A rosé is a rose but a rosé but a rose. I couldn’t help but make up this variation of a line in Gertrude Stein’s 1913 famous poem “Sacred Emily” when standing in front of the seasonal rosé wine selections in Whole Foods grocery store in Napa.
Rosé wines are pink and pale, fun and flirty. They are juicy and joyful, anything but serious. Descriptions about rosé wines can go on and on, but they are not about complexity or nuances, only sheer deliciousness and pleasure.
Provence in France is the home of rosé and the wines here are a promise of the “Provençal lifestyle,” a soft pinkish dream.
Having said that, if you consider rosé a girly drink, you’re missing the point. Sure the lovely shades of pink are irresistible to most ladies, but it can also be a man’s drink, a smart man’s drink.
If you still have doubts, know that Tavel rosé wines from the Rhone Valley in France were said to be the favorite beverage of author Ernest Hemingway. Imagine when he wrote “The Old Man and the Sea,” perhaps he was drinking rosé wines and not a peaty Scotch or a bloody Syrah.
There are three main ways to make Rosé. To explain the process, first you need to understand that the color in wine comes from the skins of grapes. Most red wine grapes have clear juice, just like the red table grapes (the grapes you snack on) in the grocery store, with only the exception of Teinturier varieties, which also contain color in the fruit.
To make a red wine, whole grapes are used. The skins are macerated with the juice to give it the red color. The thickness of the skin and contact time contribute to the various hues. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand that white wine can be produced from red grapes by quickly pressing red grapes and separating the juice from the skin. If the juice is kept in contact with the skins for a short time, a rosé wine is produced. The darker the pink wine the longer the skins have been in contact with the juice.
Another way of making rosé is mixing white and red wines. Since the two grapes are fermented separately without much consideration of the end product, they can taste quite different from the rosé wines made with the more authentic method mentioned above.
Another technique to make rosé wines is saignee, a French word meaning “bleed.” This method is used in order to get a more deeply concentrated red wine by removing, or “bleeding off” some of the juice. The excess juice can be used to make a rosé. However, some wine professionals and true rosé lovers believe it leads to inferior wines because producers basically use the leftover juice to make quick extra cash, not a “true rosé wine.”
The consumption of rosé wines has been growing rapidly around the world in recent years. Even though Provence is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of rosé, pink wines are now produced in many wine-growing regions around the world, with all kinds of grape varieties being used.
Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes are usually used to make this salmon pink, fresh, dry style of rosé in Provence. Look for aromas of strawberry, watermelon, rose petals and a salty minerality. It is delicious with Provencal seafood dishes, seasoned with local olive oil, garlic, herbs and spices.
Sangiovese grapes in Italy make some wonderful rosé wines, as do Tempranillo grapes in Spain, especially the Rioja region. American rosés are usually made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Franc.
The most talked about rosé wine in recent years is probably from Chateau Miraval in Provence. Now owned by the Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Their signature wine is a pale pink Provencal rosé made from Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Rolle grapes. The wine has delicate raspberry, peach and floral notes with a little ocean saltiness on the palate. It’s bright and refreshing, and good for the price, which is sold at 338 yuan locally (may change according to availability) on yesmywine.com.
Rosé wines are very versatile when it comes to food and wine pairings. Anything you usually pair with white wine goes wonderfully with a rosé. Grilled and spicy dishes also go amazingly well with most rosé wines. Don’t worry about rosé wines being overpowered by strong flavors in food — they usually have a bold fruitiness and substantial body.
Everything from mild and delicate sushi and spicy Thai to gourmet French and juicy burgers, there’s always a rosé wine that will pair well with your meal.