Image: Fresh to Market
The popularity of Rosé wines seems to vary widely. Some may even put their noses up when you mention it. Part of its reputation may have been impacted by the fact that pink or blush wines are not taken as seriously as a white or red wine by experts in some circles (White Zinfandel certainly got a bad rap, though it is still popular). I believe that Rosé is more than just a “hot tub wine” – as a friend of my once described it – and can be paired with so much more than bubbles and bikinis (unless of course that’s what you’re in to).
First, what is a Rosé?
Some wine makers do produce Rosé by blending the juice from both white and red grapes but traditional Rosé is made from red grapes (not white grapes). The juice from the red grapes is left in contact with the grape skins for a brief period (shorter than red wines) before beginning fermentation. Rosé is also made by a method referred to as saignée where some of the juice from the red grapes is bled from the tank at intervals during the fermentation to produce Rosé. These methods are recognized as the classic way – and for some the only way – to produce Rosé.
A good rosé should be zesty and fruity, with strawberry and cherry flavors. It has more body than a white wine and should be consumed in its youth. It is dry, faintly sweet and refreshing.
But producing a good Rosé is not always easy. Some rosés end up very lackluster or may have very high alcohol content. This is common with rosés made from Cabernet or Merlot, or from very tannic grapes like Petit Verdot or Cabernet Franc. A rosé should not be as tannic or stringent as a red wine. It should be a softer, more subtle wine. Some producers of very good red wines fail at Rosé usually because they may treat it as if it were a red wine during fermentation process. Further, most Rosés, perhaps with only a few rare exceptions, are not meant to age for a long period of time. As time passes by, the fruitiness of the wine fades. Most Rosés are best during the first one to three years.
In recent years, in an effort to reach a broader market, some European winemakers were trying to get the EU to drop the ban on blending of red and white wines to produce Rosé. This caused French and Italian winemakers to fight back to protect their turf and prevent flooding the market with “cheap imitations.” There are some wines that call themselves Rosé which are a blend of red and white wines. This is not permitted in the EU but is allowed in Australia, Africa and the US.
Why drink the pink?
While I am a firm believer that most of the pleasure you get from a wine is truly from smell and taste, not from what it looks like, I make a big exception with Rosé. There is something to be said about the color of a Rosé. Maybe it’s ‘cause I’m a girl, but I simply love the gorgeous pink colors that swirl in my glass of Rosé. But for those of you who may not be comfortable drinking something pink and pretty, don’t worry. Believe it or not, you can enjoy a Rosé with a big hardy steak!
Rosés are the ‘Peyton Manning’ of wines when it comes to playing well with food. The flavors of a good Rosé team up well with just about anything. They are particularly good with grilled fish, tapas, mildly spicy food, barbecue or smoked foods and other pink foods (think shrimp, lobster, pork, even hot dogs, hamburgers or steaks!). Rosé is fine to drink at any time of year, but especially great during the warm summer months. I recommend even trying a Rosé Champagne (back to bubbles and bikinis again!).
Whether made classically or by blending wines, Rosé is a good choice when it comes to a variety of foods and a variety of wine preferences.