By Rick Riozza
Rosé’s quality continues on the rise, and whether sparkling or still, this fresh, fruity wine is the perfect quaff for the desert’s evanescent spring and summertime throughout the world.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to meet and speak with Anthony Terlato who was showcasing his fine wines at James Corona’s Heather James Art Gallery in Palm Desert. Mr. Terlato has been in the wine business since the 50s and he’s part of the Wine Hall of Fame that would include Robert Mondavi—who Tony knew well.
Mr. Terlato and his company back in those days were instrumental in acquiring these new light, slightly sweet, slightly spritzy Portuguese Rosés in uniquely shaped bottles that we came to know as Mateus and Lancers. They were—and still are—easy to drink and refreshing, but not what a really tasty Rosé can be, and surely those are days gone by as the American palate changed and charged into Chardonnay and Cabernet and is streaming through Pinot Noir and crisp aromatic whites.
Rosé, blush, or pink wine—as it used to be known (“pink wine”—that’s a fun name that we should still be using) is really the housemaker’s friend: unexpected visitors? Serve them a chilled Rosé—they will be happy & you’ll be cool. Don’t know if your dinner or dinner party needs a white wine or red or both? Dilemma solved—a good Rosé goes with almost everything because it embraces the best qualities of the white and red!
Provence in the south of France has always been the hotbed for Rosé—it’s famous for it! The Europeans have long embraced this wonderful wine for consumption as the weather warms and more dining is done al fresco. A warm day, a bucket of ice, a bottle of Rosé, and life is good.
In America, however, pink wine has traveled a wobbly road. At times it’s been all the rage. Other times, it’s simply been ignored. And until recently—it was kinda like the underdog of the wine world.
I remember sitting chatting with a few acquaintances at a wine event. We had just taken a break from the trade wine tasting and were nibbling on cheese & crackers. They were all drinking full-bodied to heavy-duty red wines. Tasty wines for sure that I’d love to be enjoying at dinnertime, but in the middle of the afternoon while tasting a bunch of other wines!? But get this: these guys started to pontificate on their respective reds and it became pretty clear that they did not want to hear about my “lowly” Rosé that I was delighting in. Funny stuff.
We do understand why pink wine got such a whack in reputation. Some of those “white Zinfandels” got pretty sweet and ruined a lot of peoples’ anticipation. But for those of you who are still doing only whites and/or reds, you’re missing out on the “new” dry (non-sweet) gorgeous but subdued strawberry, cherry, melon, and berry flavors surrounded by nuances of herbal spice and/or minerality backed by a hint of depth and tannins as well as that refreshing tang and acidity.
Sparkling Rosé adds another dimension to the category. From Champagne and elsewhere, blush-colored bubblies have remained a popular expression and come in a myriad of flavors produced from all over the world.
Generally, we prefer Rosé that is dry and crisp, with half-muted fruit aromas. But we also like the occasional mood swing and are down with a fruity New World Rosé that is so bright in color it could almost pass for a red. The beauty of Rosé wine is that it’s usually not terribly expensive, so you can experiment until you find one you like.
I like the French wine enthusiast Cynthia Hurley’s description and following discussion of her favorite Provence Rosé: “A full-flavored, chilled Rosé is fantastic anytime—but springtime says let’s open some Rosé particularly like this one from Domaine les Hautes Cances. This is a Rosé that’s made just like an expensive red wine. It’s a classic Rhone blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan. It’s like a vacation sunset in your glass for around $16.”
“By the way, do you know how they make Rosé? Vinifying the best Rosé begins with pressing the grapes the way you normally would for any red wine. The juice is then allowed to sit with the grape skins briefly (usually just a few hours) picking up color, but also tannins, pectins and proteins which give the wine structure. Then the juice is drained off, put into another vat without the skins and the fermentation proceeds. This is what gives this Rosé its beautiful, seductive, pale color and the structure to stand up to full-flavored foods and demanding palates.
“Watch out though, because there are a lot of lame Rosés out there. Rosé should never taste like pink white wine; it should always have a slight red wine character—it does come from red grapes, after all. But, the most important thing is that little zing of acidity on your tongue. That’s what makes great Rosé.” Cindy—thanks for the comments.
Rick will recommend some tasty Rosé available locally in the next column. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
By Rick Riozza