Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine

Rosé 101

 Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine Image: All Things Elegant

Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine
Image: All Things Elegant

I'm a big fan of rosé. Not only is it fun to drink - a pretty pink filled glass is never a bad thing - but it is my drink of choice in the summertime. I do like white wines, but I find that a good dry but slightly fruity rosé has slightly more oomph than many whites. 

What exactly is rosé, and how is it made?

Rosé is a dry light wine that shares some of the same characteristics of a white wine.  We all know that pink grapes don’t exist in nature and so you might wonder how it is that wine becomes pink. There are three methods in which rosé wines are made. As with all grapes that are pressed, the juices run clear. This is also true for red grapes. Wine gets its coloring not from the fruit but from the skin. When the juice and the skins soak together color begins to form, giving each varietal of wine its color from pale to deep yellow to red. The same is also the case for the rosé, or the pink.  

1. Maceration Method

The maceration process is a short one, typically two to three days. Once the juice begins to take on the beautiful pink hue desired by the winemaker the skins are removed and the juice begins to ferment, creating a delicious rosé. This is probably the most popular and most respected method.

2. Saignée or “Bled” Method

The Saignée (“San-yay”) method is when during the first few hours of making a red wine, some of the juice is bled off and put into a new vat to make rosé. This method is common in US wine regions that make fine red wines such as Napa and Sonoma. This method of bleeding off the juice creates a lovely rosé and adds some of the intensity of the red wines. These wines are fairly uncommon, making up just about 10% of of a winery’s production.

3. Blending Method

Blending is just as it sounds - a little bit of red wine is added to a vat of white wine to make rosé. Because It doesn’t take much red wine to turn a white wine pink; these wines tend to have a mere 5% or less of red wine added. This method is very uncommon with still rosé wines but is more likely to occur with sparkling wines.

 Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine Image: Martha Stewart

Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine
Image: Martha Stewart

What is Pink Champagne?

To make these pink "champagnes" only three different varieties of grapes are used: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The sweetness or dryness of the champagne is determined by the amount of sugar added after the wine has fermented. There are many different brands and types of pink champagne, but there is really only one true Champagne, so called because it comes from an area in France called Champagne situated northeast of Paris. Wine experts insist that only Champagne from this area can be considered true champagne which is why others are referred to as sparkling wines.

 Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine Image: Martha Stewart Weddings

Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine
Image: Martha Stewart Weddings

What should Rosé taste like?

The perfect rosé is young, crisp, dry, and pairs well with all foods at all times. The primary flavors found in rosé are red fruit, flowers, citrus, and melon. The flavors do vary considerably depending on the type of grape the rosé wine is made with - there are lighter, fruitier and drier varietals.  A deeply-colored Italian Aglianico rosé–rosé is called “Rosato” in Italy,– it is a heavier rosé and offers notes of cherry and orange zest while a lighter-colored Grenache rosé from the Provence region in France will show hints of honeydew melon, lemon and celery. As with both white and red wines there is a wide range of rosé flavors, and to a lesser degree color. The best way to figure out which type of pink wine you like is to sample some - You'll find them to vary greatly... some are heavier and fruiter while others are lighter and drier. 

Below, from Wine Folly, is a description of several different types of rosé:

Grenache Rosé

Style: Fruity

Tasting Notes Usually a brilliant ruby red hue with notes of ripe strawberry, orange, hibiscus and sometimes with a hint of allspice. You’ll find wines of Grenache to have moderately high acidity, but since most have quite a bit of color and body, typically you’ll want to serve them cold to keep them zesty. Perfect pairing with this wine would be a summer evening and takeout Greek Gyros with dill tzatziki.

Sangiovese Rosé

Style: Fruity

Tasting Notes A bright copper red color that sparkles in the light, Sangiovese seems like it was made to be a rosé wine. Notes of fresh strawberries, green melon, roses and yellow peach are complimented with mouth quenching acidity. A few Sangiovese rosé have a feint bitter note on the finish, which makes this fruity wine taste pleasantly dry. Definitely serve cold in a white wine glass, perhaps with a bowl of Moroccan couscous and chicken.

Tempranillo Rosé

Style: Savory

Tasting Notes Tempranillo rosé is growing in popularity from the Rioja region and other parts of Spain. With this style of rosé you can expect a pale pink hue and herbaceous notes of green peppercorn, watermelon, strawberry and meaty notes reminiscent of fried chicken. Many Tempranillo rosé from this area also blend a bit of Graciano and Grenache to add floral notes to the flavor. A glass of Rioja rosé will class up any taco truck experience.

