Peter here again, and with one of the best features of spring in the wine world…arrival of the new Rosés. Yes, Rosé; one of the most versatile, approachable, food-friendly and delicious wines on the planet.
First, what is it? Well, it’s a wine somewhere between white and red. Vague, yes; but rosé can run a wide range of color, shade and intensity from a wine barely more color-saturated than chardonnay, all the way to a cherry-red version that you can hardly see through.
By the way, that last style? It’s what all that Bordeaux that was drunk in the late dark ages and middle ages looked like, not the dark brooding blue-purple-black stuff of modern times. In fact, the British name ‘claret’ for red Bordeaux is just the anglicized version of the French word ‘Clairet’, the original name of said wine and today a revived and growing style of very dark rosé that is just superb when you need a red wine but the weather’s just too darned hot. And it can take a chill!
So, Rosé goes by any number of color names: oeil de Perdrix or partridge eye, salmon, apricot, pink, onion skin, cherry, raspberry, you can go on…look long enough and you’ll find every shade in the red/orange, pink/gold range.
The better ones will probably be made by one of three methods:
Vin Gris method, or gray wine, for the palest versions, where red grapes are crushed and the juice left to macerate (soak) for a very brief time till just a hint of color is extracted. These are the most delicate wines, great with very light fare and by themselves.
Maceration method, the standard for many large production wines, where the grapes are crushed and the juice left to soak till the desired color intensity is attained, then drained off in its entirety to start or complete fermentation. These can range from serviceable to outstanding.
Saignée method, whereby only some of the juice is ‘bled’ off the entire batch once the desired color is reached, and fermented in a separate vessel. This is arguably the best method, usually for smaller quantities, and is the easiest method to control extraction. Sometimes this is done to concentrate the remaining red wine’s color and flavor in a less-than-perfect year, but more often it’s done every year to make top-notch long-lived rosé.
Almost every good wine region makes some good rosé, but many of the best come from France. Gerard Fiou’s Sancerre Rosé from Pinot Noir, Provence’s La Riviera from Grenache, Cinsaut and Rolle, Guillaume Gannet’s Côtes du Rhône Rosé from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. Oh, and that Clairet I mentioned? The Chateau Guichot from Bordeaux—but it’s limited.