- Posted by Danielle Gillespie
Here in the northeast, deep in the trenches of the Polar Vortex (which, frankly, has to be really good for the wine industry) we are still very much blanketed in snow and cold. In spite of this, as I look at my faithful outdoor furniture, I cannot help imagining my entire patio restless with anticipation for the warmer weather that simply has to be knocking at winter’s door. Spring WILL be here soon, my friends will come out of hibernation and we will all be ready to head outside with a crisp glass of something refreshing.
With this nod to spring, I am wondering, is there a better or more fitting color than rosé to lead us out of the Vortex? Probably not, so I have resolved to get to know a rosé or two. Admittedly, I have not done much experimentation with the genre and want to know the basics: where do the best rosé wines come from? When should you drink them? What do they go with?
Rosé, the perfect wine to pair with spring, has been gaining in popularity. If you are doing some spring cleaning to your restaurant’s wine list or are just looking for something frivolous to try, read on.
WHAT IS IT?
After consulting numerous books on wine, each offering complex and technical discussions about rosé wine, I finally decided to try the dictionary. There I found the simplest explanation: “rosé is a light pink wine made from purple grapes, with the skins being removed from the juice during fermentation as soon as the desired color has been attained.”
So, the red grapes are lightly crushed and macerate with their red skins until the perfect color is obtained. The resulting juice has the bright acidity of a white wine with the fruity character of a red. The depth of color is actually an indication of the weight, or meatiness, of the wine where lighter pinks invite a white wine approach while darker pinks deserve to be treated more like reds. The spectrum of varying colors and weights is the result of blending the juice from several different grapes, the most popular of which are Grenache, Sangiovese, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault, and Pinot Noir.
Easy enough…I might even remember that!
WHERE DOES THE GOOD STUFF COME FROM?
I discovered a great poll published by the Wine Spectator (08/13) asking regular wine-drinking readers, “What is your favorite country for dry rosé table wines?” The readers responded and here are the results for 627 respondents:
United States: 15%
Italy (Rosato): 5%
Spain (Rosado): 6%
It turns out that in France, rosé actually outsells white wine! The best rosé wines are from Provence, the Mediterranean area in southern France that extends from the Rhône River on the west to the Italian border on the east. Provence is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on its south shore.
With its fresh ocean air, locally sourced ingredients and casual outdoor lifestyle, Provence is the living embodiment of everything the rosé wine represents. It is no wonder that a carefree wine with depth of character has its roots in Provence.
Of course, France also produces great rosé wines in the Rhone region and Loire Valley, and there are multiple locations in Spain, Italy and the United States where you can find a great rosé wine also.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
Unfortunately rosé can be sadly misunderstood, due in large part to the mass-produced and overly sweet White Zinfandel that infiltrated our wine drinking establishments years ago. Most rosé though, and especially those from France and Spain, will be dry and fresh without extra sugar to erase its flavors and aromas. This statement, however, is a generalization and it is possible to find both sweeter European offerings and great dry wines outside of Europe. And, generally speaking, rosé doesn’t necessarily have a flavor profile; the various varietals used to make and blend this wine span a broad spectrum from bright and crisp to bolder with some grit.
WHEN AND WITH WHAT?
Rosé should be enjoyed young, crisp and slightly chilled, just the way you might serve a white wine. The wine enjoys no extra advantage for aging and, in fact, can lose some of its appealing oompf with too much age. Generally, you do not want to drink anything older than 2 or 3 years so, once you stock up on rosé wines, use any excuse you can to make sure they don’t stick around for long!
Because rosé is between a full-bodied red and light white, it is an extremely versatile companion that spans the food-pairing spectrum. These wines are especially versatile because they toe the extremes of red and white; less intense than a big, tannic, mouth bursting red, but with more depth than a super-light white.
Because of its acidity, rosé works well with spicy Thai, Asian fusion, Indian curries, Mexican, Spanish paella, sushi, seafood or even bouillabaisse. Try a dry rosé with intense cheese dishes loaded with anything from prosciutto and mushrooms to asparagus and herbs, your next charcuterie or with anything grilled: veggies, chicken, lamb, fish, steak or any BBQ.
Rosé is the perfect barbecue wine, the perfect porching wine and, heck, why not grab a glass next time you go out to get the mail or sit down to watch a hockey game?
WHAT TO BUY?
Below are just a few great options to seek out for your spring wine list and/or your drinking pleasure. If you do go looking for rosé from Provence, look for these appellations printed on a bottle’s label: Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, Bandol, Cassis, Coteaux, Varois. The retail price for the wines described below ranges from $15-$35.
DOMAINES BUNAN Bandol Rosé Château La Rouvière 2012 Provence A rosé for food, this deep salmon beauty is spice-filled with flavors of dried currant, cherry and wild berry.
CHÂTEAU D’ESCLANS Côtes de Provence Rosé 2012 This vibrant rose shows plenty of Provence terroir offering mineral, dried cherry and raspberry flavors. A refreshing wine with a lingering finish.
CHÂTEAU D’ESCLANS Côtes de Provence Rosé Whispering Angel 2012 This lightly colored wine is pure with flavors of dried cherry, sage and a peppery finish.
GASSIER Côtes de Provence Rosé Ste.-Victoire 2012 The rich aromas and flavors of wild plum, melon and ripe tangerine are flush with cream and spice. Well-structured, this delivers a lingering finish of ginger and yams.
JOLIE-PITT & PERRIN Côtes de Provence Rosé Miraval 2012 For your guests who are looking to add a little celebrity sizzle to your wine. This break out wine was a Wine Spectator favorite “offering pure and concentrated flavors of dried red berry, tangerine and melon. The focused finish features flint and spice notes, with a hint of cream.”
L’OPALE DE LA PRESQU’ÎLE DE ST.-TROPEZ Côtes de Provence Rosé 2012 Offering beautiful minerality with vibrant red fruit flavors and rich, spicy notes hinting at almonds.
TABLAS CREEK Rosé Patelin de Tablas Paso Robles 2012 This American wine has a light peach tint and zesty crispness with flavors of apricot, watermelon and earthy spice.
EBERLE Syrah Paso Robles Rosé 2012 This rose is on the bold side with smoky undertones and accents of orange zest, tart cherry and spice.
CROSSBARN Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Rosé 2012 A delicate wine with floral aromas and crisp strawberry, citrus and mineral flavors.