Rosé wine got a bad rap at some point. I'm not sure when it happened, culturally speaking, but when I first started drinking wine, my reaction to Rosé was "Ugh, Rosé. Gross." (Because a girl who mainly purchased magnums of Yellow Tail and Barefoot should be judging wine varieties. Obviously.)
Actually, come to think of it, I can pinpoint - historically - when things went pear shaped for Rosé:
|Mostly, we should blame Nixon, I think. I'm sure he was a White Zinfandel enthusiast. (No, not really.) Let's shift blame to Spiro Agnew, then?|
Now, before I begin, I want to make it clear that I don't want to cast aspersions on White Zin. Really, I don't. (Okay, maybe, yes, I do a little.) White Zin is perfectly drinkable - in fact, now that I think of it, it was my mother's drink of choice while I was growing up. Not that she drank much, but damned if I don't recall many a family party where glasses of alcoholic syrup were enjoyed, ice gleefully clinking away in the viscous, salmon-hued liquid. But the problem is, in my estimation, that White Zinfandel has given Rosé its bad wrap.
White Zinfandel was first produced in California in 1973 at Sutter Home Winery by accident. (Someone is out there right now thinking, "Champagne was ALSO an accident! White Zinfandel is America's Champagne!" And frankly, I'm hard-pressed to prove otherwise, but that obvious similarity is not really a good thing, if ya see what I'm saying.)
Sutter Home's vintner, Bob Trinchero, wanted to create a richer Zinfandel wine (the red kind). In an effort to do this, he interrupted the traditional vinification process and removed 550 gallons of juice from a fermentation tank, reducing the Zinfandel skin-to-liquid ratio, increasing the potency of the Zin. But then he had 550 gallons of partially fermented Zinfandel just hanging around. So he made it into wine and sold it in 1973 and 1974 as White Zinfandel, but at the time, it was dry (much closer to traditional Rosé). The next year, the accident that made it sweet occurred, and they've never looked back.
The truth is, White Zin is the gateway wine, and I can't really hate on it for that reason. Plus, it comes in giant boxes, so what it may lack in complexity, it makes up for in accessibility. However, the sweetness and market share that White Zin takes up means that many folks don't actually know how awesome Rosé really is.
Traditional French Rosé is dry, rather than sweet. It is typically made from Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, or Mourvedre grapes, which are all red grapes. You do not make Rosé by mixing white and red wine. Sometimes, the process described above is integral in the creation of Rosé, as a winemaker may want to intensify his Grenach-Syrah-Mourvedre blend, so he removes some of the juice and separately processes it into Rosé. Wine historians (yes, those exist) suspect that Rosé is probably close to what ancient red wines were like, since we have refined and enhanced our modern methods of vinification.
Rosé in the traditional sense is dry, complex, and can range from pale pinkish to deep salmon in color. The nose should be fruity and perhaps floral, the flavor light, unobtrusive, and delicious. Rosés go spectacularly with food, as they do not overpower what you're eating and can pair with delicate dishes. Most importantly, they are designed to be consumed young. Like last year's vintage young. And while typically considered a summer drink, it's one of my favorite types to enjoy regardless of season. If you don't know what Rosé to pick up, definitely try one that comes straight from Provence - the modern home of Rosé.
So go out and try a nice Rosé, proclaim your love for it, even; your taste buds will thank you.