Women + Wine: Rosé all day!
As wine lovers embrace spring and head out for picnics, rosé wines are likely on the must-have list. But this form of vino is not a trend or a seasonal treat in our minds – every season is rosé season! This month, we’ll break down what rosé wine is, dispel some myths, and show you how to fit rosé into your wine rotation.
A little history
VinoTeca opened in 2015 when rosé was rapidly gaining popularity and although its pretty pink hue was on the radar of wine connoisseurs, we were thrilled to be able to help bring it to our customers.
American palates were a little behind, as rosé wine dates back to the Greeks when clear, less harsh wines were favored. As the Phoenicians and Romans moved into southern France, particularly Marseille, they began to export their unique Mediterranean styles as a benchmark.
This is true today as Provence is still a hub for rosé and Marseille remains the largest city in this region indebted to these wine traditions. In the 19th century, French tourists began flocking to this area to sit in a cafe overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and sip rosé. It has become a symbol of luxury and leisure.
In other countries, rosé also has a rich tradition. In Spain, there are records of rosado dating back to the 1800s in Rioja and Navarro, when producers used Garnacha and Tempranillo to make bright, complex Bordeaux.
The history of Italian rosato has an American connection when troops stationed in the liberated south during World War II wanted wines like those they had tried in Provence. General Charles Poletti approached the Leone de Castris family to make a wine named Five Roses which they bottled in mismatched beer bottles and sold to the troops.
The modern American palate was primarily influenced by the Portuguese through a wine popularized in the 1970s called Mateus – a semi-sweet rosé wine that sold nearly 20 million cases in 1974. This began our history of with wine blush. Sutter Home White Zinfandel winemaker Bob Trinchero allowed the ripe red grapes to ferment only slightly, producing the sweeter style that became popular throughout the 1980s and early 90s. After the millennium, clever sommiers and discerning wine drinkers began to promote Old World wines, and the rosé industry began to flourish. Now, it seems like every producer makes some form of rosé wine.
What is rosé?
But what exactly is rosé? A common misnomer is that white wine is simply mixed with red wine, but this is frowned upon in winemaking. Rosé is created through traditional winemaking but with minimal skin contact with the red grapes.
During vinification, the grapes are pressed and the juice extracted from them is usually clear. To give a color to the wines, the skins of the grapes are macerated on their juice. The longer this maceration, the darker the wine and vice versa. Rosé can be created from any red grape, but instead of long exposure to the skin, the juice only has a few hours to days of contact, producing many shades of pink.
Another procedure for producing rosé is a method called saignée or “bleeding”. This style involves putting the juice in a vat with the skins and seeds. After a short time (again, hours to days), some of this juice is removed or bled and the rest continues to make red wine. The bleeding juice is then fermented and vinified in rosé. Wines like Tavel de France are made in this style.
Rosé has been integrated into global wine culture and should be used for more than just a summer sip. As discussed, rosé is simply red wine with light skin contact. The mistaken belief that most rosé wines are more like the white zins our grandmothers drank is still widely held.
The shade of wine has also become controversial: a darker color somehow leads to sweetness, but that’s totally wrong. Simply put, more skin contact means more color, not sugar content, which comes from the amount of sugar in the grape, or better yet, its ripeness. Most rosés are dry. A darker rosé really means more tannin, more complexity and more body.
The spectrum of colors produced depends a lot on the grape variety used. Tempranillo tends to produce a brighter, deeper pink with hints of strawberries and melon and hints of spice. While Grenache and Syrah (typical varietals of Provence) have a paler hue with flavors of grapefruit, watermelon and herbs. The different shades of pink are endless.
When buying rosé, as with any wine, what you do with the wine is at the forefront of the decisions. To relax in the park or sit by the pool, consider one of the traditional styles of dry Provence, not just something from the region, but maybe a Côtes-du-Rhône or even something from Slovenia. For dinner, this style also pairs well with seafood, Mediterranean dishes, or goat cheese. Oregon pinot noir rosé can pair well with roast chicken, but really shines at Thanksgiving. A dark rosé like those from Tavel, France, resists a bone-in pork chop or duck confit, something heartier with a bit of fat.
The only downside to this famous style of wine is that it is often limited. Rosé wines are released in the spring and are often sold out by mid-summer. They often represent the smallest portion of a winery’s production, and these wines tend to have limited aging potential (with some exceptions.) When you find your favorites, take advantage of checkout discounts to stock up, because every season is rosé season.
Katie’s Wine Picking
2021 Ameztoi ‘Rubentis’ from Txakolina, Spain
The Spanish Basque country overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is known for its fresh, almost salty wines. Ameztoi was the first winery to produce rosé wine from the Hondorrabi Beltza and Hondrrabi Zuri grape varieties. This limited wine is light and almost effervescent with strawberry and citrus notes with a hint of mint. Pairs perfectly with fresh shrimp and crab.
Sarah’s Wine Picking
2020 Thibaud Boudignon Rosé from Loire, France
This predominantly Cabernet Franc rosé expresses itself very differently from a classic Provençal rosé. Bright, mineral with notes of red fruit, citrus and white pepper. Enjoy this wine as an aperitif or bring it to the boil and amaze all your friends! Boudignon Rosé de Loire is EXTREMELY limited due to very low production, so be sure to buy a bottle in early summer when it hits the wine retail shops.