This edition of our Toast to travel series is about one of our favorite types of wine to enjoy in the summer: rosé. We caught up with Groups Account Manager Louis, who is also a sommelier, to learn more about this pink-hued drink. Read on as he shares the ins and outs of how rosé is made, where to find it, and what to pair it with.
When people hear rosé, they think pink! What gives this wine its distinctive color?
There are actually three ways to make a rosé but, before we get into that, it’s important to get a sense of how wine is made. Wine is simply fermented grape juice. At its most basic, all a winemaker does is squish grapes, pour their juice into a container and add yeast; this process is called fermentation. The yeast eats all of the sugar in the grape juice and creates alcohol as a byproduct—give it a couple of weeks and you’ve got wine!
All grape juice is clear; red wine gets its color because the winemaker leaves the dark, red skins in contact with the juice during fermentation and their color is leeched into the wine. The longer you leave the skins in contact with the juice, the darker the wine will be.
Now that we have the basics, there are three ways to make rosé:
- Remember how red wine gets its color from the red grape skins and that the longer you leave the skins in contact with the juice, the darker the wine will be? Well, if you take the skins out early, you’ve got a pink wine! This is called the skin contact method.
- This one’s a little bit more complicated to explain but bear with me for a moment. In addition to color, red grape skins also give a wine structure and complexity. If a winemaker is trying to produce a richer, darker, and more powerful wine, they will put the grape skins in the tank with the juice and, after a few days, “bleed” some of the juice out of the container so that it has a higher skin-to-juice ratio. Essentially, this means the same amount of skins are imparting flavor to a smaller amount of wine. The end result is that the red wine will be even richer, darker, and more powerful than it otherwise would have been and there is now a second container filled with delicious rosé! This is called the saignée method.
- Take a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white wine and pour them together—you now have two bottles of pink wine! This is really only done in Champagne (and is illegal everywhere else in Europe).
What are some of the most common varieties of rosé travelers should look out for?
Rosé can be made from any red grapes, so it really depends on where the wine is grown. French rosés will typically use grapes such as Syrah or Grenache, Spanish rosés will use Tempranillo, and Argentine ones will use Malbec but winemakers have a lot of leeway in terms of which grapes they use. If you’re not sure what to get and are traveling, buy something local!
This type of wine has a reputation for being sweet. Is that true? What are some other flavors that you might find in rosé?
No! Many people confuse rosé with White Zinfandel because they share a color, but that’s where the similarities end. White Zinfandel was first created by accident at the Sutter Home winery in the early 1970s (a fortunate accident—it’s still their best-selling wine!), while rosés have been intentionally made all over the world for generations. White Zinfandel is a very sweet, very fruity wine whereas traditional rosés are dry, crisp, and refreshing with flavors that range from strawberry, raspberry, and cherry to ginger, orange peel, and flowers. The specific flavors that you’ll taste completely depend on the specific wine you’re drinking, but rest assured that they’ll be delicious.
Where are the best regions in the world for producing rosé?
Wonderful rosés are produced all over the world. My personal favorites are the dry, refreshing, and fruity examples made in the Southern French region of Provence. These wines are made using traditional French grapes, typically Syrah (flavors of raspberry, cherry, and currants), Grenache (bright, light, and zippy), and Mourvedre (richer and more powerful with strawberry notes). Drink them chilled for the best of both wine worlds—the complexity and flavor of reds with the light, refreshing quality of whites.
What is the best season for rosé production?
Rosé is produced during the same seasons as “normal” wine: the fall. The main difference is that the wines don’t need to be aged and can typically be released for sale earlier (the rosés released this year will almost exclusively be from 2016). As these are light, crisp, and refreshing wines, they should be drunk as soon as possible! While Americans have recently warmed up to rosé (and, for the most part, still only drink it during warm weather), Europeans have been drinking rosé year-round for decades.
Do you have a favorite rosé you’ve tried on your travels?
A couple of years ago I was in the Northern Rhone Valley in Southern France and had spent the day hiking through vineyards. (I know, tough life!) It was the middle of the summer and about 90 degrees out. The scenery was beautiful and I was having the time of my life but I was exhausted when we were done! We made our way down to a little cafe in the village and ordered a bottle of a local rosé. I have no idea what the wine was called but, in the moment, after a beautiful hike and sitting in a local cafe, it was the best bottle of wine that I’ve ever had… besides the 2000 Vina Tondonia I drank at a wine bar in Barcelona, which was pretty memorable as well!
What are the best types of food to pair it with?
I’ve found that people get really worked up about trying to find the perfect food and wine pairing. They’ll read a beautiful recipe and then stress out about finding the perfect wine so much that the entire experience is ruined! For me, there are two easy rules to keep in mind:
I like to think about which season a wine reminds me of and pair it with foods that I would eat during that season. For example, Syrah is a dark, rich, full-bodied wine that reminds me of winter, so I would pair it with rich, hearty foods like braised meats or hearty stews. Most rosés are light, crisp, and refreshing wines that remind me of summer so I would pair them with light fish, pastas, or salads. Sure, this is a broad generalization, but a great rule of thumb.
People have been eating food and drinking wine for centuries so, when in doubt, serve your wine with the local foods from that region! For example, if you’re drinking a Provençal rosé, pair it with light vegetable and fish dishes native to the region.
All that said, the main goal is to enjoy yourself so if you liked your food and you liked your wine then it was a successful food and wine pairing.
What’s the best rosé you’ve tried on your travels? Have any other questions about rosé? Tell us in the comments below!