A little pink for Valentine’s Day
February 9, 2008
It is indeed the theme of Valentine’s Day to offer your love or your future love things that are pink. I think it is a fine tradition that should be extended to pink wines. Rosé wines are one of the wine world’s most misunderstood styles. I too had a hard time getting over the preconception of lip smackingly sweet and overly fruity wine that White Zinfandel has implanted in all of our minds. I have however very much enjoyed getting over that hurdle as some of my very favorite wines are pink.
Rosé wine is a very traditional style of wine production in France and Italy where the wines are seldom sweet as is the case with White Zin but is instead often bone dry. Making a rosé wine is much like making a red wine. The principal difference being that once the grapes are pressed, the skins are allowed to stay in contact with the juice for only a very limited amount of time. Through fermentation, the natural sugars in the grapes are almost all converted to alcohol resulting in a crisp, dry, and flavorful wine.
Rosé wines are not as frequently exported to the U.S. as they are often made as country wines intended for local foods. I often perceive rosé wines as great lunch wines. They are refreshing and bright and have an incredible ability to complement a wide variety of foods.
One of my all-time favorite regions for rosé is the Tavel region of France located just southwest of the famed Chateauneuf du Pape region. Grenache and Mourvedre are the required grape varieties and in rosé for they seem to take on a style that is completely unique. Bright flavors of strawberry and red currant coat the palate in Chateau D’Aqueria’s awesome ’06 offering available in the state at $18 per bottle.
It seems that even some California producers have found value in making higher quality dry rosé wines. The Étude house out of Napa Valley made a Pinot Noir Rosé in ’06 for $19 that was truly brilliant. It is a fleshy and full rosé with great flavors and aromas of ripe plum and raspberry.
There is then the pinnacle of all things pink. Rosé Champagne is one of my favorite styles of Champagne (as if there were any styles that I didn’t love) but unlike most still productions of pink wine, rosé Champagne is actually made by mixing fully red Pinot Noir with fully white Chardonnay prior to secondary fermentation. In most cases the rosé cuvee of these stunning sparkling wines is considerably more expensive than the white version. In Champagne, the climate is so cool that it is difficult to get Pinot Noir to fully ripen thus creating a smaller supply of fruit capable of making this style of wine. One of my vary favorites is Taittinger’s NV Brut Rosé for a mere $75. It is always a treat to have a sparkling wine so rich and full as that one.
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Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in New York City. He tries his very best not to spill the pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments, he is easily contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .