Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hip, Hip, HooRosé for the Red, White and Blue

What lovely colors are these roses. Inside or outside of test tubes, they look ready for drinking. Photo from WikiCommons.

Head's Up: Welcome to a special edition of Grape: Wine Talk. Of course, it is not Wednesday. But with the Fourth of July coming on Monday, we at VEVLYN'S PEN surmised that winelovers would be making their major purchases starting from today. Resident sommelier Tamara F. is feeling very patriotic and wishes to recommend some libations – rosés – that are perfect for saluting such an occasion as Independence Day. Cheers!


going to a Fourth of July barbecue and needing to make a fine impression? For the daring among you, show up with a rosé, a good blush wine. But please don't make it a White Zinfandel.

White Zinfandel. The two most insulting words one could ever levy at rosé wine.

True, White Zinfandel is a rosé, but it is only one of the many different types of rosé out there. Take everything that's said of White Zinfandel, and push it aside for a moment. (Throw out all those other images that go along with White Zinfandel, too: Mullet haircuts. “Miami Vice.” Laser-blue Armani suits. Shoulder pads. Yeesh! What a decade! Some things do not improve with age.) Not sure what a White Zin is? Hang on. Details to follow. Instead, let’s give those other perky little rosés a chance.

A Rosé is a Rosé is a Rosé
Long story short: Rosé is the result of tweaking the fermentation process of red wines. No more, no less. There are no rosé grapes. Rosés are never ever formed by blending red and white wines. (But since one should never say ‘never’, there is, of course, one very rare way of making a rosé from a blend of red and white wines, but it’s so rare it doesn’t count.)

Instead, take almost any red grape (Pinot Noir, Cinsault, Syrah, etc.), remove its pulpy red flesh after a few days in the barrel, ferment, and voilà: rosé. Another way to create a rosé is as a byproduct of enhancing the flavor of a red wine. Take the top off of a red wine barrel (before full fermentation), leaving a more concentrated darker juice at the bottom. Ferment it further, and voilà: rosé. The bottom becomes a fuller, richer red wine.

One element missing from this patriotic tableau is a bottle of rose. Photo by Billy Hathorn.

Basically, a rosé is a red wine stripped down. A naked red, so to speak, with a very fresh appeal. Imagine a wine that’s lighter than a red, both in taste and color, without the tannins but often with a tart kick. Imagine a wine that's noted for a strawberry-and-mineral aftertastes. (To brush up on minerality, see (“Sauvignon Blanc: Taming a Savage White,” That’s the basic rosé flavor. Or, imagine a pink-colored white wine with backbone, often fruity but with a tang, a zest that may make the mouth pucker, but oh so sweetly.

Rosé: Too Sweet for Words?
Now since I’ve mentioned “sweetly,” please note: sweetness has nothing to do with rosé, generally speaking. But, a winemaker can go nuts and favor a high sugar content. That's what happened in the late 70’s in California. A winemaker pulled off the top of a Zinfandel production, set it aside, and learned that the yeast died out before doing what yeast usually does: converting the juice's sugar to alcohol. The resultant wine: a very sweet, low alcohol rosé made from Zinfandel grapes. And the White Zin was born. White Zin, the extra fruity, extra sweet, popsicle-like wine best drunk ice cold, if at all.
The world hasn’t been the same since. And OneRepublic’s song keeps echoing in my ear: California, “It’s too late to apologize./ I said it’s too late” ...

But then again, if the whole point of drinking White Zin is to take Jimmy Buffet's advice, get drunk and … well … whatever, then it'll do the trick. Or so I am told. Just make sure not to drive. And drink a lot of water.

If, however, you are well past your 20s, looking to enjoy a good drink and actually taste what’s going down, then consider other rosés.

Rosé: A Perfect Summertime Quaff
Long before the Californians invented White Zin, the French crafted rosés. Refreshingly tart and acidic, rosés compliment early summer fare: Soft cheeses, young (baby) lettuces, freshwater trout, and berries, berries, berries. And most have only the barest hint of sweetness, when compared with White Zin. (In fact, truth be told, higher quality White Zins currently produced in Cali now have significantly less sugar – and a touch more alcohol – than the White Zins of old.) Summon the courage. Try a blush wine. Grab the the other rosés. Prepare to be enchanted.

Behold: The cleverly cantilevered bottles of Crush Wine & Spirits. Photo from Crush Wine & Spirits.

Back to the Barbecue: No Apologies Needed.
Courage summoned, a bottle of rosé extends from your hand. The host smiles – painfully: “Oh no, the dreaded wine cooler of wines, the White Zin!” What to do?

Wink. And walk away. It's just a matter of time before all the other wine is gone, and the host must open what looks to be a mistake. But you know better. You've presented a daring fresh rosé. No apologies needed.

The wines to consider? Very easy, and very easy to get. Last month, Crush Wine & Spirtis ( presented an exclusive tasting of international rosés. Located in the middle of one of Manhattan’s busiest crosstown streets, two steps into Crush and the skyscrapers fall behind. Between barrels, a minimalist beautiful tasting room and more bottles of wine cleverly cantilevered than one could imagine, more than 20 different rosés flowed. Any one of these will impress, and many are available online:

Faillenc St. Marie Rosé des Glaciers 2010
Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Needing a rosé that's two notches up from a White Zin? Faillenc St. Marie is it. Produced from Syrah, the wine is sweet without being cloying. If cheeses, nuts, fruits and salads will be served, this rosé will compliment them perfectly.

Texier Rosé “L'Anecdot'nic” 2009
Rhone, France
“L'Anecdot'nic” is a rock star: unconventional, breaking rules and producing art. Created by a self-taught winemaker using a Japanese model of biodynamic farming, Texier's rosé is both organic and impressive. Pop the screw-top and scent screams Pinot Noir (peppery nose), but what goes down is anything but: a rich, full roundness of flavors defying classifications. Not surprising, considering there are 26 varietals in this mix. That was no typo: 26! Need to make a major impression? This is it. Buy a case. Today.

Lauverjat Sancerre Rosé 2010
Loire Valley, France
Label of Lauverjat Sancerre Rose 2010. Photo from Lauverjat Sancerre.

Made from Pinot Noir grapes, Lauverjat initially smells like candy and flowers (floral nose), but don't be fooled. Anything except sweet, the wine bears the telltale rosé signature of strawberries, but an unexpected burst of strong lime flavor anchors the tartness. Pair this with anything from Mexican food to barbecue, and the wine will be a hit.

Mayr-Nusser Kretzer Rosé 2009
Alto Adige, Italy
While most rosés tend toward the fruity, this one tends towards the savory. Made with Lagrein, a grape indigenous to southern Austria and northern Italy, Mayr-Nusserhof Kretzer reveals sage and spices together with a nice tart flavor (acidic). Perfect for a fancy barbecue or a fine dinner inside.

Rosé tips: serve chilled, and serve. Period. Rosés aren't meant to be stored, but enjoyed. Happy Fourth!

Next up: Parties with Pinot Grigio

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