Friday, February 21, 2014

The Pink Stuff

Is it white wine? Or is it red wine you serve chilled? Actually its a wine type all on its own. Rosé can range in colour from light copper to a beautiful deep magenta. It seems these days now almost every label has a Rosé in their portfolio, and you can usually find at least one option of Rosé on most wine lists. The hype behind this wine type has grown momentously over the last decade, and with good reason. You get the light fresh crispness of a white wine, with the intense fruit flavours and complexities of a red wine all in one bottle. Its like getting your cake and eating it too! Rosé goes by the name Rosato in Italy, Rosado in Portugal and Spain, and in English speaking countries it is sometimes called blush wine. There is sparkling Rosé, it can be bone dry, and can even be sweet. Rest assured you will find a pretty in pink partner. 

There are many ways to make Rosé, here are a few of the more frequently seen as well as the ones to avoid. The skin contact method sometimes called the maceration method, which is the most commonly used to make Rosé, does exactly what the name suggests. The must (unfermented grape juice) is left in contact with the grape skins to extract the colour from the skins. This usually only lasts a few hours to a day, and then the skins are discarded to avoid too much colouration. Whereas in red wine the skins are left with the must for several days, sometimes even weeks. Hence the darker colour. The Saignée Method, translated means the bleeding method is the process primarily meant to enhance the tannins and colour of a red wine. It is achieved by bleeding out some of the light pink juice during the pressing of the grapes creating a more intense red wine. That pink juice can then be taken and fermented on its own creating Rosé. This is the method used to make most Rosé Champagne. Vin gris, produces a very light pink wine although it is not grey as the name Vin Gris suggests. It is achieved by simply lightly pressing red grapes, there is no skin contact the only colour is what comes from the press, which is why it is so light in colour. This method is not often used but regions of Morrocco have gotten some traction using it, as has the French region of Lorraine pressed up against the Northern German border, where the Rosé is known as Vin Gris. Blending and decolourization can both be used to achieve a pink wine but neither are respected as methods of quality production. Blending a red and white wine together will achieve a Rosé, but the French disregard this method so much it is illegal, except for in Champagne where blending is a part of the history, yet most high end producers rely on the Saignée method to achieve their bubbly Rosés. Decolourization is done by adding an absorbent charcoal to a red wine. The charcoal absorbs the colour of the wine leaving behind a rosé, but many feel it absorbs the character of the wine along with the colour which is why is it rarely used to produce rosé. 

The popularity of Rosé seems like a modern trend but in actuality Rosés have been popular since the beginning. The red wines of the ancient Greeks and Romans were actually closer to a Rosé, as the winemaking methods used to make modern red wine were felt to leave the wine too harsh. Most red wines were left in contact with the skins for a short period of time leaving the wine very light in colour. Even the early Bordeaux clarets were much lighter in colour than they are today. Often times the wine was left in contact with the grape skins for only 1 day. Then after WWII Portugal released a sweet semi sparkling Rosé called Mateus and Lancers that went on to break sales records. It is still made today but in a drier style to meet popular demand. Then in the 70's when the demand for white wine exceeded that of red, winemakers began making white wine from red grapes by using the Saignée method. One batch failed to complete fermentation leaving the wine still pink and with a higher sugar content. The winemaker Bob Trinchero put it aside, but then tasted it a few weeks later and decided to release it. Sutter Home was the first to release the most poplar rosé wine to date; the White Zinfandel. This wine is the third most popular varietal in the U.S. and outsells regular red Zinfandel. 

Most critics agree that the best Rosés like most of the great wines in the world originate from France. The Provence region in the Southern Part of France is particularly well known for a dry light style with zesty rhubarb aromas. The grapes they use to make their rosés are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Tibouren, But Grenache and Mourvedre play the most dominant parts typically. The Southern Rhône Region of Tavel is also noted for great Rosé although it is has a bit more body and has a spicy berry aroma. Tavel rosé uses similar grapes to those from Provence Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah, Mourvédre, as well as Picpoul, and Bourbelanc. Although these are the two best known Rosé regions of France there are many others that produce Rosé. The Loire makes a Rosé from Cabernet Franc. Bordeaux uses their classic grape varieties to make a Rosé, and of course everyone loves a pink Champagne. But France is far from the only place in the world to make pink wine. These days is seems every wine label from every corner of the globe has a pink wine, and every red grape variety has been tried as a Rosé.  With this many options it is hard to choose, but if you like the variety as a red wine you most likely will enjoy it as a rosé. With all these options it can be difficult to choose, but follow these general guidelines to aid you on your quest for a great bottle of Rosé. The lighter in colour the more likely it is a dry zesty style. The darker the colour, the more likely it is a off-dry style with strawberry aromas. 

Rosé wine is very food friendly, and with all the different styles available you can easily find a rosé wine for each one of your favourite dishes. For lighter drier style Rosés like those from Provence match it up with salads, seafood, and pastas, they are noted for being great with garlic based dishes. Light but slightly sweet style rosé, like the Portugese Mateus is great with asian dishes like mild curry. The ever popular White Zinfandel is great with spicier dishes. While full bodied rosés like those from the Southern Rhône and Cabernet or Merlot based Rosés can be great with barbecue dishes, or any meat based dish, like lamb or duck.  The styles of Rosé are a plenty as are the pairing options, so there is nothing to stop you from enjoying a rosé with dinner every night of the week. 

Rosé should it be served at the same temperature as white wine. Lighter in colour rosé wines should be served between 4º to 10º Celsius (40º to 50º F). While fuller darker rosé wines should be served between 10º to 15ºC (50º to 60ºF). The same goes for glass selection.  Feel free to use the classic white wine glass for a rosé, however you can find specific rosé glasses they tend to have a shorter bowl than red and white wine glasses. Look for a slightly curved design that flares out a little at the lip. This allows the wine's sweetness to be enhanced as the lip directs the wine right onto the part of your palate that experiences sweet. 

Rosé wine follows the same rules as white and red wine once it has been opened. Store it in the refrigerator with a tightly sealed cap. A higher sugar content means a longer life, and higher quality rosé also means a longer life. A week is the average amount of time before a rosé will start to taste off. But as with all wine don't forget to take into consideration the air pocket in the bottle.  A wine with only a few inches left in the bottle will turn much faster than a wine with just the neck gone. Weigh out all these factors to determine how long a bottle of rosé will last once it is opened. 

Almost all Rosé is meant to be consumed within the first 2 years after production, and gains nothing from being aged. However like all wine rules there is always an exception. Some producers in Spain have taken to placing rosé wine in oak barrels, and thus extending the longevity and complexity of the pink wines. Remember though this is a very rare exception, and 99% of rosé is meant to be consumed as young as possible. Therefore drink that Rosé up, the only waiting you have to do is for the fridge to help it reach the ideal drinking temperature.

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