With the last of my Yale days on the horizon, and as my nostalgic side becomes ever more persistent, I’m beginning to seek comfort in one refreshing indulgence I know will satisfy me through summer: rosé. My boss calls rosé “quaffing wine,” meaning you can gulp down a glass as easily as lemonade in August. Come Sunday, if you’re still not ready to hit the books after Spring Fling, consider keeping the party going with rosé—a personal favorite that will surely go down easier than the PBR or Dubra shots we’ll all inevitably imbibe tomorrow.
There are a number of ways rosé can be made. The simplest method is to just mix red and white wine together. But, no serious winemaker produces rosé in this fashion. In fact, this technique is illegal in France, except for in Champagne, where it still remains highly discouraged. Most quality rosés are created in a process that essentially resembles truncated red wine production.
Wine gets its color from grape skins. In theory, all red grapes can produce white wine (but the reverse is not true). To make red wine, after the grapes are pressed, the juice, along with skins, pulp, seeds and sometimes stems are placed into either stainless steel tanks or wooden vats. This stew of crushed grapes is known as the must, and its solid part is more specifically called the pomace. While fermentation gets going, the soaking skins loosen their pigments and release them into the must, in a process called maceration. A winemaker creates rosé through shortening maceration to typically a day or less, whereas it may continue in red wine production for days or even weeks. From here forward, rosé is treated like a crisp white wine, predominately fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, rather than oak.
Tonight, my friends and I are popping open two bottles of rosé—one French, the other Spanish. In France’s southwestern corner, Provence has long been regarded as a Mediterranean haven for artists and surfers alike. But, it can also be considered the international capital of rosé, where the pink treat accounts for over half of all wine production. Provençal rosé is typically comprised of a blend of Rhône, Mediterranean and international grape varieties, and is often sold in whimsically shaped bottles. It pairs famously well with the rustic, herbaceous and garlicky seafood dishes of the region.
Château du Rouët’s “Couer Estérelle” 2012 is quintessential Provençal rosé. A traditional blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, this light-salmon colored wine opens with a bouquet of wild strawberries, torn basil and lavender. On the tongue, it reveals flavors of lemon zest, rosemary, Jolly Ranchers and Bing cherries, sliced open with lightning acidity. Finishing with a surprising hint of burnt crème brûlée crust, the Coeur Estérelle is a light, refreshing rosé destined for poolside sipping.
Our second rosé this evening, a 2013 from producer Sierra Cantabria, comes from Spain’s most celebrated region—Rioja. Best known for fiery, masculine red wines made from Tempranillo, in this rosé Rioja’s star grape takes a supporting role. Garnacha, as Spaniards call Grenache, steps into the spotlight alongside white grape Viura to assemble this sumptuous rosé. The Sierra Cantabria has a deeper pink hue than the Coeur Estérelle, matched by a fuller body. With aromas of freshly picked berries and garden herbs on the nose, this lush rosé tastes of watermelon, pomegranate and strawberries and cream, balanced with a mouthwatering acidity expressed through notes of grapefruit and lime.
Beyond simply being delicious, rosé has the added benefit of being cheap. Both these bottles retail at $13, making them serious bang for your buck. But be careful— with rosé’s low price in combo with its supreme “quaffability,” this baby will creep up on you. Here’s to a rosé filled reading week!
Both the Château du Rouët “Coeur Estérelle” 2012 (Côtes de Provence, France) $13 and the Sierra Cantabria “Rosé” 2013 (Rioja, Spain) $13 are available for purchase at The Wine Thief (181 Crown Street, New Haven).