The Perfect Summertime Companion, ROSÉ

Posted on 09. Sep, 2009 by Administrator in Lifestyle

words by Wine Dog - Bob Ecker, photo by Tue Nam

At one time, rosés had been considered pink white zinfandel, blush wine, or, in other words, treacly sweet products meant for overgrown kids and adults addicted to soda.  Except for the few, proud rosés from France, most rosés available in the U.S. were pretty awful. Without equivocation, I can pronounce that this assessment has totally changed.  Today, there are many exceptional, fascinating, delectable rosés being produced here in North America, Spain, Argentina, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, and of course, France.

The Wine Dog has been vigilantly sampling, tasting, drinking, and evaluating countless rosés as of late – to bring you the best of the best and to help you understand the nuances and complexities of this oft-misunderstood varietal.

What is Rosé?

There are a few different ways to make rosé: the most common involves the pressed juice of red grapes remaining in limited contact with the skins.  No matter the technique, New York winemakers today are putting serious effort into producing refined, dry, and oft dry wines bearing little resemblance to the blush wines of yesteryear.  Rosés on the market are made from numerous grapes including Syrah (very popular in California), blends of Rhone grapes such as Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault; also Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and even Zinfandel.  No matter the grapes utilized or the exact blend, these wines should be fresh, aromatic, and slightly fruity with moderate to low alcohol levels.  Serve chilled for a perfect summertime companion.

Almost every rosé begins with a strawberry nose, then leans toward citrus, raspberry, and – well, everything else.  And upon comparison, rosés offer wide variances in color.  Some are pink like the palest sunset, or a budding pink tulip, and others are almost copper colored, some are medium salmon to pale garnet, and some really do look like strawberry soda pop.  The colors are nice, but the taste of a good, crisp rosé is what’s exciting.

Though they should be served chilled, rosés tend to be closed at first.  So give this wine some time in the glass to realize its full potential.

Julien Fayard, currently a winemaker in Napa, grew up in the Provencal town of Toulon. “Rosé is part of the French Riviera-Provence culture/diet and is mostly drunk from Easter until the last warm days of early October. I try to bring the Provencal sensations to California and the American market.”  Azur’s wine is one of the most refined rosés I have ever tasted.  “The project is truly dedicated to rosé; I choose my blocks and I harvest specifically for rosé, all the fruits and the winemaking is dedicated for it.”

Azur is a distinguished product to be sure.  Probably the palest pink of all I sampled; Azur stands as a complex, singular creature, daring yet nuanced.  Grapefruit in a glass, this wine needs some time to fully express its personality.  Like most French, this wine doesn’t like to be rushed.

Provencal rosés, particularly from the Bandol region seem to provide their own sunshine in the glass.  Crisp minerality and citrus notes pervade these wines.  Intriguing rosés from Provence include: Domaine Tempier, Domaine Ott, Domaine de Terrebrune, and Domaine de Nizas from nearby Languedoc.  Red Cote is an excellent rosé produced in Suisun Valley, near Napa.  An off dry (ever so slightly sweet) delicious, medium-bodied rosé, this is one of the most food-friendly, enjoyable rosés on the market.  Winemaker Jeffrey Miller laughs, “Mine is the best rosé out there! Actually ours is very different, almost Germanic in style and quite zesty. The balance of acidity and sugar really brings out the fruit.”

Peju, in Napa Valley, makes a wonderful Rosé of Syrah, truly a splendid wine.  According to Sara Fowler, Peju’s winemaker: “We fermented this Rosé of Syrah like a white wine, fermenting it in stainless steel tanks at 55 degrees to get bright fruit and floral characteristics. Though not stirred, there was a small amount of lees present.” At $25, this is slightly expensive, but sensational.

Napa’s Bouchaine and Hess Collection also produce interesting rosés from Syrah grapes.  The Hess is bold, dark, and alcoholic while the Bouchaine is like a delicious, sliced strawberry spritzer.  Two Sangiovese-based rosés in Napa worth trying include Sola Rosa Rosé of Sangiovese and Miner Family Vineyard’s Mendocino Rosato.  The Simi Rose is a fine wine you can enjoy anytime – it is so well balanced.

A rosé of Pinotage comes out of Golden Khan, from South Africa, and is a real value at around $10 – it’s quite drinkable and exhibits strong peach/raspberry colors.  The Senorio de Sarria de Rosado, from the Navarra region of Spain has a luscious strawberry nose, and pink lemonade quality – but in a good way! Ponzi out of Willamette Valley in Oregon makes a Pinot Noir rosé, and you can tell - the musky, dusky pinot nose is unmistakable.

Winemaker Fayard sums up rosés well:  “For my own palate, rosé needs to be elegant, with light color, fresh aromas; seductive with fluidity in the mouth, refreshing and powerful enough to marry with any type of food.”  He’s right; rosés go wonderfully with all sorts of fish dishes, from grilled halibut to bouillabaisse to sushi.  Or enjoy with salads and fresh vegetables or simply sitting around a pool.

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