Rosé has become increasingly popular lately with the “Rosé All Day” slogan adorning T-shirts and glassware. Celebrities such as rock icon Jon Bon Jovi and his son have even gotten into the game. The two recently started their own brand called Diving into Hampton Water. (It’s currently only available on the East Coast and perhaps online here.) Former Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Chateau Miraval rosé has proven worthy of wine critic praise as well. (That is available locally at Surdyk’s.) But beyond any celebrity association, there are as many hues of rosé wines—from pale pink to salmon and light red—as there are styles to suit your tastes. So while National Rosé Day on June 9 may provide a reason to take a closer look at the wine, it’s just the beginning as rosés are a great wine choice for summer. Plus, the vast majority also offers a very good value for the money.
If White Zinfandel comes to mind when you think of pink wine, it’s time to set the record straight: Not all rosé is sweet. Yes, there are plenty of enjoyable sippers for those looking for the sweet side of rosé, but they are not representative of the range available that includes good dry options, especially from abroad and, increasingly, domestically. Dry rosé wines are not only refreshing, but they also pair with a great range of food.
What is Rosé?
There aren’t pink grapes, so what goes into making rosé? Rosé wines are typically made with red grapes, but the skins are removed from the mix soon after the grapes are crushed, usually within two to three days. Since there is only brief contact with the skin, the wine takes on a light pinkish color ranging from very pale—almost like a white wine—to pale pink, apricot, salmon, or even light red. Rosés then lack the tannins of red wines, which are contributed by the skins. In the saignée production method, a portion of the red wine juice is removed or bled out of the tank or vat and then fermented to yield pink wine; the remaining juice is usually made into a more concentrated red wine. Rosé Champagne and other rosé sparkling wines are usually a blend of red and white grape varieties that are often fermented separately and then blended. Overall, rosés are typically light-bodied and can have a hint of sweetness, though many are crisp and dry.
A Taste of France
Europeans have long known the allure of pink wine. If you are in the aisles of the liquor store and wander into “France,” you can find many delicious offerings—you just need to know what to look for as French wine is all about location and the type of grapes, neither of which may be on the label.
• Tavel: Excellent rosé comes from Tavel in the southern Rhône region. Tavel makes only rosé wine, and some critics feel it is France’s best. Mostly made from Grenache and Cinsault grapes, its rosés are generally dry and more full-bodied than others and can have spicy berry flavors. Here, the winemaker may put whole red and white grapes together in a tank, and the pink color results from the juice sitting in contact with the red skins.
• Anjou, located in central Loire, also produces excellent rosé. Its Rosé d’Anjou is often made from Grolleau, the local red grape, and can also be made with a blend of Malbec, Gamay, Groslot, and Pineau d’Aunis grapes. Cabernet d’Anjou, which is considered a higher quality rosé, is made from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Rosé de Loire can be made throughout the middle Loire region but most is made in Anjou. These are also made with the same blend of grapes as Rosé d’Anjou and are considered good, fruity wines with a hint of acidity.
• Provence rosé is mostly made from Grenache and Cinsault, though the local grape Tibouren can also produce some rosés with good character. Provençal rosés tend to be very pale pink, sometimes salmon-colored, and common flavor descriptors include strawberry, raspberry, and citrus.
A Taste of Italy and Spain
• Italian rosato is often made from Sangiovese (the main grape used in Chianti), Negroamaro, and Malvasia grapes, though many others are also used. Italian pink wines can range from those made with Nebbiolo grapes in Piedmont, to a lighter-style from Alto Adige made with Lagrein grapes, which is highly regarded.
• Spain’s rosado wines are usually made from Tempranillo, Grenache, and Carignan. Spanish rosados tend to be a little bolder than the French rosés, with deeper pink color and up-front fruit flavors that work well with meat. Rosés from Navarra are usually well regarded.
A Taste of Home
In the United States, the term “blush” wine is also used. Today’s California offerings are often made in Rhône-style blends from Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre grapes, though winemakers may mix it up and experiment with other varietals as well, perhaps to achieve sufficient acidity, which keeps the wines fresh.
Pink wines are probably the most versatile food wine around. Perhaps since they are “in the middle” between red and white, they are less intense than a big, tannic, red, but have more depth than light white. They complement chicken, turkey, sausage, hamburgers, barbecue, and more. They make great partners with salads, especially those featuring meat, seafood, or citrus fruit—and especially the garlicky chicken Caesar salad. It’s the wine of choice in the south of France to pair with the classic niçoise salad of tuna, hardboiled egg, green beans, and black olives topped with anchovies and drizzled with olive oil dressing. Pink fish, such as salmon and steelhead trout, and meatier varieties such as tuna, red snapper, swordfish, and marlin find a friend in rosé. So, too, do spicy bouillabaisse and garlicky grilled shrimp.
When shopping, make sure to buy a recent vintage, which will taste fresher. Most rosé does not age well, so you don’t want to hang onto it for years. Ponder which shade you may like or which country you may like to explore, and enjoy it now.
Photo by Brent Hofacker – Fotolia.com
Chill Out with Frosé
Frosé, which is frozen rosé mixed with a a little fruit, spirit, sugar, and liqueur if you like, can be a great way to keep cool this summer—and the variations are nearly endless.
To Make Frosé:
• Pour 1 (750 ml) bottle of rosé into ice cube trays and freeze until solid, about 8 hours or overnight.
• Once rosé is frozen, combine about 2 cups sliced fruit (such as strawberries) and 1 tablespoon sugar in a blender. Add 1/4 cup vodka, 2 tablespoons grenadine or other liqueur if desired, and rosé cubes. Blend ingredients on high until smooth.
• Pour into glasses and garnish with fruit, if desired.