Rosés of the world unite!
It can range from the palest pink to a beautiful soft coral to cherry, perhaps with a hue of tangerine or grapefruit. The colour of rosé is the wine’s most romantic, most poetic attribute: it’s been variously described as œil de perdrix (“the partridge’s eye”), vin gris (“grey wine”), blush, Weissherbst (“white harvest”) as well as pelure d’oignon (“onion skin”).
So it stands to reason then that calling rosé “pink” (rose in French) was just too undignified. The French needed a name more suited to the wine’s delicate nature and beautiful colour. Rosé rolls off the tongue with more elegance and finesse than rose. It’s the French word for “rose-coloured” … and it’s probably no coincidence that the French word for “watered” sounds so close: arosé.
Rosé is not regarded as a vintage wine or a vin de garde (not unlike Beaujolais Nouveau, for instance, which is enjoyed in the restaurants of Lyon and Paris, raced there by helicopter to get to anxious and thirsty French drinkers). Rather, it is intended as an uncomplicated alternative to red wine: a refreshing dry wine to be enjoyed during lunch on a hot summer’s day …
Good-quality rosés are produced by allowing the red-grape skins, just after the crushing of the grapes, to remain in contact with the juice of the grapes for a short period. This draws a thin veil of colour from the skins, just enough to create the eventual pink hue of the rosé. The skins and juice are then separated by draining, and the juice is made into rosé in the same manner as white wine is made.
A good rosé will have a natural balance of acidity and fruit and a refreshingly crisp finish; this makes it an excellent food wine. Best served chilled, it’s a great companion to grilled or cold meat, a summer pasta salad, and any shrimp, scallop or crab dish. Try it as well with chicken (either barbecued or in a salad) or grilled or pan-seared halibut or salmon.
When was the last time you heard someone say, “Let’s have a glass of rosé with dinner”? It doesn’t happen often enough. The truth is, rosé is more than an all-purpose summer wine. It’s a Mediterranean tradition. Rosato in Italy or rosado in Spain, the beautiful pink wines of the Loire and Rhône valleys and the south of France are classic dry, freshly fruity and crisp wines. Serve chilled, these summer sippers are refreshing and incredibly versatile: good by the grill on a hot summer’s day, excellent during an amber sunset, positively refreshing by the pool on a lazy afternoon. Because rosé tends to be a delicate kind of wine, North Americans can find themselves disappointed by the inherent dry and light qualities of European rosé. New World rosé, on the other hand, tends to be more fruit-forward, simple and often more sweet.
South of France
Light, fruity and pink rosés like the Fortant White Merlot ($9.80) or Roland Bouchacourt’s Côtes de Provence 2006 ($10.45) are simple, easy to drink, cheap and should be enjoyed French-style — in full, gulping swallows.
In the Loire valley, rosé is light, soft and slightly sweeter than in Provence or the Languedoc-Roussillon. It’s perfect for a spring lunch featuring chicken or veal. Here the Rosé d’Anjou by Rémy Pannier ($10.05) is the wine of choice. There are two kinds of Anjou rosé, the “lowbrow” one and the more “highbrow” Cabernet d’Anjou, made from the black Cabernet grape typical of Bordeaux. The Cabernet rosé is usually less sweet than the Anjou and more aromatic. It’s typically served with a salade niçoise.
While rosé is traditionally enjoyed throughout the hot summer, there’s no reason it can’t be cracked into in the spring, if the weather in your province cooperates. As a traditional thirst-quencher, it is guaranteed to be the most refreshing liquid you’ll serve on your patio. Try a Portuguese rosé like the Casal Mendes from Aliancia ($7.75). It’s a softer peonies-coloured pink with titillating bubbles and fresh strawberry, tangerine and grapefruit flavours with a hint of ginger. I love the taste of a cold frosted glass of this dry rosé with a simple evening meal.
Portuguese rosé often reminds me of its neighbour, Spanish rosado. I love the light strawberry, lemony dance of the Marques de Caceres Rosado from Rioja ($11.95). Unfortunately, rosé is often a forgotten specialty in Spain, overshadowed by its powerful white and oaked red siblings.
Italian rosatos, which tend to drink more like light reds, can have more obvious character than some of the French rosés. Take the Lamberti Bardolino Chiaretto Classico ($10.65) — it’s a deep-pink blend of Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and Sangiovese with hues of red cherry, typical of the northern hills around Lake Garda. The taste is wonderful; a delicate fruitiness balanced with a hint of thyme, some mineral notes and a backbone of acidity that carry the flavours in a most elegant way. A little further south, in Tuscany, is the great Rosato di Castiglioni 2006 ($13.95) from Frescobaldi. Though its nose is quite straightforward, crisp, clean flavours of strawberry and dark cherry are woven through a hint of violet with a fleeting kiss of cinnamon on the lingering finish. A beautiful choice for the cottage.
Dry Chilean rosés offer fresh-fruit flavours of strawberries and cherries with hints of ruby-red grapefruit and savoury spice like thyme. From the Maipo Valley, a blend of Syrah and Petit Verdot free-run juice is harnessed into the Viña Chocalan Rosé 2006 ($12.45), a beautiful, typical wine that would be a perfect chilled accompaniment to some Chilean empanadas, the staple snack-size turnover filled with shellfish or meat.
Of late, Australian rosé is trendy. Banrock Station White Shiraz ($11.05) has tons of ripe strawberry and banana that play on an off-dry body and a full, fruity finish. Most Australian rosés tend to have flavours of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and plum with some spice lingering on a sweet body; they’re all best served young. Why not try the Angoves Nine Vines Rosé 2006 ($11.95), a blend of Grenache and Shiraz from southern Australia?
As spring evenings become longer and the backyard patio becomes more inviting, sip away a warm, dusky night with a chilled glass of rosé. Of course, a lovely way to enjoy a wine is by keeping things local. For that reason, I’m including a list of Canadian selections.
Calona Vineyards Blush 2005, Okanagan Valley ($9.90)
Sumac Ridge Cellar Selection Okanagan Blush 2005, Okanagan Valley ($10.95)
Arrowleaf Cellars Red Feather 2005, Okanagan Valley ($13)
Thornhaven Estates Winery Divino 2005, Okanagan Valley ($13)
Lake Breeze Vineyards Blanc de Noir 2006, Okanagan Valley ($13.90)
St. Hubertus Estate Winery Gamay Noir Rosé 2006, Okanagan Valley ($13.99)
Gray Monk Rotberger 2005, Okanagan Valley ($14.99)
Birchwood Salmon River First Blush 2005, Niagara Peninsula ($9.95)
Reif Rosé 2005, Niagara Peninsula ($9.95)
By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery and Vineyard Rosé 2004, Prince Edward County ($10.50)
EastDell Summer Rosé 2005, Niagara Peninsula ($10.95)
Cave Spring Rosé 2004, Niagara Peninsula ($11.95)
Henry of Pelham Dry Rosé 2005, Niagara Peninsula ($11.95)
Konzelmann Pinot Noir Rosé 2002, Niagara Peninsula ($11.95)
Niagara College Teaching Winery Blanc de Noir 2004, Niagara Peninsula ($11.95)
Pillitteri Estates Winery Merlot Bianco 2004, Niagara Peninsula ($12)
Château des Charmes Cuvée d’Andrée Rosé, 2005, Niagara Peninsula ($12.95)
The Grange of Prince Edward Trumpour’s Mill Rosé 2006, Prince Edward County ($12.95)
Waupoos Winery Rosé 2004, Prince Edward County ($12.95)
Huff Estates Rosé 2006, Prince Edward County ($14.95)