It’s that time of year again. When the sun heats things up and we find ourselves picnicking and dining al fresco—or just sipping a chilled glass of wine on the patio—that’s the perfect time to enjoy Rosé wines.
There was a time, I’m a bit chagrined to say, that Rosé wasn’t even on my radar screen. I’d assumed that it was an inferior, flimsy little summer cottage of a wine, only slightly better than California White Zinfandel. And then, one August afternoon, I found myself in a tiny French cafe in the village of Bonnieux, in Provençe. I noticed that almost everyone around me was drinking pink wine. So, thinking “When in Rome ... or Provençe,” I ordered a carafe of the locally made Rosé. It was a life-changing moment, and I’ve been loving Rosé ever since.
If you’re not too familiar with Rosé wine, here’s a brief primer. Rosé is, technically, red wine. That’s because it’s made from red-wine grape varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and others, including even Malbec. However, Rosé drinks like white wine: It’s typically light-bodied, low in tannins and can be dry and acidic. Rosé is made from black-skinned grapes that are crushed and left to intermingle with the juice for just a short time, usually one to three days. In red-wine making, the skins would be left in contact throughout the fermentation process. With Rosé, the skins are discarded, which also removes most of the tannins from the wine. Generally, the darker the Rosé wine, the longer the skins have been left in contact with the juice and the more tannic the wine will be. Rosé ranges in color from very pale orange to light purple, and although it’s most popular in France, Rosé is now produced in nearly every winemaking region in the world.
Many people refuse to drink Rosé because they think it’s sweet. It can be, but most is not. Rosé from France, for example, is often bone-dry, acidic and a very good partner for Mediterranean cuisine and seafood, especially the archetypal Provençal dish of bouillabaisse, for which Rosé seems to be tailor-made.
I’ve been in a Rosé frame of mind lately, and have a few good recommendations. One thing I love about Rosé, incidentally, is that they are usually pretty economical; good ones can be had for well under $20. One such bargain is watermelon-pink Yalumba Sangiovese Rosé from Australia ($10.99). It’s a dry style of Rosé, with pomegranate flavors and hints of lavender. Another good New World Rosé is Calcu Rosé Reserva ($12.99), from Chile’s Colchagua Valley. It’s made from Malbec, Syrah and Petit Verdot and is brimming with strawberry, cherry and grapefruit flavors. It’s terrific with grilled chicken.
Closer to home, Utahn-owned Fisher Vineyards produces Unity Rosé ($14.99), dominated by Pinot Noir (96 percent). It’s a salmon-friendly Rosé, but surprisingly, also pairs nicely with goose-liver pâté.
Heading across the pond, I also very much enjoy Domaine du Poujol Rosé ($16.99), from the Languedoc. It’s a jazzy Cinsault/Carignan/Grenache/Mourvèdre blend, almost orange in color, and makes a nice aperitif. And from Italy, there’s Montepulciano-based La Valentina Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo Rosé ($12.99), with lovely floral aromas and subtle red-fruit flavors. It’s exceptional paired with shrimp risotto.
Kudos to The Copper Onion and its Summer of Rosé program. Throughout the summer, sommelier Jim Santangelo and the Copper Onion crew will feature a selection of Rosés by the glass, quartino or bottle, including Carol Shelton “Rendezvous,” Chateau d’Esclans “Whispering Angel,” Bucklin “Old Hill Ranch” and others. It’s a bouquet of Rosés!