For years, I thought that rosé wines were kids’ stuff – sweet, with no body or character. This probably came from memories of drinking Mateus Rosé in my early 20s—that famously cheap, commercial wine in the familiar flask-shaped green bottle, invented to appeal to everyone. Too sweet to pair with food and lacking sufficient acidity to refresh, Mateus is fizzy but it’s not really a sparkling wine. I also remember drinking Lancers, Rosé d’Anjou, and under full disclosure I’ll even admit to having tasted white Zin from time to time. Hey, my Aunt Mary liked it and brought it to the house.
The result of those youthful indiscretions was that for a long time I though all pink wines were sugary, nasty stuff and almost never tried any of the many wonderful and bone-dry rosés on the market. They’re actually great food wines, made from many grape varieties including Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Pinot Noir and yes, even Zinfandel, which when fermented dry makes a lovely drink that you will never confuse with Sutter Home’s sweet stuff.
Among wine snobs, Rosé has been “uncool” and that is unfortunate, because that’s kept a lot of folks from enjoying this wonderful wine that looks more beautiful in the glass than any other. And there are plenty of wine-savvy places where drinking rose has always been in style.
How Rosés are Made
A lot of people believe Rosé wines are made by mixing a bit of red wine with a white wine. Generally, nope, with the exception of some Champagnes. Most Rosés begin life just like red wines; red grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and then placed in a fermenter. But instead of spending two or three weeks with the grapes skins in contact with the juice, the skins are removed after a brief period, a few hours to maybe a couple days depending on the type of grape and the style the winemaker’s going for. This relatively brief skin contact allows just enough color to turn the wine pink (or salmon or orange or coral). It also adds a tiny bit of tannin, and some complexity.
Another method is to just drain off some of the juice from a red wine during its very early stages of fermentation, then place it into own fermenter and finish the process. The process is called saignee (“to bleed”) and it also nicely concentrates the original red wine.
Rosés are known for their strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors, and their versatility; in fact, this is one of the few wines you can drink out of a tumbler on ice and still fully enjoy. And while a lot of wine writers say that these aren’t “serious” wines, I say hooey. Wine is supposed to be fun, to bring pleasure and to complement food and in my view, no wine does these more than a good Rosé.
Some of my favorites:
- SoloRosa Russian River Valley Syrah Rosé
- Château Miraval Rosé Côtes de Provence
- Monte’s Cherub Rosé of Syrah
- Marques de Caceres Rioja Rosé
- Domaine Lafond Tavel Rosé
- Mulderbosch Rosé (made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon)
- Chandon Rose NV (Sparkling wine from Domaine Chandon USA)
Some great food pairings:
- BBQ burgers and ribs
- Canneloni and lasagne
- Grilled or broiled salmon
- Pork tenderloin
- Tandoori and Thai chicken