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Charles Melton: old vines in Australia salute old Popes

Red wines from Australia are notorious for staining your teeth black. The ample sun grows extremely ripe grapes, which offer inky color. Aussies have an affection for Rhône Valley varieties like syrah (shiraz), mourvèdré, and grenache, grapes known for producing deeply colored wines.

Australian winemaker Charles Melton is known for his work with Rhône varieties in the Barossa Valley. His Nine Popes is a tribute to Chateauneuf du Pape, the acclaimed grape growing region of France's Southern Rhône Valley. Not every winemaker has the skill to compare their wines to the regal wines of Chateauneuf du Pape. As an outspoken advocate of old vine Rhône varieties in the Barossa Valley, Melton knows it is vital that these wines live up to their potential -or suffer being replaced by trendier grapes.

His talent with syrah and grenache goes beyond violet, or shall I say it teeters before violet. His Rose of Virginia rosé is what Melton jokingly refers to as 'the only white wine I make.' Melton, a master at producing purple colored wines, produces a very dark, muscular rosé with dense flavors of raspberries, cranberries, and spices. Rose of Virginia is mostly grenache and shiraz, with some cabernet sauvignon blended in for a touch of sultry tannins and structure in the mouth.

Red wine is made by allowing the grape skins to have contact with the grape juice. This adds color, tannin, and flavor. Rosés are made the same way, with red -not white grapes. Rosé's have less time 'on the skins,' hence their lighter color.

A glass of Melton's chilled rosé has enough structure and spice to handle steaks or burgers off the grill. It is refreshing, but its flavors and texture keep your attention long after the last drop leaves your glass.

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