The resurgence of Rosé
Rosé wines are sort of like that. They were extremely popular in the mid-1950s and have come back strong of late, partly because that’s just the way things work, but mostly because new offerings are coming onto the market, providing wine lovers (that’s us) with interesting and unique flavors and sensations. After all, if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie can spend $60 million to buy a vineyard in France just to make rosé wines, how bad can they be?
Unfortunately, the pink wine that most readily comes to mind for most of us is the inevitable sweetish, low-alcohol white Zinfandel. In 2014, more than 7.7 million cases were sold in the U.S. (less than previous years) but it’s still a biggie. However, we’re interested in more serious stuff.
And now that summer is upon us, let’s not turn to those traditional light whites as our first sipping solution. For picnic purposes, we can forsake the traditional Pinot Grigio and enjoy the many rosé wines on the shelf that give us bright refreshing flavors, plus a really pretty pink liquid to look at while we sip.
First of all, there are two ways to make rosé wines. You can mix a white and red together. Indeed, many big red wines contain a percentage of white, like Australian Shiraz, which is often enhanced by about 5 percent Viognier, a white grape. The second, more legitimate way, is the saignee method. You crush red grapes, leave the juice on the skins until it just turns pink, then drain it off. That’s the kind we’ll discuss here.
Rosé can be made from just about any red grape. It is also made in an incredibly wide range of styles because it’s entirely the winemaker’s choice as to how long the juice stays on the skins, how dark it gets, and when it’s drained away. That’s why it’s critical to drink a lot of wine, to sample widely, and find producers who make wine in a style you enjoy.
In a way, the spiritual home of rosé wine as a specific type is the area around Tavel and Lirac in Provence. These are tiny areas, just north of Avignon, and Tavel is the only appellation in the Rhone that produces rosé wines exclusively. The rosés in this area are based primarily on Grenache and Syrah, but tradition allows several other grapes as minor components of the blend. In other parts of the world, as mentioned above, just about any red grape can be used.
The flavors of rose wines are traditionally light, because it’s long-term contact with the skins that makes red wine big and bold. But that’s OK, because these delicate flavors are perfect not only for summer sipping, but also for pairing with a wide range of foods and cheeses. The flavor profiles will be the same as the major grape in the blend, but lighter and more delicate.
• Melior de Matarromera Cigales Rosé 2013 (80 tempranillo/20 verdejo) – Bright deep pink in the glass, the Melior offers sweet fruit flavors with honey and notes of red flowers. It’s a dry style, with some spice on the long finish. WW 90
• Otazu Merlot Rosé 2014 - A favorite at our sampling session. It’s a very rich rose color in the glass with ruby highlights. Jammy strawberry and raspberry flavors make this wine surprisingly rich for a rosé. WW 93
• Waxwing Blair Vineyard Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir Rose 2014 – Winemaker Scott Sisemore (and we’ll review some of his other wines at a later date) crushes whole Pinot Noir clusters, with no destemming. The juice stays on the skins for only an hour or two before racking and fermenting in stainless steel. The result is a very light salmon color with aromas and flavors of roses and rose petals. About $23. WW 91.
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— Jerry Greenfield is The Wine Whisperer. He is creative director of Greenfield Advertising Group and his book, “Secrets of the Wine Whisperer,” is available through his website or on Amazon. Read more about wine at winewhisperer.com.