Running with the roses

Posted: March 01, 2012

WELCOME TO Cheap Buzz, where we eavesdrop as sommelier Marnie Old attempts to teach the joys of wine and fine spirits to Buzz, a guy with no sophistication and not much money. Here's their latest conversation:

BUZZ: Hey, Marnie, I'm taking my mother to the [Philadelphia International] Flower Show this week. I was thinking about buying a rose wine to celebrate. Do they make wine out of other flowers besides roses?

MARNIE: No, Buzz. Wine is made from grapes, and grapes only.

BUZZ: Then why name a wine after a flower?

MARNIE: Pink wines are called "rosés" - pronounced ro-zays - because that's the French word for pink.

BUZZ: I thought the French word for pink was pinque.

MARNIE: There really are wines that smell and taste like flowers, though. Maybe you should try one of those.

BUZZ: If they're made with grapes, how come they taste like flowers?

MARNIE: Wines can taste like many things other than grapes. Many of these flavors and scents derive from aroma compounds present in the grapes, but the winemaking process can create others. There is a family of white wine grapes that have particularly intense floral qualities even when they're eaten fresh. Moscato, gewürztraminer and viognier can all smell vividly like orange blossoms, roses and violets.

BUZZ: Geez, a whole bouquet. I'm not sure I'd drink a wine like that. It sounds a little girlie.

MARNIE: It's true that the "perfumey" quality of these wines makes them popular with women, but you might like the taste, Buzz. There is plenty of fruit flavor; the floral components are just an accent. Moscato is popular with people who like some sweetness and a little fizz in their wine - it reminds me of a white peach and honeysuckle soda.

BUZZ: My mom might like that. Maybe I'll give her a bottle. But I'm more of a red wine guy.

MARNIE: They make red Moscato, too. Plenty of dry reds smell faintly floral, like malbec for example. But the strongest smell of flowers will always come from white wines.

BUZZ: White, huh? They should call them daisies instead of roses.


Marnie Old is Philadelphia's highest-profile sommelier. She has designed wine lists for restaurants like Parc and Bar Ferdinand. Her latest book, "Wine Secrets," is a collection of wine advice shared by top wine professionals. Marnie consults for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and is anadviser to the beverage trade.Check out her blog at sauceblog.marnieold.com. Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News City Editor Gar Joseph.

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