasted and critiqued one another’s wines. Here is a sampling of their most choice pronouncements.

On redox:

“This wine has a hint of reduction on the front of the nose.”

“It is an odd wine showing oxidation.”

“Flint and mineral, which might be a little reductive”

“Slightly maderized”


 On aromatics:

“The nose is a bit strange.”

“A hint of green bean”

“Parmesan cheese rind”

“A little grassy”

“Smells like wheat or fresh, milled sawdust”

”A lot of spearmint”

“Slightly under-ripe”

“A bit of dust.”


 On acid (oh boy is this one contentious):

“A lot of acid, almost borderline tart”

“No life to it and not enough acid”

“The acid is hitting me a bit hard.”


On the palate:

“The finish went a bit bitter for me.”

“I get the good bitterness of hops.”

“It was a little out of kilter.”

“The tannin is too high.”

“The finish is kind of flat.”


On color:

“The color distresses me. It is kind of florid, which mentally distracts me.”

“The color bugs me.”

“Looks like a red fruit popsicle…like a Jolly Rancher”


But wait, there’s more:

“Too fleshy”

“Too flabby”

“Ponderous and clunky”

“Burned rubber character”


Once more, this time with passion:

“This wine lacks conviction.”

“Not offensive but is devoid of character”

“It turns into an elbow in my ribs.”

“This is a painful wine. It makes me angry…”


What’s a girl to do? I admit I love pink, and I think my rose lands somewhere beyond “light watermelon” but before “Jolly Rancher.” I’m aiming for enough body to stand up to a light meal, but airy enough to gulp as you flip burgers on your Big Green Egg. But geez, I’m not sure how I rank in terms of predetermined conviction. Although I stand for “liberty and justice for all,” in the end, it’s just rose.

But even for the finest winemakers, our fervent efforts may be in vain. A captain at a 3 Michelin star restaurant in New York recently copped to his favorite insider stunt, “The Adjective Game.” In it, “you competed to successfully sell a wine with the least helpful descriptors possible. ‘Haunted’ was a good one.”

Criminy! My rose’s about as spectral as “Strawberry Shortcake meets the Zombie Apocalypse.” And I still haven’t internalized which profound ideological tenets will sculpt the upcoming 2015 iteration.

We still have a few cases of my 2014 rose in the warehouse. If you’d like to buy another bottle, please drop me an e-mail. I’m curious to see where you put my wine on the adjective spectrum.

WineKerith1 Comment