Syrah Rosé

Style: Savory

Tasting Notes American Syrah rosé is typically made in the ‘Saignée Method’ which usually means it will have deeper colors of ruby and notes of white pepper, green olive, strawberry, cherry and peach skin —definitely on the funky side. Rosé of Syrah tend to be more on the bolder end of the spectrum and are best served slightly warmer than fridge temperatures in a regular red wine glass. This is a surprisingly good wine with pepperoni pizza or a bowl of chili.

Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé

Style: Savory

Tasting Notes This type of rosé wine is nearly exclusively made in the ‘Saignée Method’. Cabernet rosé are a deep ruby red color with red wine-like flavors of green bell pepper, cherry sauce, black currant and pepper spice. The only big difference is that Cabernet rosé wines usually have heightened acidity because they aren’t typically aged in oak.

Zinfandel Rosé (a.k.a. White Zinfandel)

Style: Sweet

Tasting Notes Possibly the most popular rosé (in terms of volume but not necessarily for quality) sold in the United States and also 85% of Zinfandel production! Most ‘white’ Zinfandel is made deliberately to an ‘off-dry’ style with about 3-5 grams of residual sugar making it moderately sweet. It offers flavors of strawberry, cotton candy, lemon and green melon with moderately high acidity. You’ll want to serve it ice cold perhaps with Thai food.

Tavel Rosé (from the Côtes du Rhône)

Style: Savory and Rich

Tasting Notes Said to be a favorite of writer and man’s man, Ernest Hemingway, Tavel is an unusually dry Rosé. It has more body and structure than most pink wines and is considered to have all the character of a good red wine, just less color. It is made primarily with Grenache and Cinsault, but nine varieties are allowed in the blend. Usually high in alcohol and low in acid, this salmon-pink wine ages well and its nose of summer fruits can turn to rich, nutty notes over time. Throw some brisket on the barbecue, grab your dog-eared copy of “The Old Man and The Sea”, and sit back and enjoy a glass of this earthy treat.

Provence Rosé

Style: Fruity and Lean

Tasting Notes Rosé, from Provence, is the little black dress of pink wines. This wine is just as at home on the patio as it is in the dining room, Its fresh, crisp, dry style is a masterful match for almost any dish; even a juicy burger makes a perfect partner. Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre are all used to create this pale, pink rosé and to give it aromas of strawberry, fresh-cut watermelon, and rose petal, finishing with a distinctive, salty minerality on the palate.

Mourvèdre Rosé

Style: Fruity and Floral

Tasting Notes Rosé made from Mourvèdre brings to mind thoughts of Southern France and the beautiful wines of Bandol. These wines, often a pale coral hue, are rounder and fuller-bodied than many other Rosés. Mourvèdre is floral on the nose with notes of violets and rose petals. On the palate, this grape can be full of red plums, cherries, dried herbs, smoke and even meat. Mourvèdre makes an excellent pairing at a Mediterranean dinner party, hovering with friends for hours over a meal of grilled lamb and fresh pita with black olive tapenade.

Pinot Noir Rosé

Style: Delicately Fruity

Tasting Notes Pinot Noir is a diva on the grape runway. The fruit is intolerant of any type of extreme weather and is considered sensitive and temperamental, but when it’s on and at its best, can make for a very sexy glass of wine. In rosé, Pinot Noir delivers bright acidity and soft, subtle aromas of crabapple, watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, and wet stone. The grape can produce earthy-but-elegant wines that are cool, crisp, and dry, and would be delightful with a fresh goat cheese salad or a festive crab feed on the beach. You might also like White Pinot Noir.

 Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine Image: Monika Hibbs

Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine
Image: Monika Hibbs

How much should I spend on a bottle of rosé?

A good rosé shouldn't have to cost too terribly much. While there are notable labels, therefore pricier,  a true rosé should be anything but stuffy. They should be young, fun, lighthearted. Generally speaking, there's no need to spend any more than $10 - $20 per bottle, though once in a while a rosé takes us all by storm, and surprise, and might cost slightly more, though by no means should it break your piggy bank. 

 Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine Image: Goop

Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine
Image: Goop

Is there a rosé season?

According to the folks at Vogue, rosé season traditionally ends around Thanksgiving time. But they say, as many of you will have noticed, that rosé is indeed available - though perhaps with fewer options - year round. There's something about the wine itself, perhaps it lies mostly in the color, that makes it a perfect summer wine - because it is indeed fun, flirty and evokes a lighthearted feeling of spring and summer. How I see it is this way... It's like a perfect pair of white jeans, once thought to be a summer item, is now perfectly acceptable to enjoy year round when paired with the proper accessories.

 Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine Image: How Sweet it is

Mad about rosé - the summer's hottest wine
Image: How Sweet it is

What to eat with rosé?

Almost anything goes with rosé - from fish to seafood, chicken, pasta and salads... bread and cheese, fruit... pizza... The world is your oyster with a bottle of rosé!