An Introduction to Rosé
Wine geeks used to be able to wax poetic about how awfully misunderstood rosé was.
Guilty by pigmentation; pithy, dry, well-made rosés were largely ignored as thirsty
drinkers assumed those pink wines would taste sweet, seem poorly made, or both.
Thankfully for rosé lovers, those days are long behind us. It can now be argued that
no wine is as sexy as rosé. It is easy to drink and elegant, and few wine styles
can come close to matching rosé’s incredible visual appeal; from a slight kiss
of pink all the way to a blood-orange deep red.
It’s little surprise, then, that rosé wines have been on a steady rebound for years,
with dry versions selling at a brisk clip and even the ubiquitous, often-sweet White
Zinfandel seeing marked increases in quality. If anything, the recent trouble
with buying and enjoying rosé wines is actually having too many choices in
high-quality alternatives rather than too few.
Rosé wines are generally made in one of two ways. This excludes the frowned-upon and usually avoided practice of blending red and white together to create “rosé”. The results are usually less than stellar, and the practice is banned by most wine appellation guidelines, so it’s unusual to come across such a type.
Some rosés are created using the saignee (“bleed”) method. For saignee rosés,
some of the juice when making a red wine is “bled” off. Wine geeks often look down
on this technique, but technology advancements have made the ominously named saignee
process a viable way to create dangerously easy-to-gulp rosé wines.
The best rosés, however, are literally planned from the ground up
to become pink wines and nothing else. In those cases, the grapes are
farmed and picked to emphasize pithy acidity and then pressed with light
skin contact to emphasize color and fruitiness. Thankfully, these rosés
can still be affordable, though rare versions can fetch $100 per bottle.
If you’re looking for a quality dry rosé to sip this summer, a few wine
regions specialize in the stuff, and variations in color, flavor, and style
are available to suit just about every palate preference.
Something about drinking rosé in southern France along the Riviera
just makes sense, which is probably why Provence is regarded as the
spiritual home of rosé wine. More than 60 percent of the wine made in
the region is in the rosé style. Grenache and Cinsault grapes are often
used, but the region is most famous for the Mourvèdre grape variety. Rosés
from Provence can often be enjoyed for less than $20 a bottle, and they make
great matches with spring and summer fare. They’re lighter-bodied and
full of vibrant acidity, and they offer aromas of fresh flowers and red berries.
Côtes du Rhône
France’s Rhône Valley is famous for its often-expensive red wines made
from Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache, but it has also built up a reputation
as being a go-to spot for cheaper, excellent rosés. Côtes du Rhône pinks tend
to be darker in hue and weightier in the mouth than their Provençal cousins,
and they offer more red cherry fruit flavors. Côtes du Rhône is the place to
look if you don’t want to spend a ton of dough ($12–$20 will get you a very
nice rosé from this part of the globe) but still want a tasty rosé that has
a bit of oomph to stand up to picnic-table fare.
Sure, you already know that Rioja is the reigning king of Spanish red wines
(made mostly from Tempranillo and Garnacha). But bargain hunters shouldn’t
overlook their rosés, which might just be the best pink buys on the wine
market at the moment. A mere $9 can get you a bottle of Rioja rosé that
is worth remembering. Rioja pinks are food-friendly, with surprising
depth and complexity for the price. You’ll find wild strawberry aromas
and notes of flowers and herbs, too. It pairs perfectly with Spanish dishes, of course!
Argentina has long been the adopted home of the Malbec red grape,
where it makes gritty, aromatic, and big red wines. But Malbec is
capable of being pretty, too, as demonstrated by the inexpensive
but vibrant floral rosés being made from that grape in the high
desert vineyards of Mendoza. These beautifully dark rosés retain
the aggressive raspberry and spicy herb aromatics of Malbec, but
dial down the potency. They’re a great option for charcuterie.
To close things out, we head back to France’s Rhône Valley, to a small area that does rosés and nothing else.
Tavel offers rosés that can challenge full-on red
wines head-to-head. No other pink wines are quite as powerful,
and they manage to combine full-body potency with energetic
acidity, a rich mouthfeel, dark red berry fruitiness, and
elegant hints of roses. You’ll need a hearty appetite, a
preference for big wines, and a larger bank account to play
in Tavel, but the results are unique to the wine world. If
any rosé could be poured with steak, it would be one from this region.
Whether you choose to go for a light, floral, herbal
rosé from Provence or a hearty, rich one from Tavel,
there’s a bottle of pink for almost every taste and budget.
Learn to enjoy these beautiful wines, and if you still believe
rosés are sweet and inferior, think again!