La Vie en Rose
A few years ago my husband and I became converts to summertime rosé wines. After years of deep suspicion towards any pink drink (probably traumatized after the deluge of white zinfandels and Lancers in my college years), a trip to the South of France expanded my vista to la vie en rose. Thanks to an impromptu rosé tasting in a delightful restaurant in Grasse, where the owner shared some of her favorites, we learned what to look for to suit our tastes, and now it is a summer go-to wine.
Rosé wine is made in one of three ways. In southern France (Côtes de Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon), they prefer maceration where the skins of red grapes are kept in contact with the wine for anywhere between 2 to 20 hours. Longer contact makes for deeper color whereas less will produce more of a blush tone.
In the Champagne region, a little red wine is often a blended with white to make pink champagne.
A few vineyards, especially in California, favor the saignée method. This involves taking a little of the red wine juice at the beginning of red wine production and reserving it to be made as a rosé.
Therefore, the color of rosé wines can vary from blush to copper to fuchsia – which can give a clue to intensity (the deeper the red, the more time with the skins—therefore more complexity and body) However, in Bandol for example, rosé is made with the crimson Mourvèdre grape so the wine is almost magenta, yet remains light and acidic.
Rosés in France are not vinified to be sweet like white zinfandel (and whatever was in that Lancer’s bottle). They should have a pleasant fruity and floral bouquet of red berries, grapefruit, melon or roses, but also a hint of something crunchy and green, like celery or bell pepper or anything that makes a Niçoise salad fun (except maybe anchovies…)
Generally darker rosés stand up well to heavier or even spicy meals, whereas the pale ones are best with the light summer fare that is a Mediterranean staple – salads, fish, quiche, chicken.
We tend to prefer the light, copper-colored rosés. They often seem to have the best of both worlds (and are pretty, too). They delightfully accompany our summer fare of Greek, bean or Niçoise salads, with say, a caramelized onion tart (pissaladière). But it also holds its own well alongside ratatouille or eggplant parmesan (grilled, not fried), and we even had one with semi-spicy pork chops the other night to great success.
After our fête de rosé in Grasse, we eventually settled on Lafarge Grande Cuvèe as our favorite but this summer we decided to do another tasting to see what else rose to our attention…
We tried Rosé de Truffière from Domaine JM Boillot, Minuty Prestige 2016, Miraval 2016 (yes from the Domaine ex-Jolie-Pitt) and Fleur de l’Amaurigue 2016.
We did the tasting blind, with very different palates among our family and we ended mostly agreeing on the first place wine although there were a disagreements about 3rd and 4th place.
We found the Miraval to have a very pleasant nose of strawberries and summer flowers, but with very little body or persistence. It was lost against the very simple veal steaks we had with it. Those among us who like very light wines, put it in at 3rd place, but for myself and my husband It came in at last place.
Rosé de Truffière brought to mind raspberries and citrus and, it was indeed fresher (more acidic), which matched well with the nose. My husband and I found it respectable, although the others in our group who prefer less acidity, put it at last
Minuty, with a much more complex bouquet seemed to pull out ahead, and everyone enjoyed the summer scents of orange and melon with a hint of something more exotic like pineapple. The floral notes were offset with enough minerality to give it character. It had a much rounder mouthfeel and a delightful finish. That bottle was hotly contested during the rest of dinner.
Fleur, however, took us by surprise. We had bought as an afterthought on the recommendation of a wine shop owner in Burgundy, and the first sniff revealed a much more complex nose – peach, gardenia, banana—an unusual yet very pleasant bouquet. The wine was velvety, more mineral than acidic and went well with the spicier flavors of gazpacho and spice rub.
Fleur and Lafarge are now holding court in our summer cellar, Lafarge for our simple Mediterranean dinners (splendid match for grilled or poached salmon) and Fleur for our more raucously flavored meals, but the moral of the story is that life is always good in the rosé garden.
PS I confess that my animosity toward pink drinks has also been somewhat attenuated by my husband’s world-class Cosmopolitans, but I suppose that I should leave that for another day.