I’m Weirdly Compelled by This $9 Rosé

Try to figure out what this tastes like. I dare you.

May 7, 2019

By Neal McLennan / Photo: BCLDB

2018 Ilsa Negra Rosé $8.99

There’s a scene in Pulp Fiction where Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules posits that because his girlfriend is vegetarian that pretty much makes him a vegetarian, and that’s how it is for me and rosé. My wife is crazy for it—all year long—so we run the gamut of what’s on offer at the BCLDB and other outlets. And because of this, I feel like I probably know the still-modest rosé category pretty well. And it was in this ongoing spirit of discovery that I came across this screwball bottle of wine from Chile.

For starters—I don’t normally buy $9 bottles of wine. Yes, because I’m a snob, but also because other than this insane steal of a Portuguese red, wines under $10 in B.C. are pretty much crapola. But a few weeks ago, while trying to snag a case of under-$25 rosé, I broke down and snuck a bottle of this into the mix. I’m not sure things will ever be the same.

Before we get to the oddball taste, let’s chat about the wine a bit. The label tells us it’s a wine that’s “named after a mystical seaside village” and that the wine is “inspired by the coast,” all of which would be fine if the grapes were from the coast. They’re not. They’re from the massive Central Valley, which is why they can sell this wine for so cheap. Even more peculiar is that a little digging uncovers that the wine is actually made by Chile’s massive Cono Sur Vineyards and Winery, though their name only appears in tiny print on the back of the label and, even then, only as the entity that imports the wine into the U.K.

And it gets crazier—the wine isn’t even listed on Isla Negra’s own website. Has it been disavowed like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 1, 4 and 5? A search of the wine online brings back only two lonely and totally useless Vivino posts: “Cheap rose. Does the job,” says Harrison Brown, whose icon is an image of Guy Fieri, so you know he has an amazing palate. Oh yeah, and almost all the other Google hits are in Russian. русский!

All of which is to say that the above combination sets a fella’s expectations about as low as the deepest part of the Dead Sea. It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely weird. It’s one of those wines that, once it hits your palate, it immediately conjures up a familiar flavour, yet it’s one you can’t quite put your finger on it. I probably drank a quarter of a bottle in tiny little sips before it came to me: it tastes like a candy apple, something I probably hadn’t had in three decades and something I never particularly enjoyed, even in my youth.

And while this wine is undeniably sweet—confected is the word wine nerds use and it fits like a T here—it’s rescued by a semblance of freshness and acidity. That’s the apple part. Sip after sip, I kept thinking that the wine was sticking to molars. So weird, but it’s not terrible. And it’s $9.

On the one hand, for just $7 more you can get this lovely bottle of French rosé. But, on the other hand, that’s almost double the price. (And for $18.50 you can get this beaut from Culmina, currently the best sub-$20 rosé on the market). But while both those wines are better than this one, I’m not sure they’re more memorable. Memories of good can fade, but weird ones? They last a long time.

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