Meet Your New Summer Wine: Rosé
The subject of this month’s article seems to be all over my personal radar. First, it came up during a Shark Tank episode where “Mr. Wonderful,” Kevin O’Leary, an avowed wine connoisseur, argued that real men do drink pink, acclaiming that he and his friends especially enjoy rosé wine in the summer months, sometimes with an ice cube thrown in. Next, friends in northern California asked me to consult on a new business venture: Rosé et Fish. Their boutique business would specialize in the freshest fish and an extensive selection of rosé wine, explaining that a broad selection of blush wine is difficult to find in any of the traditional venues they shop; despite how prevalent its consumption is amongst their circle of friends.
Then, I received notice of an event billed as “The World’s First Rosé Wine Festival.” During six cruises aboard a hybrid yacht, La Nuit En Rosé will celebrate pink wine and introduce 1,500 people lucky enough to get a ticket to 85 rosé wines.
All of this is bittersweet to me. For most of my adult life, I have looked forward to the cynicism expressed when I showed up with pink wine during this time of year. After all, as an authority on wine and connoisseur, how could I possibly let wine of this color touch my palate? I enjoyed the opportunity to challenge the generally held belief that pink wine was only for those less sophisticated consumers. Now it seems I will have to find another misnomer to dispel.
Truthfully, for me, it was both about challenging beliefs and following the seasons. Food and wine go together like peanut butter and jelly and I find that rosé wine is a great match to the foods we all gravitate to during the summer. Also, it is best consumed chilled, which is a great advantage during this time of year. What I like most, though, is that it evokes a casual, laid back atmosphere and that just feels good.
The category of blush wines is actually anything between a white and a red wine in color and, depending upon the wine grape varietal it is made from, can range from copper to salmon through pink and all the way to very light purple. Usually, limiting the time that the fermenting juice is in contact with the dark skinned grapes is how it is made, but adding a fully red wine to a white wine can also be done; though that method is rarely used outside of rosé champagne production.
One of the reasons that rosés are usually more prevalent during the summer months is because of a winemaking technique called saignée, pronounced ’sonyay.’ Saigée is a French word referring to the process of bleeding off some of the fermenting juice from red wine production after a limited time in contact with the skins. Since color, flavor and aromas are extracted from the skins of dark grapes by the rising alcohol in the fermenting must, this process produces more intense red wine along with the lighter, fresh and vibrant rosé.
Making wine is such a cash intensive business and red wine is usually not released for sale for 2 to 3 years after the grapes are harvested. So, being able to make a part of the crop available earlier is very appealing to the accountants. Red wine lovers, adventurous rosé wine consumers and winery accountants, we all win.
While saignée is the most common method of producing dry rosé wines in this country, in Provence, France, where 85 percent of total wine production is blush in color, they use the same concept but argue that since rosé is all they are making, their entire mindset is focused on decisions that will produce a better blush wine. Techniques like night harvesting and macerating at lower temperatures are some of the most recent methods employed to produce a blush wine with the maximum extraction of flavor while maintaining the light color and fresh, vibrant character of the wine.
Personally, I have consumed blush wines made by all of the above methods and found great examples of each. Besides, as stated previously, this is a wine that evokes a more laissez-faire attitude, so let’s not get caught up arguing about how it is made! J’en ai ras le bol!
Chef Elaine’s recipes for eggplant would be great accompanied with rosé wine, so be inspired to get out and explore the world of dry rosé wine. This is the best time of year to find the most selection and the adventure will surly be rewarding.