Although summer seems to be coming to an end, we still have a few warm evenings yet to enjoy. Even if there is a cool breeze, many an evening may still be spent outside, watching the sun go down like a fiery red ball over the horizon. Step outside and relax while it lasts for winter will be here soon. Of course you will need a drink to take with you to your lawn chair, and this week I recommend a good chilled glass of crisp Rosé wine.
Rosé, pronounced “rose-ay”, is a style of wine that has some of the color seen in red wines, but only just enough to turn it a soft pinkish hue. It still retains most of the qualities of white wine and is usually chilled prior to consumption. Depending on the grapes being used and the amount of time the skins of the grapes remain in contact with the juice, a Rosé’s color can vary greatly from a pale coppery orange to a vibrant purple. The longer the period of juice-skin contact, the darker and more tannic the resulting wine. Some Rosés are darker or more full-bodied than others, but they generally remain light and refreshing, no matter the depth of color.
Historically Rosé was a delicate, dry wine, exemplified by Anjou Rosé from the Loire region of France. It is reported that the original Claret was a pale wine from Bordeaux that would probably now be described as a Rosé. In the 1970s, California producers coined the term ‘Blush’ to refer to Rosé, fearing that the term “Rosé” had become antiquated. To some extent the tables have now turned and ‘Blush’ is now more synonymous with the pedestrian softer sweeter (and generally cheaper) styles of wine like (gasp!) White Zinfandel. Today, though, quality Rosés are making a comeback and one can find well-structured and elegant Rosé wine from around the world.
Rosé is produced when red-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period of time. The grapes are then pressed, and the skins are discarded (rather than left in contact throughout fermentation as with red wine making). The juice is then fermented like any other wine.
When choosing a Rosé, try to look for the name of the grape on the label and ask for a recommendation from the store manager. Below are a few suggestions of Rosé wines you might like to try.
Chile – Some real treasures are coming out of Chile these days. If you can find it, buy every bottle you can of Santa Rita Rosé. Santa Rita has consistently produced great quality inexpensive wines. Their Rosé is impeccable and bursting with mouthfuls of juicy ripe strawberries, pear and melon.
USA – Unfortunately California has a bad name for Rosé wine. Steer clear of the mass-produced confected horrors of Beringer, Gallo, and Fetzer. Instead try Bonny Doon’s Rhone-style Le Cigare Volant Rosé blend or their inexpensive Ca' del Solo brand Big House Pink.
France – Go for a wine from the Loire valley like a Sancerre Rosé or Menetou-Salon Rosé for bone dry crisp refreshment, or something from the Rhone valley for a slightly softer deeper style. For purposes of this article I tasted Sautereau Sancerre 2006 (priced around $16). Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this wine has a delicate salmon pink color and a restrained strawberry nose. Very quaffable, this wine displays subtle flavors of pink grapefruit, rosehips and redcurrants with a dry herbaceous finish. Also tested was a darker Luc Pirlet Syrah 2006 (priced around $9). This plummy bargain is a real treat; soft juicy dark fruits with a clean bright finish and a hint of sweetness.
Spain – When you get bored with California and are looking to challenge your palate, try a Spanish Rioja Rosé. More complex than many of the new world wines, the Rioja has a satisfying complexity and often a very satisfying price tag. Marques de Caceres Rosé offers a pleasing and approachable combination of Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes with juicy red berry flavors and a hint of spicy leather.
New Zealand – New Zealand, specializing in the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes, is well know for its crisp dry white wines and alluring reds. Logically there are a few great Rosés to be found too. Villa Maria and Montana dominate the market and are usually safe bets.
Pink Champagne – Regular readers will have noted last week’s post recanting the joys of Champagne. As a brief codicil, decadent readers seeking a Rosé Champagne will get the most bang for their buck from Billecart Salmon Rosé or Perrier Jouet Rosé. Billecart Salmon offers a robust and vibrant Rosé Champagne with delicious summer fruit flavors and a wild effervescence. PJ is a more delicate feminine Rosé with floral notes and balanced approachable body.