Blush: When In Doubt…Pink
By Mike Rosenberg
Words to live by when you’re considering food pairings. Few things go better with… well… everything than rosé. As I’ve pointed out in the past, I’m not talking about white zinfandel here. White zin is perfect for making sangria or if your hummingbird feeder has run dry. (And we’ll get back to this in a moment.) Otherwise, just stroll on by and get to the real stuff.
A quick refresher: almost all rosé starts as red wine. Red wine gets its color through a process called maceration. Maceration occurs during the fermentation process. With most red wines, the grapes are crushed and the resulting empty skins are left in contact with the juice as fermentation begins. The resulting heat and production of alcohol causes the coloring agents in wine, called anthocyanins to leach from the skins. The tannins in wine also come from this process. The longer the contact, the darker and more tannic the wine is. For many big, dark red wines, this process may take as long as a month.
For rosé, however, the skins are left in contact with the juice for only a matter of hours or a couple of days at the outside. At this point, a winemaker wishing to make rosé has a couple of options. The most common process is simply to move the wine into another container at this point, discarding the skins and allowing fermentation to continue normally.
Another process is called saignée, where a winemaker trying to create an intense red wine will bleed off some of the juice at an early stage of maceration. The remaining juice has more concentrated contact with the skin, creating a stronger red. The bled-off pink juice is then made into rosé. A winemaker can also blend red and white wine to make something pink, but this is rarely done other than in the process of making true rosé Champagne.
As I noted in the Vine’s early tendrils, pink is not a flavor, but the ubiquitousness of White Zin scared a lot of people away from ordering one of the best wine values out there. As you’d figure, the flavor of rosé tends to be on the light side, but even the small amount of tannin in rosé can contribute to an interesting structure. When I say that you can drink rosé with almost anything, I’m quite serious. Salads kill wine, generally, but rosé can hold its own. Almost any kind of fish, chicken, pork, or veggie preparation (as long as it’s not in a big cream sauce) will work. Some of the bigger rosés can even handle red meat.
While it’s traditionally a summer wine (especially some of the light, delicate ones from Provence), I’ll have at a bottle of the stuff any time of year. You can file rosé under “good enough” for any occasion. Here are a few I’ve tangled with recently:
Serra Lori Rosado
This was the rosé that we had with Thanksgiving dinner, and it was the first Italian rosé I think I’ve tried. It hails from Sicily and is largely made from a varietal called Cannonau. The nose is friendly, full of candied apples and flowers. It’s got solid acidity and good weight on the palate. The finish is acidic with a whip of orange zest and a little lingering stringency. This isn’t delicate wine by any stretch, instead providing a very firm structure and nice acidic balance ($14)
2008 Gamay Rosé
While we’re still running with “firsts,” as I mentioned, I’m quite used to seeing rosés from France. I was picking up a Beaujolais, and this pink bottle caught my eye. A rosé…from gamay? Gamay is the same grape that comprises Beaujolais. Since Beaujolais is such a light red anyway…I was very curious what the rosé would yield. Well…it was pretty much exactly what I expected – an extremely light rosé. I thought it had about the weight of a pinot gris. Like a pinot gris, it had plenty of acidity. There’s a little of that familiar gamay/Beaujolais flavor in the middle and especially on the finish. At $10, it’s a decent enough value if you’re looking for a change of pace with your pinkness.
E. Guigal 2008
The Rhone region is the home to one of my favorite rosés, a big fruity pink wine called Tavel. Tavel is one of the few wine areas that strictly produces rosé from blends of traditional Rhone grapes, largely Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Guigal makes plenty of very decent Cotes-du-Rhone, so I thought their rosé from there might be interesting. The nose was of a general melon persuasion, which moves to a full, wall-of-flavor feel. It’s not subtle – you get a blast of tart/alcohol/fruity all at once. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It makes for a very solid food wine, especially with things like roasted fish and vegetables.
Guigal 2006 Tavel
This Tavel could almost pass for a light red. It’s really a pretty looking wine. The fragrance is very delicate. I first smelled roses when I got a whiff of it, but as it opens (definitely let it breathe a bit), melon and cranberries emerge. The body is solid and aromatic, and has a complex balance of fruit and acidity. The finish is dry and a bit tangy. Where the CdR rosé wasn’t subtle, the Tavel most certainly was. The weather got unexpectedly warmer, and we had the Tavel with a trout, orange, and fennel salad. Subtle flavors melded with subtle flavors for a meal we could linger over. The CdR is around $10-12. The Tavel is around $20.
Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the blog at www.TheNakedVine.net