Rosé wine may be a Summer passion in Europe but in America, the dreaded “Pink Wine” is still a hot topic of disagreement amongst American wine lovers. In the Dog Days of a hot Summer like we are experiencing in Western Montana this year drinking one of The Many Shades And Styles Of Rosé Wine may be the next best thing to drinking Kool-Aid as a kid on a hot Summer day.
Wine is a journey and it has recently occurred to me in recent months that the way I view and share wine is very than my viewpoint in the past.
As grapes change with every new season so do the things I feel are important for me to share with you about wine. This is what I love most about wine, it is ever changing, it evolves and I can never know it all but with every sip, I try to keep pace with it.
Today on The Tasting Room I would like to share a few thoughts that I consider to be important in understanding wine. In decades past wines frequently emulated the most popular version of trendy or fashionable wine. For example, many wine lovers expected a Pinot Noir to be just like that from Burgundy or a Cabernet Sauvignon to always be similar to a Napa Valley Cabernet.
Today’s wineries and winemaker from around the world are trying to craft their wines in a manner to express the truth of their vineyards or what the French refer to as Terroir, or translated, a sense of place.
The sense of place encompasses weather, elevation, slope location, surrounding biodynamic environment, grapevine strain a.k.a “clone”, and the geologic makeup of what lies under the ground below.
Viticulturists, who are the grape farmers, and the winemakers both strive for quality of fruit because they are very clear that great wines are made in the vineyard. Producing quality fruit is critical in producing great wines, capturing truth in wine, a true sense of sense of place, exhibiting restraint in winemaking, power, and balance in the fruit.
What’s next is what’s not. Restraint, that’s right, today’s best winemakers are practicing less is more. Beginning with farming practices Organic and Bio-dynamic farming is becoming more common place in viticulture and as a result, the fruit is not over developed nor full of chemicals. During fermentation stages, winemakers are working with more native yeasts which allow for wines that express a better sense of place. Winemakers are also striving for clean wines that exude balance through a hands off approach, not over manipulated.
Balance in wine makes reference to a wine that is equal in fruit, acid, and alcohol. Gone are the days of wines showcasing overbearing fruit or alcohol exceeding a high 14 percent. It just doesn’t work well with food and drunk by itself can be too big a wine exhibiting entirely too much fruit.
When you consider different wine regions from around the world you cannot compare them. A Pinot Noir from Burgundy is different from a Russian River Valley Pinot which is different from a Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot that is vastly different from a Napa Valley Pinot Noir in California. To the point, it is important to understand what a wines particular sense of place really is. Only then are you able to equitably evaluate the quality of wines from particular areas?
Wines today are what I refer to as “stylistic” and it’s important to note that wines from various regions display very different nuances of aroma, flavor, and tactile sensations. Discovering what you like in a wine and what region of the world it’s from is important to understand. Establishing a basis and perspective of a given area allows you to more fairly evaluate wine varietals from that region.
When you become familiar with an area there are a few very important things to consider when tasting a wine; is the wine simple, so simple that it lacks depth or dimension? Is the wine complex with layers of aroma when you smell it? Does the wine offer multiple layers of flavor your palate when you taste it?
A wine that has been overly refined to the point it is so smooth that it has lost its character is a wine that a winemaker has had their way with. Heavy handed and overly manipulated to the point that a wine exudes no character or personality, the wine has been rendered uninteresting, a real dullard. The winemaker was not restrained and perhaps lost their way….
All About Rosé Wine
Provence in the south western grape growing region of France was the first to produce Rosé wine. Romans were the first to control this area of the world and it wasn’t until the later Middle- Ages that Monks re-established vineyards that were common to the area and began producing Rosé wine. The wine was used for sacramental purposes in the Catholic church and to also financially support the various monastic orders.
