Exploring the world of dry rosé
By Mike Rosenberg
photo: The Von Schleinitz Pinot Noir Rosé
Few things bellow “Summertime!” better than my favorite warm weather drink, dry rosé. Settle in for a spell, then proudly order something fabulous and fuschia.
Now, I know there may be a few insecure souls out there in Vine land who may fear the judgment of a haughty looking wine drinker at the next table over on a restaurant patio, snootily and disdainfully glancing at you and your delicious pink beverage. You’re concerned they think you’ve ordered a glass of sticky white zinfandel. Worry not. Look these judgmental layabouts square in the eye, lift your glass and smile knowingly, because you know what is good. (And you know they secretly wish they’d ordered one.)
So, what is this stuff? What makes it so tasty, so food friendly and so refreshing? Think back to Winemaking 101. Grapes are crushed and the juice is fermented. The color in red wine comes from the juice’s contact with the skins as the sugars ferment. All juice from red wine grapes starts clear and darkens as more tannin is leached from the skins in a process called maceration. For some big red wines, this skin contact in the fermenter can last over a month. Rosé, by contrast, is generally only left in contact with the skins from 12-48 hours, depending on a number of factors. The resulting wine is, not surprisingly, some version of pink.
So, how does a discriminating rosé consumer select a particular bottle? Well, here’s the good news – it’s really difficult to pick a bad one. The basic Naked Vine Rule of Food Pairing holds true. A rosé’s basic flavor starts from the profile of its red wine grapes – just lighter, fruitier and more acidic. So, a good rule is to cling to flavor themes. If you have a meal that has a bit of a French flair, get a French rosé. Got a spread of small plates? Grab a tapas-loving Spanish rosé. Having a backyard grill-out? American rosé will serve you well. But experiment – finding the ones you like is much of the fun. To get my warm weather repasts going on the right foot, we recently ran through a spread of tasty bottles from a variety of locales. Here’s what we found:
Veleta 2011 Tempranillo Rosé – An evening with a fajita bowl-type dinner prompted us to open this Spanish rosé. In color, it’s considerably darker than many other rosés. The wine’s major flavors are melon and strawberry. My favorite aspect of this wine is that it can hold a bit of delicacy against a fairly spicy dish, which in this case was topped with a vinegary, spicy sauce. I could almost taste a trace of tannin to cool the heat. A great choice with summer tapas or Tex-Mex. For $10, a nice choice.
San Giovanni Pasini 2011 Il Chiaretto Valtenesi Chiaretto – From the Lombardy region in Northern Italy, this blend of four red grapes was tart, tight and acidic – and, honestly, not altogether pleasant. (It may be that this bottle was slightly over.) It had a bit of an odd scent that dissipated after a little time open – and was much less noticeable as the cooling sleeve did its work. Some strawberry and mineral on the palate with a little bitterness to the finish. However, next to a somewhat spicy red snapper braised in a “Veracruz” style, it was pleasant enough. I would say, though, that Italians are best known for reds and whites – not rosé. In the future, I’ll probably follow that instinct. $13.
Von Schleinitz 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé – The Sweet Partner in Crime said, on tasting this wine – the first German rosé either of us can remember having – “Not to be too stereotypical, but if you asked me what I thought a German rosé would taste like – this would be it.” This is a wine that tells you aggressively, “HELLO. I am full of strawberry FRUIT and lots of ACID. I really work WELL with FOOD.” Honestly, I neglected to write down what we had for dinner with this – as we were chuckling away at our German grape anthropomorphism. That said, it’s worth a try if you enjoy German wines. $17.
Chateau de Roquefort 2011 Corail, Cotes de Provence – Ah, Provence rosé – arguably my favorite form of this pink stuff. If I think about rosé, close my eyes and imagine a flavor, I’d land somewhere close to this. Faint flowers on the nose, followed with a light-ish body full of strawberry and peach; slightly tart and slightly creamy, rather than being a big blast of fruity acid; soft finish; a wine for exhaling with after flopping on the couch. Dinner with this blend of six different grapes was, appropriately, French roast chicken tenderloins with tarragon and a “ratatouille sauté.” Scrumptious and sluggable. $14.
Charles & Charles 2012 Columbia Valley Rosé – A Washington wine made from 100 percent Syrah, which gives it its substantial flavor. “Chunky” was at the top of my tasting note. I found lots of firm cranberry and peach flavors with a pleasantly weighty body and a slightly dry, fruity end. This is a rosé for when you want a wine that has big flavors, but you’re not in the mood for a deep, dark high-tide tannin red. You could conceivably have this with steak, if the little yummy noises I made when I had this with an awesome steak salad were any indication. $13.
So, go forth and “Love Pink,” as the derrieres of many kids in the malls say these days …
Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Rosenberg at MikeRosenberg@DaytonCityPaper.com or visit his blog at www.TheNakedVine.net.