Wine: Hooray, It's the Rosé Wine Season Again

The warm days of spring have finally arrived, and all the wines stores have received their deliveries of rosé wines. As I mentioned in my rosé wine post last year, I simply adore rosé wines. Each year the choice of dry, food-friendly rosé wines seems to grow exponentially. And this year is no different. The rosé renaissance continues at full speed. Rosé wines are among the most versatile wines at the table, ranging from the lighter styles that can be sipped on their own, right through to more full-bodied styles that can accompany robust meat dishes.

All About Rosé Wine

Over the past few weeks I have steadily tasted a huge range of rosé wines and, this weekend held an extensive tasting with my wine study group. We tasted upwards of twenty wines. But first, let me first re-cap a little of how rosé wines are made.

Typically they are made from black grapes, and traditionally the wine is fermented dry. While different production methods exist, the most usual is ‘maceration’, whereby the black grapes are gently crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skins for short time to extract just enough color to achieve the desired hue. The length of time depends on the grape variety used, as well the winemaker’s preference.

Once the maceration is complete, the wine is fermented, like a white wine, off the skins. The choice of fermentation vessel, as well as fermentation temperature will also influence the resulting style of wine. Cooler ferments tend to produce more fruit driven styles, while warmer fermentation temperatures give more structure to the wine.

Some styles such as ‘Blush’ or Vin Gris are the palest in color, as they do not go through any pre-fermentation maceration. Off-dry or sweeter styles are usually fermented dry and then some sweetening concentrate is added back, or the fermentation is stopped before all the sugar has been converted into alcohol.

Most rosé wines are made to be consumed within a year or two of their release. While many can hold up well for a few years, they really do not improve with extended bottle age. Colors range from the palest salmon hue to deep neon pink. Aromas and flavors include strawberry, raspberry, redcurrants and fresh cherry interwoven with all sorts of dried herbs, spice, and floral notes.

Provence, in the South of France, is probably the first place that comes to mind when thinking of rosé wines. However, today our wine store shelves are packed with rosé wines from every corner of the winemaking world. Side by side, you will see a very diverse palette of colors.

But how do you know which wine you will like best? Sometimes the back label will tell you whether it is a dry or off-dry style, but often not. Experimentation is one way to find the rosé that works best for you. Alternatively here are a few guidelines that hopefully will help you navigate your way through the selection on offer.

Rosé Wine Buying Tips

1. Look for the current vintage, which this year will be the wines of 2008. That said, I did taste a number of 2007’s that had retained all their freshness and youthful bright fruit, as well as one or two from 2006.

2. As most rosé wines do not indicate whether dry or off-dry, it is worth remembering that in general, old world producing countries will be dry. For the New World, ask the sales assistant, if the back label information does not help.

3. Ask about the grape variety. Traditionally many rosé wines are blends. However today we see more and more varietal rosé, made from Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec to name but a few.

4. Experiment – Rosé wines are keenly priced. Most run from under $10 to about $20. Try different ones for sipping, or with your favorite foods.

At the table rosé wines offer incredible pairing possibilities. While at home with Mediterranean cuisine, they also work perfectly with pizza, pasta, salads, grilled fish and even barbeque.

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Rosé Wine Suggestions

Here are some of my favorite rosé wines from the last few weeks of tasting.

2008 Channing Daughters Rosato di Cabernet Franc , Croteau Farm Vineyard $14 – Dry, refreshing and elegant. Delicate but lively fruit. Redcurrants, wild strawberries and fresh cherries with hints of tangerine peel, mineral and floral notes. Enjoy on its own before lunch or dinner or with sushi, shrimp, soft shell crabs, pan-fried white fish as well quiche or other egg dishes.

2008 Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine Rosé, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, France $13 – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Y and Z. medium salmon color with copper hints. Dry with lots of refreshing, vibrant wild red berries and hints of laurel leaf, rosemary and earthy notes. A great all-rounder. Works really well on its own but has enough weight and body to get you thorugh the meal. We’ve had it with soft-shell crabs, wild striped bass and herb roasted chicken.

