This time of year is one of my favorites. Why? Well, for a couple reasons, and yes at least one of them is related to wine – Reason 1) the warmer weather is here to stay (well for at least a couple months) and Reason 2) the 2011 vintages of Rosé wines have arrived. These darling, lighter shades of red (some orange to light pink) are great food wines and when you want something a little lighter than your usual red wine. You may not think the latter reason is that spectacular but it truly is.
When I speak of Rosés I am not speaking of what many may know as White Zinfandel. Not that there is anything wrong with the sweet blush wine, White Zin, but when I refer to Rosé, I mean the dry or mostly off dry selections that are great partners for food and come out in Spring/Summer.
For years, Rosé wine (often ranging in color from a pale orange to near purple) was referred to as ladies’ wine. Further demise was dealt to the reputation of Rosé wines by the development of White Zinfandel, in the 1970s first by Sutter Home and now by more than 100 different labels. Over the years, the majority of grapes for the production of White Zinfandel comes from the great Central California Valley. There the grapes grow prolifically and to full ripeness due. The resulting wines are usually low in acid (not a food wine) and high in residual sugar (very quaffable).
Since the juice of grapes is clear, most Rosé wines are made with a light or short contact of juice to the skin of red grapes. Some of the best Rosés are made from Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet. Rosé can come from California, France, Italy, Spain, Australia you name it, but when it’s made correctly with a lovely, light berry fruit profile, crisp acidity, and nice clean, dry finish, well you probably have one of the most versatile and food friendly wines on the planet. (Remember, fruity does not mean sweet. Therefore you can have a fruity, yet dry, Rosé.) And Rose wine comes at all price points, from as low as $10 to $40 for some of the best from France’s Bandol region.
Rose wine can be enjoyed for a few years still after the vintage date on the bottle. So if you don’t get around to drinking the newest 2011 that you just bought, don’t worry. It will still be OK the next year. In fact we are still drinking some of the 2010 Roses – yum! From spring to fall I will pair a well-made Rosé with any type of salad entrée, as well as chicken and all sorts of fish, especially if they are seasoned or spiced up a bit. Mexican and Thai cuisine and Rosé wine are the "matches made in heaven." So grab a bottle see how pleasant and enjoyable a Rosé can be, especially during this hot time of year.