Despite a weakening economy, the Nielson Company revealed an almost 25 percent jump in U.S. rosé wine sales in 2008. Since I’ve harped on the greatness of pink for the past five years, I’ll take at least a sliver of that celebratory pie, thank you very much. I’m rejoicing that Americans have finally begun to embrace the beauty of rosé wines.
With the red fruit and tannin of red, and the cool, invigorating acidity of white, rosé is a perfect marriage. One of the best food wines in existence, it’s like drinking a white wine with bright, ripe berry flavor. It matches summer fare — grilled burgers and ribs — but also spicy eats. I used to complain of their lack of availability — many wineries make dry rosés though not enough for major distribution — but I’m seeing increasing variety on shelves and lists. Pink from pinot noir, syrah, grenache, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and everything in between can be had for less than $20 per bottle. Woohoo!
Winemakers make rosé from red grapes, but treat it like a white wine. To obtain its tint, they soak red skins with the clear juice for a few hours — compared to a few days (or weeks) for red wines. How deeply colored the rosé becomes depends on the grape type and, obviously, how long it stews. My favorites call zinfandel, syrah or cabernet their parent; the mild tannins and fruit flavors stand up and call me “mama.”
Sugary pink wines remain big sellers — and can handle a fully loaded, grilled burger any day. But dry rosés are my preference. Most of the sugar is fermented out, yielding higher alcohol content, so perhaps that’s one reason. To figure out if the pink you want to buy is sweet, check the label for the alcohol percentage. Alcohol content between 12.5 and 14.5 percent taste dry, while sweeter wines are 10-12 percent.
Rosés are best consumed young and fresh. Stick with 2007 or 2008 vintages and shun older ones — they lose their fruit. Here are a few to seek out this summer season, or any other time of the year.
Yangarra Estate 2007 Rosé McLaren Vale (Australia) Not your everyday pink, this strapping, bright, fruit-driven wine has bright cherry, enough velvety tannins to satisfy a red drinker, and a delicious raspberry finish. High in bracing acidity too. Almost perfect. Sw=1. $13. 4.5 stars
Bonny Doon 2008 Vin Gris de Cigare California From Randall Grahm’s infamous Bonny Doon winery comes a grenache-based rosé that smells like a fresh spring day. Zesty citrus, steely raspberry and orange blossom flavors with a clean, refreshing, red apple finish. Sw=2. $15. 4.5 stars
Jaboulet 2008 Parallèle “45” Rosé Côtes du Rhône (France) This Rhone Valley wine is what I taste when I think pink: light-hearted and fruity with raspberry, cherry Jolly Rancher, ripe strawberry, mouth-watering acidity and a citrus finish. Sw=2. $13. 4 stars
Chateau de Campuget 2007 Costieres de Nîmes Rosé (France) This obscure wine region in southern France produces fun, fruity numbers made from syrah and grenache grapes. Floral aromas of raspberry and red cherry scents, and in the mouth you get stony minerality, mild fruit and a clean finish. Sw=2. $13. 3.5 stars
Mulderbosch 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé Western Cape (South Africa) For those who want it a little dirty, this South African pink has meaty dark cherry and strawberry up front, and finishes with steely minerality, green pepper and the familiar funk of the Western Cape. Sw=1. $12. 3 stars
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