2008 Montes Cherub Rosé of Syrah, Colchagua Valley, Chile $16 – 100% Syrah and a lovely deep pink color. Dry and refreshing it has inviting aromas of raspberry, wild flowers and spice. Medium plus bodied and will pair easily with a variety of grilled fish and meat dishes.

2007 Le Meurger Rosé, Marsanny, Burgundy, France $17 – Dry and savory with a firm structure. Red cherries and currants with hints of vanilla, spice and earthy notes. A definite food wine, that would stand up to veal escalopes, simple roast chicken or Arrosto Di Maiale Al Latte (Pork roasted in milk).

2008 Mulderbosch Rosé, Stellenbosch, South Africa $15 – Made from Cabernet Sauvignon. Dry, more full-bodied and ripe cherry-berry fruit. Would be perfect with simple grilled herbed steak.

2008 L’Alycastre La Courtade, Côtes de Provence $15 – A blend of Grenache, Tibouren and Mourvedre. Dry and savory. Pale salmon color but with great structure and elegance. Wild strawberry, redcurrant, laurel leaf and lavender notes.

2007 Turkey Flat Vineyards Rosé, Barossa Valley, Australia $15 – A lovely blend of Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Dolcetto. Ripe but lively strawberries, raspberries and cherries with hints of spice. Could be enjoyed on its own or with grilled caramelized salmon, pork chops or hard cheeses.

2008 La Bastide Blanche Rosé, Bandol, France $18 – a bit more expensive but worth it. This is a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Cinsaut. Dry, earthy and savory with flavors of wild strawberry, sage, lavender and cracked green peppercorns. Try with grilled sea bass, sardines or cous-cous dishes.

2007 Le Rosé de Pavie Macquin, Bordeaux $16 – A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Aromas of ripe jammy fruit, but dry as a bone, very good structure and savory flavor. A food wine that would match more robust meat dishes.

2008 Muga Rosé, Rioja, Spain $13 – A blend of Garnacha (Grenache), Viura (a white variety) and a little Tempranillo. Dry, crisp and really refreshing. Lots of ripe strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors as well as lifted floral and mineral notes. Pair with kabobs, grilled trout, roasted red peppers and sautéed wild mushrooms.

2008 Robert Sinskey Vin Gris de Pinot Noir, Carneros, California $22 – A delicate vin gris style made from Pinot Noir. Translucent salmon color.

2007 Domaine Lafond ROC Epine, Tavel, France $16 – More full bodied. Dry, with a mix of ripe baked strawberries and savory earthy aromas and flavors. Definitely a food wine. Try with pasta with marinara sauce, spicy sausage, pan fried fish with capers or sheep’s cheese.

2008 Chateau de Pourcieux Rosé, Cotes de Provence $13 – A house favorite. Medium bodied, yet could be sipped along with tapas and savory snacks, or with grilled tuna, red mullet and ratatouille.

008 La Pré Vinette Rosé de Loire, Loire valley, France $9 – a lighter style, crsip wine made form a blend of Gamay and Cabernet Franc. Great on its own or with lighter lunch dishes such as goat cheese salad or omelets.

2006 Wyndham Estate Bin 505 Shiraz Rosé, South Eastern Australia $9 – This was a great surprise, as it is the 2006 vintage. Medium bodied, it is holding up really well, still showing lots of ripe sweet vibrant red fruit. I’d pair this with spaghetti and a simple tomato sauce.

2008 Mas de Gougonnier Rosé, Costières de Nîmes, France
Beautiful deep salmon color with copper glints. Dry, notes of groseille, wild dried strawberry, lavendar and hints of smoke. Pair with pasta, pizza, teriyaki chicken or paella.

2008 Coeur Esterelle Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France $14 – Dry and a lighter style that could be sipped happily with friends or with lighter dishes like pizza, salade nicoise, and soft cheeses.

So, now that the warmer weather and longer days are here, enjoy experimenting with all the wonderful rosé wines on offer.

Related: Rosé Wines: Versatility and Affordability in a Glass

(Top image: Flickr member Michel Filion licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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Drinks, Spring, Summer, Wine

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.

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