Seeking Sommeliers’ Sparkling Rosés by Rick Riozza
Increasingly, wine seems to get its fair share of TV coverage with all the morning and afternoon talk shows. And as the viewing public becomes more vino educated, most of the talk show hosts are deferring to wine professionals and sommeliers to conduct and handle the wine segments.
There is usually a display of 5 or 6 wines on hand (all for sale—please!) and there’s a brief discussion of each as both the wine guy or gal quickly moves on—and, they quite often run out of time! Only once in a while do the talk show hosts ask the better unrehearsed and most personal question: What wine are you opening up at home tonight?
And when posed the question—interestingly, a great majority of the time, they admit to a Rielsing or Rosé as the wine they have in the fridge ready to go.
I hope you gave a German Rielsing Kabinett some thought and even enjoyed a bottle after reading this column a couple of weeks ago. Because of the desert heat, we’ve been covering a variety of summertime wines to cool down with; last week, we discussed the need to have a chilled sparkling wine close by.
Rosé and Rosé sparkling wines may well be the most versatile wine in town. The “still” Rosés are just as delicious & versatile and we will continue to discuss them throughout the year. But a summertime “bubbly” is always a winner. The wine’s crispness and acidity pair well with all the lighter fare such as salads and appetizers, but it’s made from red grapes, so it can stand up to heartier dishes like poultry, fish and pork. Plus, who doesn’t like bubbles!
This all translates to the great economy of simply enjoying one wine for an entire multi-course meal. In these parts, even when we enjoy picnics in autumn, a rosé sparkler is a natural choice for an outdoor, transportable meal and of course a BBQ.
Amanda Gold of the S.F. Chronicle, when discussing barbecued chicken leftovers pairing with sparkling rosé, writes, “Barbecued chicken salad sandwiches turn last night’s leftovers into the perfect picnic fare, and the wine’s sweetness plays beautifully against the barbecue sauce’s sugar and smoky notes. The chicken salad can be piled on sweet French or soft potato rolls, or for a low-carb version, wrapped in crisp leaves of butter lettuce.”
Sommeliers are wine experts that generally manage the wine at restaurants. (My hard earned title of “sommelier-about-town” means that I manage somehow to get to as many wine venues as possible!) Let’s take a break from my lingo and check out the country’s notable sommelier’s comments on Sparkling Rosés:
Justin Leone of Chicago’s famous Benny’s Chop House: “In general, nothing makes me salivate more than a flute of sparkling rosé on the table in the sun. It’s a no-brainer—you’ve got red berry qualities that can accompany any meat. Acidity, freshness, and dried fruit crunch.”
Inez Ribustello in North Carolina’s On the Square: “If Social Services saw the inside of our refrigerator, they would probably take our children away—because it’s a million bottles of sparkling wine and one bottle of organic milk! We love sparkling wine. We especially love pink sparklers, like pink cava. Anime Pink [from Italy] is also very fun.” We even have Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée [from California].
Todd Thraser in Virginia’s Restaurant Eye: “Under-$15 tip: Just for sipping on a hot summer afternoon, I turn to Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from South Africa, which tastes like Bing cherries and strawberries in a glass.”
Master Sommelier Sabato Sagaria from Aspen’s famous The Little Nell: “. . .What do you think of first? Bubbles. When people are in the mood to celebrate, if you throw pink into the mix it is just that much more festive because people are not expecting it. There are multiple ways to go about this.”
He continues, “When I was in Italy, what I loved was the Aperol Spritz, which many people don’t know much about, but it is a little brother to Campari. It’s bitter with rhubarb and orange characteristics. The classic cocktail they make in Italy is a wine glass with a little Aperol in the bottom, filled with rocks, with Prosecco over that, topped with soda water and garnished with an orange slice. It is light, refreshing, and a colorful aperitif.”
What Sabato describes above with the Aperol Spritz hints at what we are always able to do with a sparkling wine: Color it Up! and design your own Rosé. I’ll often have fun at wine tastings when both red and white wines are served. If I leave just a touch of red in the glass—and like a wine magician—I’ll call out “Presto!” or “Voila!” as I pour a white sparkling wine into the glass and to everyone’s amazement the result is a coral/copper/salmon colored sparkling wine. (I know, most of the crowd just humors me.)
A really inexpensive but tasty wine experiment is to get a bottle of Spanish Cava, like a Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut, which is a great sparkling wine at the great price of around $6. Just drop a dollop or less of a decent California Syrah or Merlot into a flute of Cava. You can view and taste the result and adjust the color and flavor of your own home-made sparkling Rosé—you little winemaker you.
La vie en rosé! Cheers!
Rick is the desert’s sommelier-about-town and continues to host private & corporate wine tastings and events. Contact