August 14th -- International Rosé Day!
By Sunny Brown
So the good folks at Hallmark created a holiday several years ago called Sweetest Day. What a great idea for the millions of Dads, Husbands, Boyfriends, et al. to have a day that they can celebrate their sweetie, that is of course if they remember, which as it is a made-up holiday, alas, many will not. So before we get to the last-minute scrambling or next-day groveling, I say we make up our own holiday. One that says Happiness, Love, Friendship and Pink! One that has all the great attributes of any other holiday, but instead of making it exclusive such as Valentine’s or Sweetest Day, I say we celebrate with friends, family, co-workers, the family dog or anyone else of legal drinking age (in most states three for the family dog). And I say we do it in honor of the great pink wine of summer, the Rosé.
Just so there is no confusion, a good Rosé is made in an entirely different manner than White Zin. While the latter is often made by blending large amounts of white and red wines and adding a healthy dose of sugar, Rosés are made by in the same manner as red wines, it is only the maceration time, or the amount of time that crushed grapes are in contact with the grape skins, that is the difference. It is in this time that the clear juice gains color from the pigment of the skins. This is also the time when red wines acquire tannins, the bitter astringency that is so crucial to the longevity of red wines, but can be overwhelming if too much is present. If the maceration time is short, the resulting wine will have less color, but also a low amount of tannin which allows it to be enjoyed while it is young and fresh.
Ok, so I had to get that off my chest and now we can get back to the good times of which Kool and the Gang speaks. No matter what the feelings are concerning White Zin, when Rosés are mentioned most folks get a funny look on their face, like there is something rotten and it is not necessarily in Denmark. This happens for many reasons. The uninitiated to the pleasures of the pink wine think the reference applies to White Zin, and even the most ardent fan of White Zin is usually loathe to admit their passion. Those who know the way of the Rosé think “Hey, I like it, but no one else does.” Ho ho, are you wrong my friend! Rosé needs respect. Rosé needs to take its rightful place as a world-class wine, not as a European relation to something Fred Franzia thought would look great in a five-liter box. In short, Rosé needs a holiday.
So here we are, with a day dedicated to Rosés, August 14th, the halfway point through another year before Valentine’s Day is reached. But why, pray tell? It amazes me that every year during the late months of spring when seemingly every one in the know (i.e. distributors, wineries, retailers, etc.) is singing the praise of the new Rosés that are just arriving. And I find it just as amazing that after all that hype the mad rush for Rosés just never really happens. It’s very similar to our local weather prognosticators and their annual predictions of imminent doom under mountainous snowfalls which usually amount to barely enough for a good snowball fight.
It makes no sense, really. Delicious Rosés from Spain, Italy and all over France can be had for a song, and are the perfect compliment to either summer dining or just something to sip by the pool. Dry, fruity, spicy, zippy, tingly. The list of intriguing flavor descriptors goes on and on. Some are light and lovely, some more bold and assertive, but all but the very worst are dry on the finish and have a vein of bright acidity running through them. They match wonderfully with a ride range of foods, from the traditional Salad Niçoise of the French Riviera to the more challenging Asian or fusion cuisine. Vegetables, soft cheeses, fish, cured meats, you name it. In fact, you might be hard pressed to find a red wine on a café table near the Mediterranean right now, but the power of pink wines will be out in force.
To answer the question “How do I find a good Rosé?” the answer is simple: Its all good. Ok, maybe not, but for the most part Rosé shopping can be quite easy. There are a couple of hints to follow though. First, try to find the most recent vintage. Rosés in general are best consumed young and fresh, and they are often released in the April, May or June following harvest. This can be complicated by late release wines from the Bandol region in Provence, which spend a little more time in the winery before release, but they are well worth the wait as they are some of the best Rosés in the world.
Second, ask your retailer for their favorite. Not every wine on the shelves are tested, but since most of the Rosés come in at the same time, your wine dude may have seen more than her/his fair share in the last month so their impressions will be as fresh as the beautiful pink substance lining the wall. Some of the current favorites hail from Spain (in the great region of Rioja) and from various spots in Italy where Rosés are often known as Chiarettos.
Third, know your color. Rosés come in a variety of hues, and while it is not always spot on as to what the flavor profile will be the color can be a good indicator of style. A light copper or salmon hue, something the French refer to as Pelure d’Oignon (skin of the onion), can indicate a spicier style of Rosé. A heavier strawberry or deep pink hue usually indicates a wine heavier in deep red fruit flavors such as strawberries, cherries and raspberries.
Speaking of France, there is no country on earth more famous for Rosés. Most of the major regions produce some form of Rosé (Loire, Burgundy, Provence) but it is the southern areas of the Rhône valley and the Languedoc-Rousillon that have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of Rosé. Look to the regions of Tavel, the previously-mentioned Bandol, Costieres de Nimes, and Lirac for tasty goodness.
But the Old World by no means has a monopoly on pretty pink wines. Great Rosés are coming from many producers in California, though usually in small amounts. By the way, Mr. Sinskey, if you are reading this, won’t you please make just a few extra cases of your lovely Vin Gris of Pinot Noir? We do so love it!
So now we have now excuses. We have beautiful summer days, we have beautiful summer wines, and now we have August 14th set aside as the International holiday on which to celebrate them. So what if it’s not a recognized International holiday? Should you really wait for Arbor Day to plant a tree? Or for Mother’s Day to love your mom? Or better yet, for some arbitrary day in October to honor your sweetheart (which you had better do more than once or twice a year anyway, or they won’t be your sweetest for very long)? Why not grab them and everyone else you can and honor the great Rosé? A little love and a little pink wine can go along way, why not go along with it?