This is the seventh year in a row that I have declared this “The Summer of Rosé” (I have tried every year to get Steve Inskeep to announce it on Morning Edition: apparently he does not read his email). I try to drink rosé all year, but it seems as though most people see it as a summer only type thing, so I figured I would ride that wave. There also seems to be a boatload of bloggers that write the obligatory rosé post at this time of year (similar to the sparkling wine post before New Year’s), and I figured I might as well do the same since I am a hopeless follower of trends.
There are essentially three ways to make rosé. The first is perhaps the most traditional way in which the grapes are picked and crushed and the resulting juice remains in contact with the skins for a short period of time. Since color is derived from this contact with the skins, the longer the contact, the darker the hue. Many of the rosés produced in the South of France use this more “traditional” method in which the grapes are grown from the start destined to become rosé.
The second method has a fancy French name: saignée, which means quite simply, “bled” or “bleeder”. With this method, shortly after crushing grapes destined to become a red wine, the wine maker “bleeds” of some of the juice. This is done so that the juice that remains will have a higher skin/juice ratio. Since many of the flavors, textures, and character in a red wine comes from this contact with the skins, it will theoretically improve the red wine. That bled off juice (which used to often be discarded) is then vinified into a separate rosé wine.
The third way, blending some red wine into a white wine is rarely practiced (with the notable exception of champagne). For a while now, I have wondered why that is: blending is widespread around the wine world, there are even some red wines that have some white wine blended into them (usually to add an aromatic component). I have seen just about every variety blended with others, as long as they were the same color. How’s that for discrimination? After some digging, I came away with no real good reason why reds are not blended into whites to make a rosé. Makers of rosé have fought to discourage blending in an apparent attempt to preserve the quality and image of rosés. They claim that if red/white blending were allowed, a ton of inferior rosé would be produced with leftover plonk and this would damage the “brand”.
Seriously, that is the only “real” reason I could find.
A good friend of mine, let’s call him Frank (since that’s his name), refuses to pay more than $10 for a bottle of rosé (refuses might be a bit strong here, but it is not far off). Frank has a great palate, and I questioned him about his steadfast stance since he is not shy to spend quite a bit more for reds, whites, and sparkling wines. His response? He frankly didn’t have one (yes, I said “frankly”). He just developed this rule for rosé a few years ago and has never really re-examined it.
It seems as though many have a similar view (I admit I did too until relatively recently). For too long, rosé, even dry rosé, has been regarded as this cute little wine that is great on the patio on a hot summer afternoon. I will admit that there is a good reason for that–most of the dry rosés at the $10 price point are a lot like other wines in that range: fruit up front and little else. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, inexpensive wines are made to be enjoyed young, without a whole lot of thought.
And that’s fine.
Few people seem to realize, however, that dry rosé, good dry rosé is one of the two most food friendly wine styles (along with sparkling wine)–they can pair with just about any food you can throw its way and they can be refreshing, and balanced and complex.
I received a few higher end rosé wines as samples and I invited a few friends (including Frank) over to give them a whirl. Two of the wines, the Gary Farrell and the Cornerstone were “traditional” rosés—they were made from grapes that were dedicated to be rosés, while the other two, from Waterstone and Castello di Amarosa were both made using the saignée method.
The 2012 Gary Farrell Rosé of Pinot Noir ($28) was fantastic: tart and bright with great strawberry and raspberry fruit. The acidity was in perfect balance and had a finish that seemed to last for minutes. More please. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
The 2012 Cornerstone Cellars Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé ($20), made from mostly Syrah, had tropical fruit a go-go. Mango and guava, even banana were all leaping right out of the glass. This wine takes you to a quick trip to the tropics. The pairing possibilities are plentiful: Mexican, Thai, and yes, the patio. Scrumptious and outside your typical rosé portfolio by a lot. Buy this. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
The 2012 Castello di Amarosa Rosé of Sangiovese ($17) claimed right on the back label to be a great wine to sip out on the patio on a hot afternoon. Spot on: big ripe fruit and lot of fun without much contemplation. Would work extremely well with spicy tacos, Thai food, or pizza. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
Last, we cracked the 2012 Waterstone Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon was the second saignée and I could have sniffed this for days. A classic cab nose: close your eyes and you think you have a young St. Julien in your glass. The winery claimed this would be great “for al fresco dining or lighter fare.” While I agree it would work in those situations, I think this wine offers more. With its great acidity and finish, I think this wine could stand up to most dishes without much problem. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
Thanks to Cornerstone Cellars, Castello di Amorosa, and Folsom & Associates for providing the samples.