With the weather in most parts of B.C. in the 30C range this week – and projected to stay that way for the next while – there can be no better topic for my blog than Rosé! Ever since we went to France in the summer of 2006, we have been enamored by this pink wine, and can’t wait for the warmth of the sun to give us an excuse to start drinking it.
But beware, Rosé! There are three general kinds, and not all of them are to everyone’s liking!
The first kind, which just about everyone agrees should be avoided, is the super-sweet kind. Often labeled “white zinfandel”, it bears little resemblance to the other two kinds (and to wine at all, for that matter). While it is light pink, it is also sickly sweet and should be avoided at all costs.
The other two kinds, however, are much more enjoyable. One is bone dry – in the true Provence style – and the other just a touch sweet on the finish, which in the heat can be incredibly refreshing.
But let me first digress – what is Rosé, anyway? Well, put simply, it starts off as a red wine, but the skins are only allowed to stay on for brief period at the beginning of the fermentation process. That’s what gives it the pink colour; the longer you leave on the skins, the deeper the shade of pink.
Rosés have been a tradition in the south of France for hundreds of years, usually for drinking during the hot summer months. Bigger and more flavourful than white wines, they can stand being chilled almost completely while still retaining their flavor. In addition to being incredibly refreshing in the heat – and fairly cheap, less than $10 in France and often thrown in with the meal in restaurants – they also go well with all kinds of foods.
They can also be made from just about any kind of red grape! The Rhone grapes are the most popular in France (Grenache mostly, although Syrah, Cinsault and others as well), but in North and South America I have also seen then made from just about everything – Cabernet (Sauvignon and Franc), Pinot Noir, Merlot and even Malbec. Some red grapes tend to work better than others, and the riper the better, but you have your choice.
In terms of styles, the bone dry one features fresh, ripe berries – usually strawberries – that are crisp, surprisingly full bodied and, as per its definition, bone dry. They are great with food and just seem to go with the heat.
The other version is just slightly sweet on the finish and, I have to admit, it is a guilty pleasure in our household. Made well, it can be bursting with pink grapefruit, strawberries and raspberries, and incredibly refreshing. In fact, there may be nothing better than a bottle on the deck or patio on a hot day!
What about recommendations?
Well, for the dry versions, look for the youngest available and keep it cheap. That means 2012 for France, and definitely no more than $20. There are specialty bottles from producers like Tavel and others that go for more than that but, for me, that defeats the purpose of what Rosé should be all about. If you stick to the youngest available and under $20, it is hard to go wrong with wines from Provence or the Cotes du Rhone.
For the slightly sweeter versions, B.C. actually leads the way! The best, year in, year out, is from La Frenz (now there is a surprise if you read this blog on a regular basis!). It has been made from Syrah in the past and is, literally, an explosion of pink grapefruit – truly amazing! And it is under $20. The only problems are it is only available at the winery and isn’t released until mid-July – so we have to consume as much as possible in the remaining six weeks of summer!
Another option, released earlier and cheaper, is from Quail’s Gate. At $15.95, it is almost as good as La Frenz and there is lots of it (as it is widely available in our government liquor stores). You can check it out now!
If you haven’t had the Rosé experience in the summer yet, you really should try it. There is nothing better in the summer!