A Love Letter to Rosé

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We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone. 

Today: In defense of rosé -- a love letter to wine's most misunderstood (and underrated) shade. 

My heart goes out to rosé. 

It’s misunderstood, and stereotyped, and -- worst of all -- it's regarded almost as an afterthought. There’s red, there’s white, there are sparkling wines, and then way off in the corner there’s rosé.

Confession: I used to do that too. I’m not proud of it. 

Setting the Record Straight
I used to be a fair-weather friend of rosé. I used to think of it as a sunny-day wine that you sipped out on the back porch or away on a picnic or, if you live where it’s warm year-round, as the kind of thing you buy by the half-case.

But a few years ago someone handed me wine in a black glass, so that I couldn’t see the shade of what was inside. I took a sip and was convinced it was a high-quality, lighter-bodied red wine, but it turned out to be rosé from Provence, France, whose wines are often thought of as the standard-bearer -- no matter the weather or time of year. It was a tide-turner in my relationship with rosé. Now, whenever people are looking for a similar eye-opening experience, I point them toward Domaine Tempier, whose rosés have been praised by critic Robert Parker as the greatest in the world.

The sunny-day occasions are, I still believe, perfectly ripe for rosé wines, but so are many more -- like tomorrow, for one. (And while you're at it, today, too.) Look for Mulderbosch wines, from a winery in South Africa that lightens up Cabernet Sauvignon with a rosé full of zesty, vibrant fruits. For a sparkling wine alternative that’s also budget-friendly, try Franciacorta rosé from Berlucchi estate in Italy, which is made in the same method as Champagne from France.

More: Speaking of, here are Cathy's picks for festive wines. Stock up for Valentine's Day. 

I also used to think of rosé wines as in limbo, hovering unsteadily between red and white. I’ve since learned the different, intentional methods for creating rosé wines, from grape skin contact to blending, or saignée (French for “bleeding”). Or there's the expression of Vin gris, where red grapes are pressed immediately without any maceration time. It’s popular in France but used domestically as well, as in Robert Sinskey’s Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, made from organic and biodynamically-produced grapes in Carneros, California.

Some perceptions of rosé wine deem it inferior to white wine or red wine, but good rosé follows the standard of the best reds and whites, such as undergoing a ten-year aging processes before it's released to the public. Maximilian Kast, the wine director at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, says he's “hard-pressed to find a more intriguing and complex wine than the Gran Reserva from R. López de Heredia,” from the Rioja region of Spain. The current release -- that is, the one that’s available for purchase right now -- is more than ten years old. Let’s be clear: it’s real wine, taken very seriously.

Rosé may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that's ok; but you should give it a try. It has an awful lot to offer. 

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: Rosé, Wine, Tips & Techniques