T'is the season for rosé

Rosé.  There, I wrote it, in your mind you said it and we both cringed.  For most people, mentioning the word Rosé conjures up bad memories of 70's, cheap, sweet and pink wines made by the truckload; sold as fast as it was made and consumed just as quickly.  The name Mateus may even come to mind...  shudder .  

That's how I used to feel. Now I relish the idea of an afternoon on a sunny patio (we have 2) with a rosé. Particularly a bubble rosé because I now understand you don't have to suffer through poor quality to drink rosé. Quality producers have breathed new life into this often maligned wine style and the experts predict that 2017 will be the "Year of the Rosé". You just need to know what to look for.

Rosés come in many styles and flavours.  They can be made as still wine, sparkling, dry or sweet.  Name a red wine grape - it is probably used to make rosé somewhere.  In most major wine regions, the same grapes that make red wine are used to make their rosés.  Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault dominate in Provence.  In Bordeaux, all 5 blending grapes can be found in rosé.  Pinot and Gamay Noir in Burgundy and throughout France.  In Italy, Sangiovese, Lambrusco and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo make rosé.  Even Nebbiolo, the grape used in one of the worlds boldest reds, Barrolo, is used to make beautifully complex rosé wine.  Final colour and flavour are determined not only by the grape but also what happens in the winery.  There are essentially 3 ways to make Rosé (pink) wine. 

Note: the flesh of essentially all wine grapes is clear. What makes a wine red is not the colour of the juice but the process of Maceration. The crushing of grapes and subsequent fermentation with the juice left in contact with the skins. The skins impart the desired colour on the wine.  

      1. Skin Contact: Grapes with black skins are picked and crushed but rather than removing the juice immediately, as in white wines, or leaving the juice in contact through fermentation, like red wines, the juice is left in contact for a few hours to a few days.  The resulting pink juice is then fermented into a still, rosé wine with the same process used to make white wine.

      2. Saignée (bleeding off): Some red wine makers wish to concentrate colour and flavour in their wines.  To do this, they will bleed off and save a small amount of juice shortly after crushing.  The reduced volume absorbs more tannins, colours and flavours resulting in a more robust red product.  As in step 1, the removed pink juice is fermented into rosé.

      3. Blending: In some parts of the world, wine makers will produce separate white and red still wines then blend them together.  A little red in a lot of white makes the desired pink colour.  This method is uncommon and even banned in some wine regions, particularly France (except in Champagne where very good quality bubble is made using this method).

Southern French regions of Provence, Rhone Valley (Tavel), Languedoc-Rousillon are probably the best known source for quality rosé, but many other wine regions are producing fine examples as well, including BC.

One of the greatest attributes of quality Rosé wine is the balance between the flavours and aromas of red wine grapes and the crisp, clean and refreshingly cool flavours you expect from white wine.  

So, how do you chose a rosé and not be disappointed?

 

1. Look at the vintage.  Rosés are generally not age-worthy so for this summer you should be looking for 2016 wines.  That said, some rosés will retain enough freshness, acidity and fruit to be good for 1 or 2 years but it will be hit and miss.

 

2. Decide on a style.   Are you looking for still or sparkling? Dry, off-dry or sweet.

  • There are some fantastic sparkling rosés made using the traditional champagne method. Look for a French "Cremant de (Bourgogne, Bordeaux or Loire) Rosé" Very good at a fraction of Champagne cost.
  • Most old world rosés are dry.  Whether old or new world, check the label.  If it doesn't tell you if it is sweet or dry, the alcohol by volume can help.  Generally 12% or less will be off-dry to sweet.  13% or higher will be dry.

3. Ask about the grape.   Some grapes produce a more fruity style (eg. Sangiovese, Grenache, Cinsault); some savoury (eg. Syrah, Tempranillo or Cabernet); Sweet (zinfandel); elegantly fruity (Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir) and some more floral (Mourvedre).  

I tend to like the more fruity with a balance of acidity and floral, but it is all personal preference.  There is no downside to experimenting with different styles and grapes until you find your favourite. Now that summer is apparently here, I look forward to seeing many of you sitting on one of our beautiful patios, sipping a cool, crisp rosé. Or hearing about the rosé you enjoyed on your patio at home. Fabulous.  

Grant Soutar

Bill Mattick's Restaurant Manager