As the weather warms and our consumption of big reds slows, many wine drinkers look for lighter wines to enjoy. Take your taste buds out for a ride to enjoy the beauty and drinkability of a rosé.
Versatility is the name of the game for rosé. After reading Joy's recipe for chicken salad (you see it elswhere in this section), imagine yourself outside with a helping of her hearty salad, fresh fruit and a glass of chilled rosé.
Before you can choose your favorite type of rosé, we need to dispel that old stereotype that started back in the 1970s, when many people found that rosé was just an inexpensive sweet wine. There were a couple of brand names imported from Portugal that were leading the market in sales back then. At that time, Americans were just beginning to learn about wines, so wines like a sweet rosé, fruity Chianti, and German Liebfraumilch were leading the pack for low prices and preferred taste.
Today's wine drinkers, however, have developed a more sophisticated taste and though there is still a lot of sweet wine consumed, today's rosé is more versatile as it reaches beyond its old stereotype.
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To make a rosé, the winemaker must first squeeze the grapes to obtain the juice, which is clear or white. The winemaker then puts the skins of the crushed grapes into a vat with the juice to extract the color. To produce a rosé, the time of contact between the juice and grape skins must be limited - usually less than 24 hours. Depending on the type of grape used and the winemaker's goal, the color of a rosé can be a pale salmon color, a bright pink or a deep shade of light red.
White Zinfandel, the craze of the 1980s and 90s, is a good example of a rosé with a little sweetness. White Zinfandels are still number two in varietal wine sales, outsold only by Chardonnay.
French rosés are the leaders in the category. Areas that are most recognizable are Tavel, Cotes de Provence and Anjou. For $10 to $20, you can get a decent taste and quality level or a dry rosé.
There are several California wineries getting into the mix as well. Their rosé wines come in a variety of styles ranging from very dry to a touch of sweetness. Since winemaking laws do not require the juice to be fermented from red grapes, some lower price brands will simply combine a little red wine with a white to produce the rosé color, but many of these blends lack character.
For those who are looking at this category for the first time these dry, fruit-forward, light, yet balanced wines can provide some afternoon delight in a glass.
As the old saying goes: Look at a bottle of rosé through wine glasses (or something like that).