Rosé Wines: Versatility and Affordability in a Glass

published May 15, 2008
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I just love rosé wines. I get so excited at this time of the year, as the new vintage arrives on the shelves, and I know that I have a whole four to five months to enjoy them.

Over the past four to five years sales of rosé wines worldwide have exploded. Call it the Rosé Renaissance! Whatever, it’s great. Despite this I am still surprised when people tell me again and again “I don’t like rosé wine”, “I never buy rosé wines”. Perhaps there are lingering memories of Lancers, Mateus or even white Zin; or maybe people feel it is cooler to like red or white.

Whatever the reason, it is a real pity as dry rosé wines have never been better, and are among the most versatile wines at the table. They pair with almost every food imaginable, and are perfect for spring, summer and ever into autumn sipping.

So what exactly is a rosé wine? Typically it is made from black grapes and contrary to some opinion is most often dry. There are different methods to make a rosé wine. However, the most usual is called ‘maceration’. The juice is left in contact with the skins for a short time, just enough to extract the desired pink color.

The length of maceration time varies. It can be as short as four hours to as long as twenty-four hours. It depends on the grape variety being used and the style sought by the winemaker. Thick-skinned varieties with a lot of pigment need less time than thinner, lesser-pigmented varieties.

After the maceration the wine is fermented dry, off the skins, like a white wine. Vin Gris and Blush are other terms you may see on a bottle of rosé wine. These are made from pale skinned black varieties, and do not under-go any maceration; hence their very pale color.

Dry rosé wines are refreshing and fruity. Typically they are best drunk within a year of release. Quintessential aromas and flavors are redcurrants, freshly picked cherries and wild strawberries with hints of dried herbs, spice and floral notes.

Traditionally, many people associate rosé wine with the south of France. However, if you go into your local wine store you will notice that rosé has gone global. This is all wonderful, but such diverse choices, can be overwhelming for a consumer not familiar with the vast array of pink coming from France, Spain, Italy, California, Argentina, Chile and so forth. Fear not, here are a few basic guidelines to help you navigate the path of rosé and find something you like.

1. Look for the current vintage (this summer you should be seeing 2007). Many stores will still sell 2006, 2005 and even 2004 wines. Unless you know that it is a rosé for aging avoid. 2006 is probably still fine, the 05 and 04’s may have lost their freshness and youthful exuberance. Note: There are exceptions, and also, some people prefer the older style.

2. Ask the store assistant whether the wine is dry, off-dry or sweet. Rosé wines typically don’t say this on the label. Also, ask about the grape variety. Today, rosé wines are made form almost every black variety imaginable. And don’t forget to find out whether the wine it is light, medium or full-bodied, as this will help you select for a particular meal or occasion.

3. Don’t be fooled by the color. Darker shades of pink do not mean sweeter in style. In fact many of the driest rosé wines have the deepest color (and hence work well with meat dishes).

4. Above all experiment. Rosé wines are so competitively priced that you can afford to try different ones. Rosé is not one style of wine. Get to know the differences and impress your friends and family!

Rosé wines sell for between $10 and $20 (if fact most under $15). And they pair with so many different foods. At home with Mediterranean foods, rosé wines, because of their fruity character work amazingly with Asian and spicy foods. Try lighter and medium bodied styles with a simple tomato & mozzarella salad, grilled sardines, sea-bass, spaghetti with razor clams or char grilled squid. The more full bodied rosés are wonderful with stuffed roast quail, butter flied leg of lamb, stuffed eggplant, veal chops or goat cheese marinated in olive oil and herbs

Over the past weeks I have tasted a variety of rosé wines. Here are some that I heartily recommend.

2007 Larmes du Paradis, Valle d’Aosta DOC (Italy) – $14
2007 Olivares, DO Jumilla (Spain)- $14
2007 Chateau d’Oupia Rosé, AOC Minervois (France) – $12
2007 Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine Rosé, AOC Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence (France) – $13
2007 SoloRosa Rosé, Napa Valley (California) – $17
2007 Montes Cherub Rose of Syrah, Colchagua (Chile) – $15

As most wines stores carry a good range of rosé wines I have not listed any particular stores this week.

So, if you are not already a convert give rosé wines a second chance. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Until next Thursday……..
— Mary

Direct shipping – Illinois
Welcome news released this week for wine consumers in Illinois. After years of lobbying, Illinois has finally approved direct-to-consumer wine shipments from both out-of-state and local wineries. Beginning on June 1, residents in Illinois can purchase wine directly both from in-state wineries and out-of-state wineries. There is a limit of 12 cases per consumer per winery per year.

(Top image: Carol Seitz)