Take a second look at a wine that’s slightly more complex than rumor has it
Rosé wine is having a moment. It seems almost everyone—not just wine lovers and foodies—are extolling its virtues. I must admit that while I’m now enthusiastically on board with the pink drink movement, this was not always the case. My fondness for rosé wine came about unexpectedly a few years ago while living in the South of France.
My family and I were enjoying a day trip on the beach in Saint-Tropez when we happened upon a quaint, seaside café where we decided to grab a bite to eat. The hostess seated the five of us at a long table covered with breezy, white linens under a canopy of palm trees just a stone’s throw from the water. With a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea, sand under our bare feet, and a warm breeze blowing, I had a pinch-me-to-see-if-this-is-real moment.
Unexpectedly Fresh and Versatile
Our leisurely French lunch consisted of a delightful Salade Niçoise, chunks of chewy baguette, and a few bottles of chilled rosé wine. Prior to that lunch—and based on drinking forays from my young-adult years—I assumed that pink wines were bubblegum-colored and tasted like strawberry-flavored 7-Eleven Slurpees.
So, the elegantly blush-pink Côtes de Provence the restaurant served surprised me. Rather than cloyingly sweet, this wine was unexpectedly fresh on the palate with subtle hints of red fruit and citrus. My husband and I noted how well the wine paired with our lunch, and that it would also be delicious with a variety of different foods.
Rosé wine is now a go-to drink in our home, and we regularly serve it to friends and family. I’ll always be thankful for those few magical hours in Saint-Tropez that sparked my affection for this supremely versatile pink wine.
As recently as the 1990s, many Americans considered rosé wine as an unsophisticated beverage relegated to the liquor store refrigerator along with four-packs of Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers. About a decade ago, tastes began to change, leading to rising sales of premium, dry rosé wines imported from the Provence region of France. These higher quality rosés helped create a new image and reputation.
A Range of Flavors
In the last several years, rosé wine has gained huge popularity among wine drinkers, with Americans now consuming more than 500,000 cases per year. The phenomenon is attributable to the beverage’s affordable, yet hip status. As but one example, Khushbu Shah, senior food features editor for the ineffably hipster website Thrillist, recently wrote, “Rosé’s appeal goes beyond pure aesthetics. The pink wine is [now] deeply attached to a lifestyle, to travel magazines, and Instagram.”
Rosé wine has also developed a reputation for pairing beautifully with all different types of food, from charcuterie and cheese platters to Thai food.
The primary flavors present in rosés can be a combination of red fruit, citrus, and melon, sometimes with minerality—water flowing over a river stone or rain falling on a hot day—and even tastes akin to the scent of fresh vegetables. These flavors, combined with a light to medium body, tend to be less assertive and are delicious with dishes that range from mild to spicy.
While the heartland of rosé is in the South of France, rosé wine can be produced from almost any red grape varietal in all wine-producing regions of the world. Its various hues range from barely peach to a deep, luscious fuchsia. A rosé’s color can give you an idea of how it will taste. In general, lighter rosés tend toward crisp and light bodied, whereas darker rosés are more fruit forward with a heavier body. For example, a deeply pink Italian Aglianico rosé can offer up cherry and orange zest flavors, while a pale-colored Grenache rosé from France might taste more delicately fruity with hints of grapefruit. Further, the type of grape and how long the skins have been in contact with the juice will greatly vary the flavor.
The Art of Making Rosé
The most common method for producing rosé wine is through a brief maceration process. Basically, the grapes are crushed to break the skins and the juice soaks with the skins—similar to how red wine is produced—but for a much briefer amount of time than for red wine. The amount of time the grapes soak determines the color of the end product and is decided by the winemaker based on personal taste or regional style.
The maceration time lasts from 3 to 48 hours, whereas reds undergo maceration for weeks or months. Since red wine derives its color from the grape’s skin, an extended maceration process leads to a deeper red color and a more complex flavor. Therefore, a rosé left on its skins for 48 hours will be darker and have a more intricate flavor profile than one left for just three hours. At the right moment, the winemaker extracts the juice and the young wine continues its fermentation process.
True rosés—those that are not merely a mixture of red and white wines—ferment for approximately 8 to 15 days in stainless-steel or wooden tanks kept at carefully controlled temperatures. After that, a sommelier tastes it to ensure it meets the required AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) standards set by the French government, then it’s bottled and shipped to retail locations.
Explore Different, Delicious Varieties
With its booming popularity in the United States, rosé wine is now widely available across the country. Ranging from $10 to $25 a bottle, there is a rosé suitable for everyone’s budget and taste.
Each June, heralding the arrival of summer, wine shops, especially those in wine regions of the United States and France, set up dramatic displays of rosé wines with a dizzying array of bottle shapes and shades of pink. It’s fun to visit your local liquor and wine outlet to grab some favorites and select some new, unfamiliar rosés to try.
A random selection process is a great way to discover a rosé you may not have the opportunity to taste otherwise. My personal journey into the wonderful world of rosé wine led me to a realization that the French have likely always known: in its different iterations, from pale to lushly colored, light to heavier-bodied, there exists a perfect rosé for every occasion.
Here are some of my personal favorites that can be found at your local New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet:
Château de Berne Emotion 2017
Price Range: $16 to $20
Fragrant with hints of strawberry, refreshing pink grapefruit, watermelon, and a pleasant minerality. Lovely with aged Gouda and cured meats.
Château de Berne Inspiration 2017
Price Range: $21 to $24
A dry rosé with suggestions of cherry in addition to some tart red fruit notes like fresh strawberry. Great with spicy Asian foods and saffron rice.
Miraval Rosé 2017
Price Range: $22 to $25
Ripe, red fruit and floral notes with a refreshing acid finish that rounds out the sweetness. Pair with Humboldt Fog or other soft-rind cheeses, dried figs, and roasted chicken.
Minuty M 2017
Price Range: $15 to $18
Offers up citrus zest and red currant flavors creating an acidic freshness that pairs beautifully with beef or chicken kabobs, grilled tuna, and vegetables.
Salade Niçoise Serves 6–8
This is a classic dish that originated along the Mediterranean in the southern coastal French city of Nice. Its essence of harvest, warmth, and freshness is considered by many chefs to be the best flavor combination of any salad.
- ½ cup champagne vinegar
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 1 Tbsp country-style Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 3 tsp Herbs de Provence
- ½ cup light olive oil
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 8–10 medium-sized red new potatoes, well rinsed boiled in salted water until just cooked through
- 6 1-inch thick fresh tuna steaks
- ¾ lb green beans, trimmed and blanched
- 1 large bunch watercress or arugula
- 6 medium-sized (Campari or similar) tomatoes cut into wedges
- 6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut in half
- 1/3 lb Niçoise olives or mixed, pitted olives
1. Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, garlic powder, ground pepper, and Herbs de Provence. Slowly whisk in both olive oils until well incorporated.
2. Place cooked, drained potatoes in large bowl. Toss with a half cup of the vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste. This step can be done up to one day in advance.
3. Grill tuna steaks on a very hot grill or cast-iron pan. Brush fish with light olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill each side for a minute and a half so center is rare. Do not overcook tuna.
4. Toss green beans and greens with a drizzle of vinaigrette.
5. Arrange tuna steaks, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, greens, eggs, and olives on a large platter. Drizzle everything with more vinaigrette.
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