One of my favorite signs of summer is the arrival in the shop of the newest vintage of dry, crisp rosés. Practically a summer ritual in Cafés and Bistros from the Cote D’Azur to the Costa Brava, these quintessential summer wines were initially met with some resistance here in the States. Yet each year more people shed their fear of “drinking pink” and discover the beauty of these versatile summer wines.
Generally inexpensive, rosés are perfect partners to summer’s more casual entertaining and cuisine. They are great with appetizers of all kinds, grilled tuna, salmon, snapper, chicken salad, salad niçoise, tapenades, grilled summer vegetables, olives, cured meats - all work exceptionally well. They are also great all on their own on a warm summer afternoon!
While there are several methods of production, rosé wines are basically made by leaving the juice of red grapes--almost all grapes, even red ones, have white juice-- macerating on their skins just long enough to develop their signature pink hue rather than the multiple days or even weeks for full bore red wines. The grapes are then pressed or the juice is run off and they finish fermenting much like white wines. Another method, called saignee, (to bleed), is done by siphoning off some portion of juice of red wines early on in the fermentation when it just has a feint hue, and vinifying it like a white wine. The juice, skins, grapes left begin continue on as a red wine for fermentation, except that it is now more concentrated by virtue of having less juice to skin, making for deeper fuller red as well the benefit of having a lovely fresh rosé. The third method, used mainly for inexpensive bulk rosé, is done by blending white and red together, with the notable exception of Rosé Champagne, which is made in this method, and a lovely Basque Rosé called Txakoli that, among others make beautiful wines in this method.
Somewhere between reds and whites, rosés are typically light to medium in body, crisp and wonderfully refreshing--with a trace of tannin from their red lineage. Contrary to popular belief, almost all are actually bone dry! Rosés can range in color from pale pink to brick/salmon to a light ruby red, and often subtle hints of raspberry and strawberry are found both in the aroma and on the palate. Their individual styles are determined in large part by the grapes from which they are made and the regions where they are grown.
While rosés don’t strictly have a season, they are more likely to be found in shops from early April through Labor Day and are generally best consumed young to capture their vibrant youthful freshness. A few exceptions include the Rosé wines of Bandol and those from Lopez de Heredia (who don’t even release them until they have many years of bottle age) that can actually improve for up to a decade and more. Enjoy – but don’t wait! The selection tends to dwindle as the summer winds down and shops begin to look to falls fuller bodied flavors.For our current offering of Summer Rosé click 56 Degree Wine.