As wine lovers embrace the spring and head out to picnic, rosé wines are likely on the list of must-buys. But this form of vino is not a trend or a seasonal treat in our minds – every season is rosé season! This month, we will break down what rosé wine is, dispel some myths, and show you how to incorporate rosé into your wine rotation.
A little history
VinoTeca opened in 2015 when rosé was rapidly gaining mainstream popularity and although it’s pretty pink hue had been on the wine geek radar, we were thrilled to be able to help bring it to our guests.
American palates were a little behind, as rosé wine dates to the Greeks when light-colored, less harsh wines were the favorite. As the Phoenicians and Romans moved through Southern France, specifically in Marseille, they began to export their unique Mediterranean styles as a benchmark.
This holds true today as Provence is still a hub for rosé and Marseille remains the largest city in this area beholden to these winemaking traditions. In the 19th century, French tourists began to flock to this area to sit at a cafe looking over the Mediterranean Sea and sip rosé. It became a symbol of luxury and leisure.
In other countries, rosé also has a rich tradition. In Spain, there are mentions of rosado dating back to the 1800s in Rioja and Navarro, when producers used Garnacha and Tempranillo to make bright, complex claret.
The story of Italian rosato has an American connection when troops stationed in the liberated south during WWII wanted wines like those they tried in Provence. General Charles Poletti approached the Leone de Castris family to make a wine named Five Roses which they bottled in mismatched beer bottles and sold to the troops.
The modern American palate was mostly influenced by the Portuguese through a wine popularized in the 1970s called Mateus – a semi-sweet, pink wine that sold nearly 20 million cases in 1974. This began our love affair with blush wine. Sutter Home White Zinfandel winemaker Bob Trinchero allowed for ripe red grapes to only lightly ferment thus producing the more saccharine style that became popular throughout the 1980s and early 90s. After the millennium, smart somms and savvy wine drinkers began to push Old World wines and the rosé industry began to boom. Now it seems, every producer makes some form of pink wine.
What is rosé?
But what exactly is rosé? A common misnomer is that white wine is simply blended with red wine, but this is frowned upon in winemaking. Rosé is created through traditional winemaking but with minimal skin contact with red grapes.
When wine is made, grapes are pressed and the juice that is extracted is most often clear. To generate any hue to the wines, the skins of the grapes are macerated on their juices. The longer this maceration, the darker the wine and vice versa. Rosé can be created from any red grape but instead of long exposure to skin, the juice has only hours to a few days of contact thus producing many shades of pink.
Another procedure for rosé production is a method called saignée or “to bleed.” This style involves putting the juice into a vat with skins and seeds. After a short time (again, hours to days), a portion of that juice is removed or bled off and the rest goes on to make red wine. The bled-off juice is then fermented and made into rosé. Wines like Tavel from France are made in this style.
Rosé has been incorporated into the world’s wine culture and should be used for more than just a summer sipper. As discussed, rosé is simply red wine with light skin contact. The incorrect belief that most pink wines are more like the White Zins our grandmas drank is still widely held.
The shade of the wine has also become controversial: darker color somehow leads to sweetness, but this is entirely untrue. Simply put, more skin contact means more color not sugar content, which comes from how much sugar the grape holds or better put, how ripe it is. Most rosé is dry. Darker rosé really means more tannin, more complexity, and more body.
The spectrum of colors that are produced depends a lot on the grape used. Tempranillo tends to produce a brighter, deeper pink with notes of strawberries and melon and hints of spice. While Grenache and Syrah (typical Provence grapes) have a paler hue with flavors of grapefruit, watermelon, and herbs. The different shades of pink are endless.
When shopping for rosé, as with any wine, what you are doing with the wine is at the forefront of the decisions. For relaxing in the park or sitting poolside, consider one of the traditional dry Provence styles, not just something from the region but perhaps a Côtes-du-Rhône or even something from Slovenia. For dinner, this style also pairs well with seafood, Mediterranean fare or goat cheese. Rosé of Pinot Noir from Oregon can pair well with a roasted chicken, but truly shines at Thanksgiving. Dark rosé like the ones from Tavel, France holds up to a bone-in pork chop or duck confit, something heartier with a little fat.
The only negative to this celebrated wine style is that it is often limited. Rosé wines are released in the spring and are often sold out by mid-summer. They often represent the smallest part of production in a winery and these wines tend to have limited aging potential (with a few exceptions.) When you find your favorites, take advantage of case discounts to stock up, as every season is rosé season.
Katie’s Wine Pick
2021 Ameztoi ‘Rubentis’ from Txakolina, Spain
The Basque country of Spain sits overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and is known for it’s fresh, almost salty wines. Ameztoi was the first winery to produce pink wine from the grape Hondorrabi Beltza and Hondrrabi Zuri. This limited wine is light and almost effervescent with notes of strawberry and citrus with a hint of mint. Pairs perfectly with fresh shrimp and crab.
Sarah’s Wine Pick
2020 Thibaud Boudignon Rosé de Loire, France
This Cabernet Franc dominant rosé expresses itself much differently than a classic Provencal rosé. Bright, mineral-driven with notes of red fruit, citrus, and white pepper. Enjoy this wine as an aperitif or bring this to a seafood boil and impress all your friends! Boudignon Rosé de Loire is EXTREMELY limited due to very little being produced, so be sure to snag a bottle in the early summer when it arrives in boutique retail wine shops.