I’ve made it no secret that I value rarity when it comes to grape varieties. When people speak of rare wines, they most typically mean wines that are very exclusive because they are incredibly expensive. While that may mean it’s rare that you get to drink any, if you have the budget it’s not actually difficult to get your hands on such wines, and there’s no shortage of people happy to sell them to you. When it comes to grapes however, the type of rarity I value is more a factor of availability, which is at times disconnected from price. Sometimes grapes are rare because they are unfashionable, while others lack demand because they are simply unfamiliar. Today’s wine is firmly in the second camp, the Gray Monk Estate Winery Rotberger 2010.
I had never encountered Rotberger, not even as the name of a grape variety, prior to seeing this bottle on a shelf near Vancouver in September, and with good reason. It is quite possibly the rarest grape I’ve covered, with roughly 16HA of vines planted in Germany, another 3HA in Canada and a few in Italy but not enough to show up on the most recent vine census. For scale, there’s over 10 times as much of yesterday’s obscure grape, Maréchal Foch, planted worldwide. Or put another way, the rarefied vineyards of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are just over 25HA and therefore larger than the total global plantings of Rotberger.
Rotberger, as you may have guessed from the name, is a German crossing. Developed in Geisenheim in 1928 by Heinrich Birk, it is the product of Schiava Grossa (also known as Trollinger) and Riesling, making it a sibling of Kerner. Some more information about German crossings can be found in the write up of the Kabminye Kerner. In the vineyard, it is vigorous and provides high yields of red grapes, which in turn produce light, fruity wine, frequently rosé or sparkling. Its name is easily confused with Rotburger, another name for Zweigelt, an Austrian cross of different parents.
As with yesterday, we’re in the now familiar territory of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada, so for more information about the region please have a look at the posts for the neighbouring JoieFarm Reserve Chardonnay and the Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery Auxerrois.
The roots of Gray Monk Estate Winery go back to the earliest days of viticulture in the Okanagan Valley. Hugo Peter first moved to the area in search of an agricultural retirement and was followed by his daughter Trudy and her husband George Heiss. George and Trudy established the vineyard in 1972 and a winery a decade later. With three sons, George, Steven and Robert, they’ve expanded production and the winery such that until just recently they were the largest VQA winery in British Columbia, and they have a fourth generation starting to pitch in.
Their wines are spread across three lines. There are three Latitude 50 wines, entry level red and white blends based on colour and a Gamay rosé. The Odyssey wines are classic varieties and blends at a higher price point, including sparklers and a Merlot-based fortified wine. In the middle though is where it gets interesting for fans of alternative varietals with the Estate wines. In addition to the conventional Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling in white and Gamay Noir, Merlot and Pinot Noir in red, they offer Ehrenfelser, Gewürztraminer, Kerner, Pinot Auxerrous, and Siegerrebe in white and this rosé Rotberger. They also produce a white fortified wine made from Orange Muscat and Muscat Canelli .
In the glass this wine is clear and bright with a medium minus ruby colour and a slow film when swirled that breaks into thick tears eventually. On the nose it’s clean and youthful with notes of peach, strawberries, and sweet spice. On the palate it’s dry, with medium acidity, medium minus body, medium plus intensity, hint of tannins but very filmy, medium alcohol, and a medium length. There are notes of strawberry, some mild black pepper, watered down cranberries, vanilla, some stem green notes.
I’ll rate this wine as a solid good. I want it to be a bit more interesting but the flavours are somewhat indistinct, so after I’ve taken a sip it’s challenging to pick out what I just tasted. However, it’s well balanced and has some mild complexity so it’s certainly more than just acceptable. I have no idea as to varietal typicity, but it’s pleasant and refreshing which is most of what I want out of a rosé, and therefore I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to somewhat who wants to try something rare. And if you can’t get a hold of any, there’s always the more widely planted DRC.