It was during the early 1970’s in California there was a glut of red grapes and a significant shortage of white grapes. Winemakers incorporated a winemaking technique known as Saigneé which translated means the bleeding of the wine vats. Consider for just a moment how gravy is made using the juices from the protein that have separated from the fat in the roasting pan. This also occurs in wine vats as the heavy grape must separates from the grape juice which is much lighter. By using the Saigneé method some winemakers from this era would make white wine by using red grapes. This winemaking method allowed the juice and the must to remain together for a short period of time and then winemakers “bleed” off what then becomes Rosé wine.
A Traditional winemaking technique is also used to make Rosé wine. Grape skins are left with the fruit for just a few days, thus producing a beautiful delicate pink color with a very little tannin like that found in red wine.
The third method that is generally not acceptable in most regions of the world is to add red wine back into white wine until the desirable coloration is achieved.
The term “Blush” Wine originates from the mid-70’s and made reference to a pale-pink wine but is now reserved for a sweet pink wine with a residual sugar of 2.5%. In America most dry pink wines are marketed and sold as a Rosé while Europe refers to all pink wine as Rosé regardless of residual sugar levels, this includes imports from America that are semi-sweet.
Rosé is a wine style not a varietal of wine. This is very important to understand as a consumer. There are up to 11 types of Rosé wine styles currently being produced around the world.
Type’s Of Rosé Wines(How They Are Made)
As a consumer, this can be very confusing when there is so little information about Rosé wines available. Unfortunately, the general consensus amongst the less traveled wine drinker is that all “pink wine” is sweet, poorly made, and should not be drunk. I say simply not true!
Rosé wine is thought of as seasonal, symbolic of hope and excitement that comes at the beginning of Spring and the sad end of Summer and all of its fond memories. My good friend Bill Blanchard, the National Sales Manager for Adelsheim Vineyards in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, pointed out to me that he likes to hold back a case of good Rosé. Bill feels that quality Rosé can last up to 2 years and still be enjoyable for the Christmas holiday season to share with friends and family at dinner.
Wines made in a Rosé style are perhaps some of the most versatile wines that are produced. Rosé wines pair very well with a wide array of foods such as Morbier and Mozzarella cheese, seafood, lite pasta dishes, summer salads, soups, grilled or roasted meats and poultry, they can be very tasty with some desserts too.
As a Wine Consumer Advocate, I consult with retail and bar establishments concerning their wine portfolios and menus, but one of my most important focuses is sharing and teaching consumers about wine. It is for this very reason I love to share Rosé wine. Quality Rosé style wine can be the entire package delivering the cool refreshment of white wine and delivering tender nuances of red wine. Rosé wine done well can be a versatile tool for consumers to enhance their overall knowledge of wine.
The most important thing that a Rosé wine must offer though is perfect restraint, balance, and sense of style. Rosé wine should be tender and delicate. Delicate in color, aroma, and taste. Tender as it graces the palate. If it is not this it is just another poorly made Rosé that lives up to or in this case down to the generally assumed consensus of this potentially great wine.
While teaching, I find that Rosé wine is the perfect conduit to introduce red wine lovers to white wine and white wine lovers to the bold world of red wine. Could there possibly be a better wine introduction facilitator than a Rosé style of wine?
So what is a nice Rosé wine like? For my money a perfect Rosé wine is chilled, not served too cold, it is pleasantly dry, not so dry that my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth, it is ever so delicate in color like that of an Alaskan Copper River Salmon, and will have the ever so mild aroma of “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
When tasting perfect Rosé it will grace your mid-palate, balanced with fruit, alcohol, and acid. It presents flavors of very restrained nuance of strawberry and raspberry lingering in the background. Other fruit driven or savory subtleties present in supporting roles as the various Rosé styles introduce themselves with a particular sense of place or as the French refer to as “terroir”.
Many of today’s winemakers produce Rosé exemplifying their wineries best sense of place. We will all have our preference of Rosé styles, I want to urge you to be adventurous life is too short to not enjoy some great “Pink Wine!” Long live Rosé!
To learn more about wine or discover wines of impeccable character join me at www.WineGuyMike.com
From my table to yours,