Sunny weather brings to mind a glass of crisp, dry rosé—usually something from Provence that’s melon-scented and utterly captivating. I must admit, though, I used to be a bit of a rosé hater, dismissing the entire category as sweet-ish, innocuous, and forgettable juice not suited for the serious wine drinker. Boy was I wrong.
There is an entire world of rosé wines out there that completely defies the stereotype that rosé has come to represent. And by that I mean: men, you’re officially allowed (and even encouraged) to drink rosé. Contrary to popular belief, pink wines are not only intended to be drunk by women who don’t know any better, and they extend way beyond the embarrassingly prevalent white Zinfandel.
The pink, or shall we say salmon-colored, wines I’m talking about are bone dry, serious quaffs brimming with all the good stuff people typically look for in reds: bright acidity, detectable minerality, solid structure, and fresh fruit.
Perhaps the most compelling thing about dry rosés is their versatility with food. You’d be hard pressed to find many wines that pair just as well with a roasted rack of lamb as they do with a bowl of salted pistachios or a plate of seared scallops. Rosé is the perfect bridge wine, a go-to option for group dinners at restaurants where everyone inevitably has something different on their plate.
How is rosé actually made?
This is a question I get asked all the time. Rosés are not, or rather, should not, be a blend of white and red wines, and if anyone makes rosé this way, toss it into the trash!
Good rosés are made in one of two ways, either using the saignée method, which I’ll get into in just a moment, or by macerating red grapes on their skins (the source of a wine’s color and some of its tannins) until just enough pigment has been extracted to turn the juice a light shade of pink or coral. The skins are then removed and the wine undergoes fermentation.
Saignée, which means “to bleed” in French, is a traditional method in which a portion of the juice pressed from red grapes—still pink at this point—is “bled off” and fermented separately as a rosé wine. The rest of the wine is left to macerate on the skins until all of the color has been extracted and the juice turns a deep shade of red. Rosé made using this technique is considered a byproduct of the primary red wine.
Where is rosé produced?
The spiritual home for rosé is Provence, in the south of France, although noteworthy examples hail from all over the country, including the Loire Valley, as well as from all over the world. In Provence, rosé is typically made from a blend of any of the following grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Syrah. Rosés from the Loire usually feature the local grapes Cabernet Franc and Pineau d’Aunis.
Spain produces a substantial amount of high quality dry rosé as well and most examples you’ll see are grown in Navarra and are based on Grenache, which goes by the name Garnacha in Spanish.
Rosé is also prolific in California and more and more examples are being made in a crisp, dry style as opposed to the sweeter “blush” wines.