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In the PINK

Embracing the oft-overlooked member of the wine family

By Ed Schwartz

Many wine experts trumpet drinking big red wines with barbecued meats. Too heavy for my taste; I’ll opt for a refreshing rosé. Others favor a light pinot with salmon. Me? I prefer a sexy rosé. Roast chicken? Rosé. Picnics? Ditto. There are plenty of reasons you should join me on the blush bandwagon. Excellent rosés are exciting, delicious, festive and pleasing to the eye — as well as great values. Rosé was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite wine and beloved by both the popes of Avignon and Sun King Louis XIV, so you’ll be in good company if you want to drop a name or two while toasting with a glass of the pink elixir. 

Good rosé wines are versatile because they combine the tasty features of a red with the delicate qualities of a white. A fine glass of rosé pairs well with so many foods, it’s no wonder the wine has long been popular in Spain and in France, where dry rosés are often made from the Grenache grape in the Tavel district in the Southern Rhone. Fortunately, thanks to California’s world-class rosés, the wine’s popularity in the States is growing exponentially.

How most rosés get that nice pink color is simple: maceration. The juice of all wine grapes, both red and white, is clear in color; the skins are what produces a wine’s hue and tannins. The standard method of making rosé is to crush red grapes, and then, a few hours later, the winemaker will run off the juice from the skins and start the fermentation process. The longer the juice stays on the skins, the pinker the color and the more “grip” to the wine.

Rosé wines can be successfully produced from almost any red wine variety, be it cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, syrah, zinfandel, cinsaut or pinot noir. The best rosés are fruity, fragrant, full-bodied, cold, crisp and bone dry. In a word: yummy.

We gathered 10 rosés from around the world for a sampling. In general, we found the French versions lovely and light in taste and color; the California versions redder and richer. All hover around $20.

The first four listed below were the best of the bunch:

  • 2015 Aix, Provence: Nice, pale color, very dry with an excellent, crisp finish. A fine rosé from this famous region.
  • 2015 Quivira, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma: Lots of the grenache variety and other Rhone grapes. Sensational color, great nose, lovely taste. Our tasting group loved it.
  • 2015 Calera, Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Central Coast: This was a joy to taste; a romantic color, and a full, elegant, rich and balanced flavor. Excellent in every dimension.
  • 2015 McCay Cellars, Lodi: An unusual and delicious wine from 107-year-old carignane vines. Obvious and focused strawberry taste — a wonderful effort.
  • 2015 Caves d’Esclans, Whispering Angel, Sacha Lichine selection, Provence: Light bodied, light blush color and very elegant.
  • 2015 Swanson, Napa Valley, Rosato: Very deep color and rich, complex flavors. A fine example from an unusual grape.
  • 2015 Presqu’ile Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley: Light bodied, charming and delicate. A fine sipping wine.
  • 2015 Chloé, Monterey County: Very crisp with fine fruit flavors in a medium-bodied wine. A great choice for a summer picnic.
  • 2015 Château Gassier, Le Pas du Moine, Provence: Another fine example of a wine that is so easy to enjoy. Lots of delicious berry tastes.

Ed Schwartz began his career in wine promotion at New York’s “21” Club. As his interest in wine grew, he moved west to be closer to the grapes. Ed has written more than 500 published articles on wine, food and travel.

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