Some wine drinkers look down on rosé as fluffy pink stuff that isn’t real wine. But if you compare the esteem and price of rosé Champagne versus brut you will note that in most cases the pink versions are more expensive and prestigious. Rosé is enjoyed but not taken very seriously as a still wine. It is traditionally produced from what are known as black grapes. Almost all red wine grapes have black skin, which is responsible for the color, but the juice is always clear. Though rosé can be produced by blending white wine with a bit of red wine, the traditional and higher quality way is to make the wine entirely from black grapes, only allowing the skins to color the juice for a short time. Skin contact for rosé is typically 4-10 hours—the shorter the contact, the lighter the color. Hopefully this also helps explain the difference between white Zinfandel and Zinfandel, or white Merlot and Merlot.
White Zinfandel came about due to a weak vintage in the Zinfandel vineyards of Sutter Home, renowned at the time for a big robust red Zinfandel. In order to make their red Zins more intense in such a vintage, the winemaker bled some of the juice during the fermentation. The remaining juice to skin ratio changed and the resulting wine was more intense. Of course, the faintly colored bleed juice was not wasted and resulted in the white Zinfandel we see in every wine store today. More traditional rosés hail from the classic regions of Europe (every European region produces some type of rosé and it is a very popular quaffing wine).
One of the more famous regions for the category, Provence, is on the southern coast of France—which includes the French Riviera, a perfect place to sip a refreshing rosé. Even the image makes my mouth water for the experience. The region comprises a handful of sub-regions famous for rosé, including Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, Les Baux-de-Provence and Bandol. Grapes used in these areas are a mixture of Rhône varieties, including Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Carignan and Cinsault, and in all but Bandol they are allowed to blend in some Cabernet Sauvignon. With the exception of the top wines and Bandol, Provence rosé is best enjoyed young and fresh. Bandol can age beautifully for several years, gaining complexity without losing its vibrancy.
Great rosé is made in almost every wine region in the world. Some of my favorites include the Pinot Noir-based pink wine from Sancerre, Burgundy and Alsace, and the Tavel region in the Rhône Valley. Tavel uses grapes from neighboring Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as well as their own vineyards, to make complex wines that compete with Bandol as some of the best examples in France.
Rosé has become a popular wine style for both producer and consumer. Consumers love it during warm summer months when a red is just too heavy, while producers love that it doesn’t need to age before selling. In the last decade, local wineries have embraced rosé as much as the population has thirsted for it. Wölffer Estate produces one of LI’s most popular rosés and it always sells out before Labor Day. I also appreciate local rosés from Bedell, Channing Daughters and Paumanok, among others. All are designed to be crisp, refreshing and quaffable wines.
Pretty in pink:
2010 Domaine Tempier Bandol $40
2011 Domaine Hochart Côtes de Provence $13
2011 Mas Sainte Berthe les Baux de Provence $15
2010 Domaine Pelaquie Tavel $16
2011 Bedell Taste Rosé $15