Coming Up Rosé 3

Summer Wines All Dressed in Pink


Many American wine lovers are perplexed by rosé wines. It’s due to unfortunate misconceptions that “pink wines” are sweet, poorly made and should not be drunk. I say, “Simply not true!”

Provence, located in southwestern France, was the first area to produce rosé wines. During the late Middle Ages, monks began producing rosé wines for sacramental purposes and to financially support their various monastic orders.

During the early 1970s, in California, a glut of red grapes and a significant shortage of white wine grapes inspired these winemakers to explore saignée, a method of rosé production that involves the bleeding of grape juice from the wine vats. Consider for a moment, gravy is made by separating fat from the juices in the roasting pan. This also occurs in wine vats as heavy grape must separates from the juice, which is much lighter. By using the saignée method, these winemakers were able to make “white wine” from red grapes. This approach allows the juice and must to be together for a short period of time, after which the winemaker “bleeds” off what then becomes rosé wine.

The American term blush dates back to the mid-1970s and references a pale-pink wine. It’s now reserved for a sweet pink wine with a residual sugar of 2.5 percent.  In America, most dry pink wines are marketed and sold as rosé. Europe, on the other hand, refers to all pink wine as rosé regardless of residual sugar levels as well as those imported from America that are semi-sweet.

An important fact to remember is that rosé is a wine style, not a varietal or type of wine. There are 11 types of rosé wine styles currently being produced around the world from, among others, the following types of grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Zinfandel and Mourvèdre.

Rosé wine is often viewed as seasonal—a refreshing wine emblematic of springtime’s revitalization or of a long summer’s day. Bill Blanchard, national sales manager for Adelsheim Vineyard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, tells me that he holds back a case of rosé each vintage. He feels that quality rosé can last up to two years, and he enjoys sharing it with family and friends at Christmas dinner.

Wines made in a rosé style are perhaps some of the most versatile food wines, pairing well with a wide array of foods such as Morbier or mozzarella cheese, seafood, light pasta dishes, summer salads, soups, grilled or roasted meats, and poultry.

A great rosé presents with a delicate sense of style, showing true restraint by the winemaker: faint of color, aroma, and taste.

Freshly picked strawberries, red raspberries and a lingering savory finish are all mellow elements one can expect from a well-made rosé. At all times, rosés exhibit an exquisite balance of fruit, alcohol and acidity.

What I love most about rosé-style wines is that they deliver the cool refreshment of a white wine and humors one with the subtle nuances of a red.