ON THE WINE ROAD: All about rosé wine

During the 1980s and 1990s a rose colored wine initiated millions of consumers into the joys of wine.

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By Michael Venezia
Photography by Erin Gray Cantrell

 Thirsty wine lovers discovered White Zinfandel and the category exploded, making “blush” wine a much appreciated and easy to enjoy wine experience. People found its salmon pink color, its light body and its sweet flavor profile quite appealing. Brands such as Sutter Home and Beringer sold tens of millions of cases of this pleasant, easy-to-drink, and affordable rose wine. It continues to be popular in the US marketplace.

Produced in California from the red skinned Zinfandel grape, it was a marketers and accountants wine dream.

Its production is fairly simple. With abundant supplies of Zinfandel available, the grapes are harvested, juiced, and kept in contact with the skin for a short period of time in order to stain the clear juice, and give it the delightful salmon pink color.

In a few months of production, it went from harvest to bottle, and this style became an enormous profit center. Ed Sbragia, Beringer’s winemaker at the time, referred to his wine as “Château Cash Flow.” Prior to those days, rose wines from Portugal also sold well in the American marketplace. Brands such as Lancers and Mateus, in cool looking bottles became popular and assisted in growing the imported wine market.

In the past few years, the rosé market has again entered the spotlight with a wide range of wines produced from traditional grape varieties native to France or Spain. Classic dry rosé wines have been enjoyed in Mediterranean countries for many years. These varieties grow in the South of France, along the coast of Languedoc Roussillon, and on the Mediterranean coast of Provence.

Impressed by the wines American character, consumers are drinking these dry rosé wines in record numbers. The French, who arguably produce many of the world’s finest wines, have led the change in making rosé wines a lifestyle product. Recent statistics show that approximately 27% of all wines consumed in France in 2015 were dry rosé styles.

rose09Usually produced from blends of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Pinot Noir, these still and sparkling wines have become the wine ambassador of the good life that is experienced in the South of France. By enjoying a chilled glass of dry rosé, you are immediately transported to St. Tropez or Cannes.

One of America’s glamour couples, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, have purchased an estate and are successfully marketing their wine in the United States. Called Miraval Rosé de Provence, this vintage dated dry rosé retails for approximately $21.99.

What makes these wines so appealing? To define the sensory characteristics in easy to understand terminology, the wines exhibit fresh red fruit aromas, subtle elegance and a certain minerality. They have good tension, with crisp acidity and a wonderful affinity for food.

Whether it is a salad nicoise, or grilled seafood, the wines seem to compliment a wide variety of foods. They reward the eyes, nose and mouth of the consumer with an overabundance of sensory pleasure. The value added is also measured in the total emotional experience of sharing this very feel good beverage.

Both women and men have embraced the wine’s user-friendly nature and this year appears to be a true run for the roses.

Here you will find six examples which will appeal to your palate and your pocketbook. These wines retail for less than $25 per bottle.

Gerard Bertrand is the recognized international ambassador for “la vie de sud de France” or lifestyle of the South of France. Here are four rosé wines from his extensive range of classic styled vintages capturing the essence of the region.

>> Gris Blanc, Pays d’Oc 2015 is a pale pink wine with delicate raspberry aromas and a medium body. Produced from pure Grenache sourced from limestone terraced vineyards, fermentation is conducted in cool stainless steel tanks to maximize its fruity nature.

>> Cote des Roses, Languedoc 2015 is produced from a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah sourced from vineyards stretching along the Mediterranean coast from the Spanish border all the way to the ancient city of Nimes. The history of the region marks more than 2,000 years of wine growing history. After harvesting, the grapes are de-stemmed and the berries are transferred to a press and then fermented. Bottled shortly after fermentation and packaged in a unique bottle whose base is in the shape of a rose, it is a symbol of the light and energy needed to also grow the finest pink roses, a popular flower in Provence. The wine has great minerality and length of flavor.

>> Château La Sauvageonne Volcanic Rosé 2015 from the region known as the Coteaux du Languedoc is sourced from an estate that is evolving into super biodynamic farming. The blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah is fermented in a combination of stainless steel and large seasoned 225 liter oak barrels. This is a full flavor, dry rosé with additional complexity and depth of flavor.

>> If you wish to enjoy some sparkle in your rosé try the Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crement de Limoux. Predating the Champagne style of sparkling wine by two centuries, this wine pays homage to Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States. Jefferson was a great admirer of Limoux sparkling wine and he had a great quantity brought to the United States in the late 18th and 19th century. This is a unique blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir fermented twice to assure great complexity.

Two alternative styles should also be mentioned as they represent their California personality. The Etude Estate, in the Carneros region of Napa, produces distinguished red wines from the Pinot Noir grape. The 2014 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir Rose is a deeply colored rose with persistent aromas of bright red fruit. The wine saturates the palate with fresh flavors of red cherry, cranberry, strawberry and blood orange. Made in limited quantities, your fine wine retailer can source the wine for you. Suggested retail is approximately $28.00.

Located in the Northern Central Coast of California, the folklore of Hayes Valley harkens back to the days of the early Spanish missions and the historic Camino Real. The certified California sustainable vineyard and winery produces a range of wines from familiar and popular varietals. The rose blend of Grenache and Pinot Noir produces a classic dry Southern Rhone style rose. Red berry fruit basket, with subtle aromas of violettes and dried herbs. I enjoy this wine with curry paella and seafood stews. 

 

All of the selections should be enjoyed chilled. Look for vintages 2014 or 2015. These wines are best enjoyed young and fresh. They are not age worthy and lose a good deal of freshness after two years from vintage dates. Perfect for summertime drinking, although they can be enjoyed all year.

So as Stephen Sondheim penned these words for Gypsy Rose Lee in the famous Broadway play Gypsy, here’s some good advice.

“Clear the decks! Clear the tracks
You’ve got nothing to do but relax.
Blow a kiss. Take a bow.
Honey, everything’s coming up roses.” 

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