A decade ago, I wrote an article that asked what we’d have if rosé were human.
Most wine lovers would mock anyone who spends more than a millisecond chatting about this wretched bum with a sad and dejected look, needing more than a shower and a nourishing meal.
Until recently, even dedicated wine lovers would shriek “Ugh, pink?!” as they walked a wide berth around the tattered wretch. Rosé was reviled.
Today, dry rosé is a star. No longer a bum in rags, it wears a new set of clothing, speaks with a crisp and intelligent air, and has actually taken a paying job: working brilliantly with food.
True, some rosés can be poor substitutes for reds or whites, but under far better techniques than ever before (earlier picking, cooler fermentations), dozens of wineries now make utterly delicious pinks that have captured the public eye – quite a contradiction considering the indignities heaped upon its tired brow a decade ago.
The facts we are seeing are staggering. Vast amounts of pink wines are being made in the south of France, Spain, Australia, and now even in Germany and Austria. Not to mention Sonoma County.
Pink is all the rage in the United Kingdom. Wine shops that specialize in expensive wines and have lots of older vintages of great reds also have installed entire sections for rosé.
In Provence, stories are told about price increases for both bulk wine made from Grenache as well as Grenache grapes. The variety is in such demand over the last few years that some producers are turning to Cinsault as an alternative.
Hundreds of U.S. wineries have found that rosé is selling so fast some stores can’t keep it in stock – especially after the weather begins to turn warm.
Although Pinot Noir is the most favored grape to make pink out of in California, the best may well be made from either Grenache or Sangiovese.
Now Syrah is in the game. Four years ago, I was having lunch with a winemaker, who said he couldn’t sell his Syrah red wine.
I suggested he make a few cases of pink out of the grapes.
He chose to go “all in” and made more than 2,000 cases! Eighteen months later, he called to say he thought his decision was crazy, but added, “We sold out! This year we’re going to double our production.”
One of the most popular pink wines in California isn’t made from any of those grapes. Carol Shelton’s Rendezvous Rosé is two-thirds Mendocino Carignane and a third Zinfandel.
One of the best rosé wines in the country annually is Barnard Griffin’s spectacular Rosé of Sangiovese, from the Columbia Valley in Washington.
The key to most dry-styled pink wines is the overt fruit they deliver, from strawberry and cherry to watermelon and tangerine. Moreover, they can actually be a true all-purpose wine for restaurant diners who order disparate foods.
Imagine a couple in a fine restaurant. He wants sole, she wants prime rib. Ordinarily he would have white and she’d have red. But a bottle of pink solves the dilemma. A well-made rosé will have the oomph to go with the meat and the delicacy to work with lighter seafood dishes.
The “problem” is that such a wine also works brilliantly with the wide array of flavors available on appetizer plates, so what happens is that our imaginary couple may well finish the bottle of rosé before the food runs out!
That dilemma is easily solved: order another bottle!
Which can only be a boon to restaurateurs.
Now some tips to getting good rosés:
—Look at the alcohol. If it’s above 14 percent, pass. In general, such wines were made by “bleeding” off a tank of red wine to make a rosé (so-called saignée). Most reds today are harvested so late that a rosé made from the same material likely will not have the crispness and freshness that come in the best rosé wines. Alcohols around 12 percent, hard to find, are most appealing.
—Watch vintages. Anything older than 2017 is a risk. Most 2018s are already released. Anything from 2015 is now a salvage operation.
—Keep them chilled. A room-temperature rosé can be an unattractive, dopey wine.
—Pass on oak-aged pinks. Oak and rosé are rarely friends. (Some “vin gris”-style wines are exceptions.)
—Pass on malolactic pinks. Fresh fruit is the greatest asset of a rosé and any rosé that went through malolactic will have had some of its fruit stolen.
Discovery of the Week: 2018 Domaine de Figueirasse Gris de Gris, Sable de Camargue ($15) – The aroma here is of Grenache and Cinsault, watermelon and pear, and with a hint of red fruit in the finish. The wine has a succulent mid-palate and dry finish. Simply delightful. The price listed here is the one suggested by the importer, North Berkeley Wine. Many discounters around the country have it discounted to $14 or so, but Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa has the lowest price in the country, $9.99. Call 528-1161. Ask about free shipping.