Beat the Heat with Rose

If you haven’t already, perhaps this summer you’ll join the ever-growing club of people who drink rosé wine. You may be scoffing about how you don’t like that sweet stuff, but I’m here to tell you that rosé wine is so much more than the white Zinfandel you’re worried it might be.

Red wine didn’t really exist in its current state until the past few hundred years. Modern winemaking now allows for the extraction of darker color and more flavor, but before that, red wines were often cut with water or honey simply to make them palatable. Unadulterated red wines were probably closer to rosé.

“Claret,” the English nickname for Bordeaux, comes from a French word denoting a dark pink wine. According to wine historian Hugh Johnson, the most prized Bordeaux were vin d’une nuit (“wine of one night”) — wine that was left briefly on the skins to leach a little bit of color before being drained away.

Today, that technique makes what is known as vin gris. The other technique, saignée, involves bleeding off juice early in the process of making red wine. This allows a winemaker to balance the ratio of solids to liquid in fermenting red wine must, and the side effect can be quite tasty.

The most important thing to remember about 98 percent of the rosé wines you see on the shelf is that they are actually dry wines. The French wine seller who introduced me to rosés once called them “summer wines for red wine people,” and this is still the best way I know to think of them.

The south of France remains the spiritual home of rosé, though almost every region that produces red wine will also produce some rosé. The two most famous regions are Tavel and Bandol. Tavel tends towards the red wine end of the rosé spectrum; they are usually darker, fuller and richer, with red berry fruit. Bandol tends towards the more elegant, white wine end of the spectrum — flavors of watermelon and peach can often be found with red cherry and strawberry. I find them more aromatic and bright, and typically more complex.

Because Tavel and Bandol are the benchmarks, they tend to be expensive ($20 to $30). Better American rosés are priced about the same. Other regions in France, Spain, Italy and South America produce excellent rosés for less than $20, and there are many wines $15 and less that deliver enjoyable and thoroughly unpretentious wine experiences.

One of the reasons I love rosé so much is that it is hard to be too serious when drinking a glass. Typically, the deeper the color, the bigger and bolder (but not necessarily better) the rosé. I often find myself leaning towards the lighter end of the spectrum, particularly when the weather is hot.

One more reason to love rosé in KC? I think it may be the best pairing for barbecue.

They are cool, thirst-quenching wines with the right red fruit to handle the meat, and they also deftly tackle the spicy/sweet notes in a sauce. In fact, one of my recipes for summer survival is well-smoked brisket paired with well-chilled rosé wine.


Recommended Rosés

Store selections will vary widely, but here are a few ideas to get you started. If you can’t find these, find the clerk who likes rosé and ask for help.

Domaine de la Solitude
2012 Cotes-du-Rhone
Simply a beautiful shade of pink, and this storied
producer follows through with silky texture, beautiful red cherry and strawberry fruit and an explosive finish.

Chateau d’Aqueria
2012 Tavel
One of the most famous and widely available wines from Tavel. This is a bigger rosé, with mouthwatering red berry flavors and a rich, round mouthfeel.

Carol Shelton
2012 ‘Rendezvous Rosé’
This zin specialist leans on old-vine Carignane to make a lively, middleweight wine from Mendocino. It’s packed with bright strawberry and watermelon flavors and rocks with barbecue!

Crios 2012 Rosé de Malbec
This Argentinian rosé is pretty serious stuff, with a more reddish color than typical. The fruit here is intense, and the texture is very full, walking the line between rosé and red. If big red wines are your thing, this rosé is a great place to start exploring.

Categories: Beer, Wine, Spirits, Food