For the month of May, let’s talk rosé. As the title implies, there are some misconceptions regarding this under appreciated and often maligned style of wine. Let’s start here – Rosé is not necessarily sweet. In fact, the most highly acclaimed Rosés in the world are bone dry examples of incredibly versatile and highly expressive wines.
In keeping with the burgeoning warmth of spring, many wines we choose will be light and refreshing, better served with a game of volleyball than a seven course meal. That stated, sometimes we actually are serving seven courses, and with a touch of guidance and a bit of knowledge, our springtime wine choices go from good, to appropriate, to sublime.
One of the hallmarks of rosé wine is versatility. With a wide spectrum of flavor, aroma, and weight, rosés can accompany anything from the lightest seafood dish to all but the most robustly prepared red meats. Rosés’ other major attribute, to my mind, is its refreshing, unobtrusive nature. Uniquely able to complement most occasions, this style of wine begs less meditation upon the glass, and more upon the moment.
Rosé wine is generally created through one of three processes - skin contact, Saignée, or blending. Skin contact is simply allowing red grape skins prolonged exposure to the must or grape juice, allowing for more extract and color. Saignée (French for bleeding), is a process by which some juice is pulled from a red wine early on, with the intention of concentrating the red. The juice that is removed from the red wine can then be vinified into a Saignée style of rosé. Finally, there is blending wherein a red wine is mixed with a white wine to create the desired body, color and complexity in the finished product.
The "Rosé Specialists"
Perhaps the most celebrated, and certainly the only major region in the world specializing in rosé wine, is Provence in Southern France. Made from various red grapes (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsaut, and more), Provence is deservedly acclaimed for their production of pale pink rosés. Showcasing fresh (and some times exotic) fruit flavors with floral and spicy notes, Provence is a go-to region for interesting, summertime wines. Look for Côtes de Provence or Aix-en-Provence on the label for some of the very best examples.
Spain, in particular North Central Spain, is also well known for its Rosado wines. Often made from Garnacha (although other grapes, including the popular Tempranillo play a role), the rosés of Spain tend towards darker color and more body, even as they maintain the refreshing profile we search for. Rioja is a good place to start when trying Spanish Rosados for the first time.
Having only scratched the surface, allow me to present a few more names to remember: Anjou from the Loire Valley, France; Bandol from Provence, France; Tavel from the Rhone Valley, France; Rosatos from Northern Piedmont to Southern Sicily, Italy; certainly the great rosé sparkling wines of Champagne, France; and of course, try the many and varied domestic offerings available.
The Sublime Summer Wine
With a wide range of options, styles and flavors, rosé wine can complement most any occasion. Ranging from sweet to bone dry, from light to nearly full-bodied, and from simple to compelling, rosé wine offers intriguing food pairing options, while refreshing the palate and spirit in the summer time. And, although it is a little difficult for me to say, yes – even White Zinfandel has its place. Enjoy your summer!
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