by Rimple Nayyar
During the hot summer days, I will venture with a few good friends to the beaches along Lake Michigan. Armed with the requisite cooler of beverages, a good book, food and an umbrella, we spend time relaxing at the beach under the hot sun and take a dip into the cool water of Lake Michigan when we get too hot. The beverage cooler of course always includes some alcoholic beverages. For most people on the beach, under a hot sun, that beverage of choice would be a beer. However, as much as I love a cold beer on a hot day, too much beer makes me feel bloated and also dehydrates me more quickly than other libations. So the beverage of choice for me has always been a crisp and refreshing dry rosé wine. This is a wine that is great with our sandwiches, be it a cold pulled rotisserie chicken sandwich or a caprese sandwich with fresh mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes and pesto.
With summer, my mission this month is to turn you on to the wonderful world of rosé wines. Rosé wines are perhaps the most versatile, food-friendly wines around. Unfortunately, rosé wines have had a rough reputation here in the United States. This all started back in the late 1970s when Sutter Home accidently produced a sweeter style of their White Zinfandel. This was a big hit with consumers who were used to drinking sweeter beverages, hence an instant liking to a low alcohol, sweet and fruity wine. Over the years, White Zinfandel hasn’t had the best reputation in the wine world. So, when a pink wine is poured in the glass, the automatic reaction is to think that it will be like a White Zinfandel. This is an unfortunate misconception that a great deal of consumers have regarding rosé wines. Rosé wines are stuck in a no man’s land. The crowd that buys the sweet blush wines are turned off by the dryness of most rosé wines and the so-called wine snobs are too busy ignoring good rosé wines because they do not take them seriously.
However, the pendulum is swinging the other way. It has taken many years and perseverance of rosé lovers in the wine industry like me to bring the world of rosé wines back to the drinking public. The popularity is growing every day. America is finally catching up to Europe, where rosé wines have been a staple on almost every table for centuries. The word rosé comes from the French language and means pinkish.
So how is rosé wine made? There are three major ways to produce rosé wine:
This is the most common way of making rosé wine. Red-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically one to three days. The skin contact gives the wine its pink color. The grapes are then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.
Rosé wine can be produced as a by-product of red wine fermentation using a technique known as Saignée, or bleeding the vats. When a winemaker desires to impart more tannin and color to a red wine, some of the pink juice is bled off at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice is reduced. The pink juice that is removed can be fermented separately to produce rosé, often resulting in a paler color wine.
Blending is simply mixing of red wine with a white to impart color. White wine is made from red grapes without any skin contact. Red wine is then mixed with the white wine to give it the rosé color. This method is not used in most wine growing regions except for Champagne. Even in Champagne, several high-end producers do not use this method but rather the Saignée method.
There is no doubt that the best rosé wine producers are in Europe, but the whole world is now catching up. In France there’s a great tradition of making rosé wines in all the various wine regions, but much more so in southern French regions such as in the Rhone Valley and the Languedoc. However, there are also excellent examples of New World rosé wines from places like Michigan, California, Argentina and Australia.
The rosé wines are served chilled like white wines and share the same crispness. However, the flavor profile of most rosé wines more closely resembles the red wine grapes that are used to make them, albeit a little less complex and more light and fruity than traditional red wines. Rosé wines usually have predominant flavors of strawberries, cherries or raspberries and almost never darker fruits like you would expect in red wines.
It’s summer here in Michigan. That means hot weather and parties on the beach, by the pool side, on the boat or just on the porch. I drink my fair share of rosé in summer and throughout the year. I know that a lot of you prefer reds wines to white. With the hot weather, instead of red, give these rosé wines a shot. It is a perfect alternative to white wines or beers and a must for any picnic. I have selected six of my favorite rosé wines, including two from Michigan to give you a little introduction to these wines. They are certainly much better food wines than you would imagine. After trying these wines, you may even think of rosé wines as the perfect beverage for the summer. You can find these wines around town at the fine wine shops or we are sure to be serving and selling these wines at Bar Divani throughout the summer.
Villa des Anges, Old Vines Rosé,
Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
This winery is situated on the ruins of an ancient Roman villa in Southern France. The rosé is made from 100% Cinsault grapes. A beautiful light-bodied wine, it offers complex aromas and flavors of strawberries and red currants, with a hint of quince. The wine is crisp and fresh on the palate. It’s a perfect warm weather gulper and also pairs well with a wide range of salads and shell fish.
Susana Balbo, Crios, Rosé of Malbec,
A 100% Malbec rose from 30-year old ungrafted vines in Mendoza, Argentina made by the Saignée method. It is much darker in color then most rosé wines and has a vibrant nose of strawberries and cherries. Well structured and balanced on the palate. Flavors of wild berries come cascading on the palate with a dry finish. This one will pair well with grilled pork tenderloin.
Elk Cove, Pinot Noir Rosé,
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Made from 100% Pinot Noir, it is Oregon’s flagship varietal. The Pinot Noir fruit is hand-harvested very ripe from both young and old vines and gently whole bunch pressed with limited skin contact. It is fermented cool in stainless steel tanks and then hand selected lots of fermented red Pinot Noir juice are blended back for color and texture. This wine is finished completely dry and very hard to resist. It has a beautiful nose and flavors of watermelon, strawberries and other red fruits. Lush and vibrant palate with a long harmonious finish, this one is great with a cold rotisserie chicken sandwich or chicken off the grill.
Two Lads, Cabernet Franc Rosé, Old Mission Peninsula, MI
The grapes were handpicked and gently crushed, followed by short skin contact to create intensely-colored and fruit-forward signature style. A wonderful expression of what can be achieved in Northern Michigan. There are nice strawberry fruits on the nose with a very elegant and crisp finish. Salmon will pair really well with this wine.
Old Shore, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sofia,
Lake Michigan Shore, MI
Aromas of dark cherries and strawberries are present in this elegant wine. Darker in color than most rosés, the wine is lush and powerful on the palate, with flavors of dark cherries and spice. The finish leaves you wanting a second glass. Stunning! Great with pan seared trout with Michigan cherries.
Mireille & Vincent, Rosé,
Cotes du Rhone, France
Primarily Grenache, it’s a beautiful wine showing great fruit like strawberry and berries. A great spring and summer quaffer that’s as good as a starter wine or with any seafood and spicy dishes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
An engineer by education, Rimple is very passionate about wine and food. This passion led him to open Bar Divani, Grand Rapids’ first wine bar in 2002. Join Rimple, every Wednesday at Bar Divani, for wine tastings where he loves to share and educate people about his passion. www.bardivani.com