Practically every sommelier I talk to says rosé wines are on fire. The price is right, the weight is right, and it offers pleasing characteristics of both white and red wines combined. “The great thing about rosé is that, regardless the style, it is usually the perfect compromise between white and red,” says Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine, adding, “In some styles, rosé almost tastes a light red, when its tannins tug on the palate.” Heck, even guys are now comfortable with its pale pink color, helping drive up sales. And perhaps the biggest shift of all is that American drinkers aren’t thinking of them as seasonal anymore. There was a time when most wine shops would deeply discount their pink wines at the end of summer; just as clothing stores would their inventory of white pants. Not anymore. As more and more people discover the versatility of these long-misunderstood wines, they’re staying on retail shelves year-round. All of which begs the question: Are you drinking rosé? I hope so. But perhaps your last attempt was poured from a big white box of “Blush” sometime during the Reagan administration. Or perhaps you confuse White Zinfandel with rosé. Please don’t; they may share similar color, but most White Zins belong in the sweet “Wine Cooler” category than among true rosé wines, which range from bone-dry to mildly fruity to slightly off-dry. And what makes them so versatile is how they’re made. Most rosé is made from red grapes, any red grapes; think of Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and even Cabernet Sauvignon. These grapes are crushed in the traditional manner, yielding juice that is absolutely clear; the color of wine comes from contact with the grape skins (a good item of trivia to know for your next stint on Jeopardy!) But unlike the traditional red wines that would be made with these grapes, the juice and the skins spend much less time together (on average only 3 days), rendering the resulting wine minimally tinted. The shade of pink depends on the variety of grape or grapes used and how long their skins stayed in contact with the juice. Got that? Finally, those same factors that determine the shade (grape variety and duration of contact) also determine the amount of tannin in the wine, which our friend Christy Canterbury describes as that “tug” we feel on our tongues. Unlike fully red wines, that grippy tannic tug is much, much milder, leaving room for the sensation of refreshing acidity usually associated with white wines. All of which is what makes them so much more versatile, able to be paired with everything, from delicate white-fleshed fish to salmon, from chicken to pork. While you might think that the best rosés come from France, where, especially in the south of France there are entire regions (like Tavel and Provence) where they are the principal wines of the area. But France is not alone. In fact, practically every winemaking region on the planet where red grapes are grown, winemakers are making rosés. Lastly, let’s talk price. You’d be hard-pressed to spend more than $20 on average for an excellent bottle of Rose. While I’ve seen some priced as high as $100, they are exceptions to the rule. However, as the popularity of these wine spreads, I do expect prices to rise, so now is the time to discover them while they are still exceptional values.
Recommended by FOOD & WINE Magazine:
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