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There are those things we eat, make, read, and gush over that are just too good to keep to ourselves. Here, we resist the urge to use too many exclamation points and let you in on our latest crushes.
Today: Last month, Jorge Riera, the sommelier at Contra in Manhattan, introduced me to dark rosé—and I fell hard.
I realize this may not be a popular opinion, but for me, rosés have been stuck in limbo between their more interesting red and white cousins. I'd drink them when it was warm out and I was outside, preferably on a beach, as a sweeter alternative to beer. But each chilled glass blended into the next, and eventually I passed on another grapefruit-hued glass in favor of richer, louder grapes like Chenin Blanc or Tempranillo. But then, on a chilly day—the sort of day when I would never drink rosé—I learned my lesson: There's more to rosé than meets the eye.
I learned my lesson when Jorge Riera, Contra's sommelier, paired a dark wine (what I assumed was a red) with a rich pork custard. (Yes, pork custard, but that's another story.) But he introduced the glass as a rosé from Panevino in Sardegna, Italy. The almost-purple wine bore little resemblance to the pink bottles I'd come to know—and I loved it.
When I called Jorgé a few days later with a list of questions around my rosé epiphany, he answered each graciously—and quickly. If Jorge's talking speed is any indication of his passion for wine, then wine must be his great love. I rapidly scribbled down the wineries he listed off, butting in with questions and sacrificing spelling. (While I was able to later decode most of the wineries he mentioned, I'm afraid that I have no idea what "codedivioplakdf" is supposed to be.)
Dark rosés, unlike this recognizeable light shade, often ressemble light red wines, or even have a slightly purple hue.
He explained that rosé is often misunderstood: The only difference from red or white is its color, which is an indication of how long the wine has macerated. The maceration process is one of the primary production processes that differentiates red and white wines—it's a process in which the grape tannins and colors are soaked in wine must. The dark rosé that I had tried, while not macerated long enough to be distinguished as a red wine, had undergone a longer maceration than the rosés I was used to. As a result, Jorge said, the wine he served is a "complex rosé that's heavier and goes well with food." In general, darker rosés tend to be dryer and have more character; they go from tasting like a highly acidic light wine to revealing more layers of spices than a light rosé.
He explained that the timing of my rosé epiphany isn't surprising. Alcohol regulation laws in the United States have recently become more lax so that wine distributors are able to ship previously regulated wines across state lines. So the domestic rosés considered to be summer drinks are now being supplemented by the darker, richer French and Italian rosés that are enjoyed year-round in Europe, including those from some of Jorge's favorite vineyards.
Many wine stores across the country have started carrying dark rosés, but if yours doesn't carry any yet, speak with the sales person at your local store—they may be inclined to order a case once they recognize that there's a demand for it. If you're lucky to run across one of the small producers Jorge works with, be sure to snag a bottle. Some of his favorites include Rosé d'un Jour by Mark Angeli in Anjou and a rosé from Les Trois Bonhommes in Loire, France, as well as a rosé from the Italian maker, Cantina Giardino, which Jorge describes as "practically a red wine." As for me? You'll find me on my fire escape, soaking up the sun and enjoying a bottle of Panevino en Rosé.
Do you have a favorite rosé? Tell us in the comments below!
The original article mislabeled Rosé d'un Jour as Rosé d'Anjour, and was corrected on July 15th.
Illustration by Lara Odell; photo by James Ransom