One of life’s great pleasures in the early summer is a leisurely lunch with family or friends. The weather is perfect, the cuisine light and healthy and the wines refreshing and preferably pink. Lovely wines for summer days come in many shades but they are prettiest when pink. Why pink? Because pink wines, or rosé wines as we refer to them in the wine world, are fresh, flavorful, affordable and match beautifully with light summer luncheon dishes.
The onset of summer brings a bounty of fresh ingredients. Lunch dishes may include vibrant salads, seasonal seafood and just about anything you can throw on the grill. In harmony with your dishes, the wine you choose should be fresh and lively and not overly complicated or weighty. Rosé wines are ideal.
For a host of reasons rosé wines have been relatively hard sells in Shanghai and the rest of China. They don’t travel or store particularly well, easily losing their freshness and vivacity. Many consumers are also not familiar with the style. When I serve rosé wines at events a few participants are likely to come over and complain that the red wines are much too light. I explain to them that they are supposed to be this way.
There are several different methods to make rosé wines. Like reds, rosé wines get their color from the skins of dark colored grapes. Most still rose wines are made using the limited maceration process. Without getting caught up in technical wine lingo, all this really means is that the skins are left in contact with the fruit of the grapes for a limited period of several hours or a few days.
The longer this period of skin contact the darker the color. The specific variety also influences the color with Pinot Noir and Sangiovese grapes generally imbuing a lighter shade while Malbec and Syrah grapes make wines of a deeper color. Other popular red varieties commonly used to make rose wines are Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan, Cinsault, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France and Merlot.
In the world of dry rosé wines there are basically two major styles, lighter colored rosés as you’ll find in the south of France, particularly in Provence, and deeper colored rosados that come from Spain or South America. In fact, France and Spain are the two biggest rosé wine producers in the world. Italy, where the wines are called rosato, is the third largest producer.
Delicate French pink
The Provence style of rosé is more subtle and nuanced than Spanish and New World styles. The color ranges from pale peach to light pink and the aromas are less overtly fruity and more floral. Provence rose wines also commonly have a bracing acidity making them some of the freshest wines around and perfect companions to light summer lunch dishes. They are particularly nice with light salads, herb infused grilled fish and seafood soups.
Tavel rosés from the Southern Rhone of France are a bit more substantial with dark peach to medium pink colors, lively red fruit aromas and restrained fruit flavors. These intense wines go particularly well with barbecue meals where seafood and white meats are served with garden fresh salads.
The best region for bargain rosés is Languedoc in southwest France.
Bold Spanish pink
Spanish rosados are commonly made from the indigenous Spanish Grenacha or Tempranillo varieties though Monestrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre grapes are also used. These wines are hearty beasts indeed with aromas and flavors that include strawberry, red current and fresh cherries often with smoky and tannic qualities. This bolder style of rosé goes well with seafood and white meats and also red meats. Recommended rosados from Spain include the Marques de Riscal Rosado and Marques de la Cruz Grenacha Rosado.
Spanish style rosé wines don’t only come from Spain, they are also found in Chile and Argentina. True to their Spanish roots these robust wines feature deep tones and vigorous red fruit flavors. They pair particularly well with summer lunches that are more liberally spiced or meat centric. Two Chilean picks are the Miguel Torres Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from the Central Valley and the Chocolan Rosé Seleccion from Maipo Valley. The later wine might just be the best value rosé available in Shanghai.
I’d surely be remiss if when covering this subject I didn’t mention sparkling wines. Pink bubbles are among the loveliest companions to summer luncheon fare. Champagne always comes to mind whenever we think of bubbles but rosé Champagne wines are prohibitively expensive and busting your budget at a causal lunch is bad form. Luckily there are other charming pink sparkling options.
Spanish CAVA rose sparklers are among the most affordable traditional method sparkling wines. Two Cava rosés well worth trying are the Freixenet Rosado Brut and Castell de Vilanau Rosado. Both wines offer lively red fruit aromas and stimulating fresh strawberry and red berry flavors with zesty, fresh finishes. These Cavas go well with many foods and are particularly good with Spanish style tapas and seafood, chicken and rabbit paella.
Many Prosecco producers also make rosé wines. They can’t be called Prosecco because they’re not made with the white wine grape Glera. My pick here would be La Tordera Rose Cuvee di Gabry Extra Dry. It’s a delightfully feminine wine.
Rosé wine highlighted features
1 Like reds, rosé wines get their color from the skins of dark colored grapes.
2 France and Spain are the two largest producers of rosé wine in the world. Italy, where the wines are called rosato, is the third largest producer
3 Spanish style rosé wines don’t only come from Spain, they are also found in Chile and Argentina.
4 Pink bubbles are among the loveliest companions to summer luncheon fare.
Where to buy in Shanghai
Address: 88-A, Wuyuan Rd (137-6116-1567, Neil) Chateau La Tour de Bernard Fleur d'Eglantine Galets Rosé Chocolan Rosé
Address: 200 Taizhou Rd (3208-0293) The Miguel Torres Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé