The dog days of summer are here and the season’s bounty is coming on strong. Salads and other summer fare beg for a glass of crisp Rosé. It’s time to (Re)-think pink.
During the 1980’s, a blush wine called “white zin” was the rage throughout the U.S. Churned out by tankfuls the wine was (and still is) made by bleeding the juice off Zinfandel grapes’ red skins–a method known as saignee (from saigner, French for “to bleed”). For me, the sweetish drink had its place—mainly the backyard and boozy barbecues. I’d glug the fun stuff when all a sunny day demanded of me were flip-flops, T-shirts, and hangin’ by the pool. You could float a white zin party with Corbett Canyon and Beringer wines for about five bucks a jug. De Loach was my choice if my aim was to drink less, but better. Quite a few wine lovers, including Shaun Larue who became the salonnier (wine host and educator for exclusive guests at prestigious Swanson Vineyards, cut their wine chops on white zin.
By and large, Ipaid little heed to drinking pink. That is until a visit to the South of France some years back.
European Lessons in Pink
I slipped into a garden bistro on a scorching afternoon. A half carafe of chilled pretty-in-pink wine accompanied my salade Nicoise. This was no candied sweet quaff. The wine was a bone dry rosé with generous strawberry and pepper notes that played very nicely off each ingredient—pencil thin haricot verts (green beans), baby potatoes, sunny-yoked eggs, black olives, sweet tomatoes, salty anchovy, and oily tuna. The wine and salad were also as lovely to look at as they were to savor. The wine I drank that day was a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault (the same grapes that make up regions’ red wines). To this day, classic Salade Nicoise and chilled rose still tops the list of my hotter-than-hot day repasts.
On another occasion in Barcelona, my meal consisted of chorizo and simple grilled fish doused with garlic and oil, accompanied by a dish of roasted garlicky red peppers. The rosado was deep, deep pink, and very tangy. It zipped right through spicy sausage and pungent oil. The wine, again, included the Grenache (Garnacha) grape.
These Euro-pinks are smart casual—thirst quenching and meant to be drunk the minute they were bottled and they possess a simple sophistication that white zinfandel lacks. These roses are made from quality red grapes that are crushed and destemmed, and simply left on the skins to macerate briefly, about 6-12 hours, before pressing. After which, the winemaking is the same process as for white wine. The resulting pink wine is subtler, more refreshing, and less tannic than its red siblings.
Today, white zinfandel has remained popular and synonymous with fun in the sun, but the hype has waned. And, unfortunately, many folks tend to pooh-pooh pink wine altogether, including top-drawer rosé champagne. For them, pink wine is frivolous and not actually, “wine.” They are missing out.
Thanks in part to better wine education and to the recent influx onto the American market of good dry French rosés and some pretty good Spanish Rosados, wine drinkers are now aware of the difference between “blushing soda-pop with a nip of alcohol” and the casual elegance of good dry rosé. In the last couple of years, rosé wine sales have shot up about 62%. In the U.S., American producers, too, are producing “true” rosé wines mostly (from my experience) with syrah and pinot noir grapes. Here in British Columbia, wineries are also doing a fine job of making rosé.
There is also sparkling rosé. For me, the best is the pink fizz or “cremant” from France’s Alsace region and the Loire Valley. I’m particularly fond of Cremant de Bourgogne from the Macon, whose pin-prick bubbles are not un-like those found in champagne. And you shouldn’t dismiss Spanish sparkling rosado or Italian pink frizzante, made in the style of prosecco.
In pink champagnes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are two of three classic grapes (the other is Chardonnay) that go into fine French champagne (which must be from Champagne). Have you heard of Krug and Dom Perignon? Hardly bubbles to be pricked. These and other noted producers, make very sophisticated rosé champagne indeed. Roederer Estate and Domaine Chandon, with their roots in France but their fruit in California, also make pink-hued bubble. And the wines are very good value.
Lastly, a word about Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio), which often displays a tinge of pink, owing to the g rapes’ mauve-gray skin. However, Pinot Gris, is considered white wine not one of the pinks.
Pinks to Drink
The wine buyer at your local shop may have gone abroad and knocked on a few cellar doors and found a few pink gems. Be sure to ask.
Here, are a few suggestions of available rosés in the U.S. and Canada that are sure to put you in the pink.
Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence Rose 2010 – Salmon pink, with notes of strawberries and red berries. It’s lively and fresh with citrus fruit aromas and plenty of fullness. It makes for a nice little sipper with good conversation.
Cave de Roquebrun Col de L’Orb Rose Saint-Chinian
This Salmon pink wine is bone dry yet fruity with raspberry, and blackcurrant flavors. Elegant with a very good acidity/alcohol balance and a classy drop. Bring on the salade Nicoise with this one.
Domaine de Nizas Languedoc Rose 2011
Soft pink with a lively floral nose the palate on this wine is smooth, round, and well balanced with a lingering finish. This lovely rosé is vibrant, crisp and dry and delicately fruity.Again, it’s a winner with Salade Nicoise, or cold ham and chicken.
Artazuri Garnacha Rosado 2011
This wine is deep pink clean, fresh, crisp, pure with lots of minerality and good length. It has a nice strawberry fruit flavor, and good acid balance. This wine has some weight on the palate and can go up against grilled fish, olive oil, and garlicky dishes—or not.
Marques de Caceres rosado 2011
Deep pink with clean aromas of stone fruits and raspberry flavors with hint of nutmeg and a lingering finish. This is a fine summer sipper for a sunny patio
Segura Viudas Sparkling Brut Rosado
Made by Methode Champenoise, this bright, salmon pink sparkler has abundant and consistent bubbles. You’ll get tastes of strawberries and currants. Try it with creamy cheeses.
Tissot: Cremant de Jura
Substitute this beauty for rose Champagne when your pockets just aren’t that deep. From the Jura region of France,is Tissot vineyards are culitvated bio-dynamically, with no synthetic or chemical pesticides or fertilizers used. Their Cremant made from pinot noir and indigenous poulsard grapes and is crisp and flavorful, with bread and almond notes. It’s just the thing for a platter of charcuterie and creamy cheeses.
– by Julie Pegg, RFT Wine Editor Canada