When the weather is right for traipsing the French Rivera or the sandy white shores of Sicily, locals turn to the summer quaff of choice: rosé. Oft misunderstood, current pink-tinged beauties are not the sweet, cloying or oxidized versions of the past decades.
Producing the warm weather drink takes more subtlety in craftsmanship than just evenly pouring red and white wine together. Classic rosé is made from black or red grapes and receives its distinct light-red hue from minimized contact with the skins of the grapes. In fact, rosé comes from a process that actually intensifies red wine. By “bleeding” off some of the lightly colored juice (saignée in French), the remaining red wine has more skin-to-juice contact and therefore more color and character. The lighter juice that’s drained is fermented to produce light and fresh rosé. This Old World process created one of California’s most marketable rosé wines, the white zinfandel; originally the result of red zinfandel producer Sutter Home looking to make a more powerful and intense red wine.
The range of styles varies somewhat from region to region and goes from pale, pink-tinged and light-and-bright tasting to onion-skin orange (which can be even lighter in flavors), to darker colored rosé with bolder flavors, some of which have the capacity to age gracefully.
All Old World wine regions produce some form of rosé (rosado in Spanish, rosato in Italian), but the most famous is Provence in the south of France. The warm resort climate and culture are perfectly suited to quaffing pink wines. Provençal rosé is of the lighter-style and the sub- regions have their own varying characteristics based on grapes and blends used. Bandol, a tiny region between Marseille and Saint-Tropez, uses mourvèdre as the main grape often blended with a bit of cinsault. It’s one of the few from Provence that ages with grace—most rosé are best if consumed young and fresh.
As the market continues to grow, more regions will start selling their wines farther from home. Given the climate and resort culture of eastern Long Island, the market for rosé is big and growing. Many wine stores now have a large selection of “pinks” for the summer months that include wines from many more regions beyond the traditional Provençal. Look for excellent wines from Sancerre, Tavel, Burgundy, Spain, Italy and even Austria.
A Rosé by Any Other Name…
Chateau Pibranon Rosé from Bandol is a blend of mourvèdre and cinsault. It’s beautiful, young and fresh but will age for several years.
Domaine Jacourette Rosé from Côtes du Provence is a traditional blend of syrah, grenache, cabernet sauvignon and vermentino.
Croteaux Vineyards on the North Fork focuses on rosé using cabernet franc, merlot and blending in some sauvignon blanc.
Sparkling Pointe on the North Fork produces two rosé in the champagne style, Carnival Rosé and Topaz. Both are blends using chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.