Rosé – Not Just to Make Fun of Anymore

As the weather begins to warm, we naturally start to think about which wines to drink during the summer months. During the warmest months, I prefer lighter wine in general. Rosé always comes to mind. The Thursday night tasting at Fine Wines of Stockton was, of course, Rosé.

Rosé is made from dark-skinned grapes, generally. The flesh of red grapes is mostly white, which produces colorless juice. The delicate color of Rosé comes from minimal contact of the clear juice with the dark skins of the grapes. The duration of contact with the skins (usually 12-24 hours), as well as grape variety, will influence the color of the Rosé. It is during this contact with the skins that flavor and aroma are imparted into the juice as well. Juice may be obtained by pressing the grapes, or be “free-run” which is produced from the weight of the grapes on itself.

In Provence, 85% of wine produced is Rosé. Their standards are very high. Grapes are grown with rosé production in mind. The goal of most Rosé producers in Provence is to produce the lightest colored wine possible, with the most flavor. Night harvesting and fermentation at low temperatures help with this. Almost all Rosé in Provence is made by the skin contact method. ABV is in the 12-13% range. These wines are light in the mouth with complex fruit flavors.

Saigneé is another method used to produce Rosé. This method involves bleeding off juice during the production of red wine to concentrate the remaining juice. The juice that is removed can be made into Rosé rather than being thrown away. This method is not favored by most rosé producers in Provence, where it is considered an “afterthought”. Because the fruit used in red wine production is generally riper at harvest, Rosé produced using saigneé can have higher alcohol levels.

Many grape varieties are used to produce Rosé. In Provence varieties include: Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvédre, Tibouren, Carignan and rarely Cabernet Sauvignon. In Tavel, the southern Rhone appellation that makes only Rosé, grape varieties include: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvédre among others. In the Loire Valley, varieties include: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris. And let’s not forget Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria and Switzerland who all make rosé as well. In the US and elsewhere many of the same varieties are used in addition to Merlot and Zinfandel.

Rosé wines may be made using a combination of free-run, press and saigneé, by blending several varieties and by vinifying in a combination of stainless-steel and oak. A veritable smorgasbord of techniques are available to the winemaker.

Our task for the evening was to choose our favorite wine. We tasted seven wines, all blinded, three French, three California and one Spanish. Let the tasting begin…finally.

2011 Pascal Jolivet Attitude Rosé2011 Pascal Jolivet Attitude Rosé $15. The color was very light salmon. Flavors of grapefruit and minerals, a bit of sweetness combine with great acidity. This wine was light in the mouth with abundant flavor. This Loire Valley rosé is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay. This was was the favorite wine of the tasting group. It was our favorite as well.

2009 Château Roques Mauriac Rosé $11.50 This copper/salmon-colored wine had faint scents of licorice on the nose. Blackberry and raspberry flavors along with just a bit of tannins gave this wine a bit more weight in the mouth. This Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend from Bordeaux has held its age well. It had a surprising amount of flavor.

2012 Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé2012 Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé $15. This wine was a very light pink, the lightest color of the group. The nose was a combination of perfume and strawberries. The flavors were bright and tasted like cherries and strawberries. It tasted a little sweet, but had good acidity to balance the sweetness. I also perceived a bit of tannins in this wine. It was a very interesting combination of flavors and textures. This was a close second to the Pascal Jolivet. Produced in Provence, this wine is a combination of Syrah and Mourvèdre.

2010 Veña Ansorena $12. This Spanish Grenache blend was light cranberry in color. Faint scents of lilies were followed by a bit of minerality and tannins that had a slightly bitter finish. There was a bit of a disconnect between the floral nose and the austere flavors in this wine. Maybe it is past its peak.

2011 Stags Leap Winery Napa Valley Amparo Rosé Wine $19.50 This very light ruby wine had an abundantly toasty nose with complex flavors of berries and spice. Slight tannins were perceivable in this full-flavored wine. It would be good company to grilled fish or spicy pasta. ABV 14.1%.

2011 Sobon Estate Rezerve Amador County Rosé Wine $10.75 Light ruby in the glass, this wine had a complex nose of earth and berries. Blackberry and strawberry flavors popped and citrus lingered on the finish. This wine is predominantly Grenache with just a splash of Syrah, only 5%.

2011 Perry Creek Zinman Rose $13.50 The color was light salmon with just a hint of strawberry scents. Flavors were very light, mainly minerality. Grapes are sourced from the Fair Play appellation in the Sierra Foothills of California for this Zinfandel-Syrah blend.

Rosé is generally made to be consumed within a year of release. Flavors tend to be less stable over time due to limited skin-contact during vinification. For this reason, I was surprised at the amount of flavor still showing in the 2009 Chateau Roques Mauriac.

Rosé seems to be fashionable these days. Whether you call it rosé, rosato, rosado or blush (well, maybe not blush, I think that might still has a bit of a negative connotation) it is made in a variety of styles from very dry, to dry, to off-dry, to sweet. As is always the case with wine, there is something for every palate. And every pocketbook, these wines are generally very reasonably priced.

During May and June we begin looking for the new releases of Rosé. It is a fun ritual we enjoy year after year.


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