If Champagne is the wine of the winter holidays, then rosé is the harbinger of spring. As Eater noted recently, rosé season has sprung, and everyone is in search of the delicious pink nectar. Why are we all so rosé obsessed? Here are a few good reasons.
Rosé is trendy. Expect Instagram to be flooded in the coming weeks with photos of chilled rosé at the park or on the beach. Don’t forget to add the finishing touch of a carefully composed hashtag: #springishere, #rosétime or #hotdogsorlegs will do nicely (and tag us in your pics! @tastingroomwine).
Rosé is versatile. Our favorite pink drink deserves an Oscar for best supporting wine at every meal. The perfect pairing for your appetizer? A light rosé. For the main course? A darker, richer rosé. For dessert? You guessed it: Sherry. Just kidding … it’s rosé again!
Rosé is great on its own. No food? No worries. A spring sunset in your glass -- that’s rosé. It’s perfect for sipping by itself as you sit on the porch, enjoying the light breeze and daydreaming of your summer plans ahead.
But what exactly is rosé? Is it a variety? A blend? The confusion is totally understandable. Rosé is a broad wine style, making it tricky to describe in generalities. That lush pink color is actually way more complicated than it looks. Rosé can be made using almost any kind of grape, from common varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir to lesser known types like Mourvèdre and Grenache, which are popular in Provençal rosés. As for the technique, rosé is made in one of four ways.
Maceration: This is the process that gives red wine its color. After the grapes are pressed, the skins are left in contact with the juice to extract color. The longer the skins are left in the juice, the darker the color will be. In the case of rosé, the skins are left in for a short amount of time to achieve that classic pale pink.
Saignée (rhymes with Kanye!): During red-wine fermentation, winemakers will sometimes bleed off small portions of the juice (saignée means “to bleed” in French) to create a higher skins-to-juice ratio and richer wines. The bled portion of the wine can be used to produce rosé, and these versions are typically darker and more concentrated.
Vin Gris: This literally means “gray wine” in French, and rosés made with this method result in a wine that’s lighter pink in color. These rosés are crafted from juice that’s tinted by the tannins that leach out from the grape skins during pressing. There is no maceration involved in the process.
Blending: Rosé can be created by blending red and white wine, although this is not a common practice. It’s most often seen in the production of sparkling rosé.
Whatever the technique used, the end result is a delicate, elegant wine in a variety of flavor profiles, from super-sweet to rich and dry. My go-to rosé is the 2014 Killing Monica Monterey Pinot Noir Rosé, a beauty that was made from Pinot Noir and given a lengthy maceration to achieve its deep pink color.
But if you’d prefer to buck the trend, no worries. Some of my favorite alternatives to rosé are crisp, chilled whites like Vinho Verde or light reds such as Pinot Noir. What’s your go-to wine for the spring?