Best summer quenchers: Fresh, flavorful rose wines
By John H. Isacs
GREAT summer wines come in many colors but they are prettiest in pink. The oppressive heat of Shanghai summer has already assaulted us so it's time to go pink, or as we say in the wine world, rosé.
Why are rosé wines the perfect summer quenchers? Because they are fresh, flavorful, affordable and go exceedingly well with our most beloved summer foods.
Traditionally, rosé wines have been hard sells in Shanghai and the rest of China. The latest statistics from local authorities and international trade offices indicate the market for rosé wines in China is rapidly developing.
The main catalysts of this new trend are the increasingly assertive young female professionals who prefer fresher, more delicate wines. Their more discerning palates understand that a big, tannic red is hardly the ideal summer wine.
Rosé vs rosado
There are several different methods to make rosé wines. Like reds, rosé wines get their color from the skins of dark-colored grapes. The amount of time the skin and juice of the grapes stay in contact in the winemaking process dictates whether a wine is rosé or red. Skin contact time for rosé wines is shorter than it is for red wines, therefore the color is lighter and the wines have a more lively, fruity taste with less tannins.
Like other wines, rosés can be made from a single variety or a blend of varieties. The choice of varieties will also influence the color, aromas and taste sensations of the wine.
In the world of dry rosé wines, there are two major styles, lighter-colored rosés as you'll find in France, particularly in Provence, and deeper-colored rosados that predominantly originate from Spain. In fact, France and Spain are the two largest producers of rosé wine in the world.
The color spectrum of Provence rosés ranges from pale peach to light pink while the colors of rosados vary from vivid hot pink to light ruby red. Tavel rosés from the southern Rhone are somewhere in between, with light colors but bold flavors. Which style is best? Quite frankly, I love them all.
Typically, Provence and Languedoc rosés are made from a blend of two or more varieties of Grenache, Carignan, Cinsaut, Mourvedre and Syrah, and are bracingly dry with resplendent aromas and flavors of yellow and red fruit with plenty of herbaceous and floral qualities.
Some consider Provence rosés the ultimate expressions of rosé wines. Available in Shanghai, the Domaines Ott Les Domaniers Rosé is a classic Provence rosé offering all the delicate fruity and lively floral qualities that lovers of Provence rosés adore.
One quite reasonably priced rosé from this region is the Skalli Cotes de Provence Rosé. Other recommended budget-worthy rosés from France include Jaboulet Cotes du Rhone Parallel 45 Rosé and Skalli Grenache Gris Rosé from Languedoc. Two gems from the southern Rhone that cost slightly more are the Jaboulet Travel Les Trois Espiegles and Guigal Travel.
Spanish rosados are usually made from Grenacha or Temrpanillo grapes though Monestrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre grapes are also used. Common aromas and flavors include strawberry, red currant and fresh cherries, often with a very light smoky, tannic finish. Recommended rosados from Spain include the Marques de Riscal Rosado and Marques de la Cruz Grenacha Rosado.
Of course, rosé wines are not limited to France and Spain. There are some wonderful New World rosés. Two of my favorites are the Te Mania Pinot Noir Rosé from Nelson Bay, New Zealand, and the Chocolan Rosé from Chile. The latter wine is a blend of Syrah and Petit Verdot and might just be the best value rosé available Shanghai. A terrific wine at a terrific price!
In a wine lover's life, there's always time for bubbles. Some of the best Champagnes and sparkling wines are rosé. While less than five percent of total production in Champagne is rosé wines, they are among the most prized and expensive wines in the world.
Rosé Champagnes are sure to cost you a pretty penny but a trio that truly merits their lofty prices includes Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, Bollinger Rosé and Ayala Rosé Majeur. For a less expensive but seriously good French rosé bubbly experience, try the Antech Cuvee Emotion Rosé from Languedoc.
Additional rosé sparklers that offer excellent price/value ratios are Spanish CAVAs and New World sparklers. In fact, CAVA and New World sparklers offer a combination of quality and affordability that make them the perfect daily summer thirst quenchers. These affordable Spanish luxuries include the dry, aromatic and flavorful Freixenet Rosado Brut and the slightly sweeter Pere Ventura Primer Semi Sec Rosé Cava.
From Italy, I also highly recommend the Italian Montenisa Brut Rosé Spumante Franciacorta DOCG, a champagne-method sparkler from the eastern part of Lombardy.
The fresh and vibrant character of rosé wines make them lovely companions to the dishes we savor in the summer heat.
The lighter Provence style rosés pair beautifully with soups, salads, raw and cooked seafood, pasta, pizza and white meats. A classic match is a good Provence rosé with a hearty bowl of Marseilles-style bouillabaisse.
Rosado style wines are bolder and therefore can be paired with stronger foods. While I might hesitate to pair a Provence style rosé with red meat, I would have no qualms doing so with a rosado.
Indeed, the heartier style of these wines make them ideal partners to everything from salads, seafood, cold meats and, of course, tapas and paella to grilled white and red meats. They also partner well with heavily flavored and spiced fare, including Indian and Thai dishes. Rosados are also perfect wines to enjoy with summer surf and turf dishes.
Rosé sparklers are also quite versatile, pairing well with everything from elegant canapés, seafood, pastas to white and even red meats. One of my favorite epicurean combinations is a top champagne-method rosé sparkler with steak tartar.
There are some important basic rules to remember when buying and enjoying rosé wines. Rosé wines generally do not improve with bottle aging and lose their vibrancy and delicate aromas and flavors quite quickly so purchase the latest vintage available. Rosé is all about freshness, so buy and drink young.
A second rule to observe is to serve rosé wines well chilled. The ideal serving temperature for rosés is between 6 to 8 degrees Celsius. After serving, the temperature of the wine will rather quickly ascend, especially when enjoyed outside in the summer heat, so it's better to serve them on the cold side. Cooler rosés retain their special mouth-watering zing, while warmer rosés taste flat.