When faced with the decision of what to drink with dinner (or while cooking dinner), when a white just isn’t enough and a red is too much, rosé bridges the gap of indecision. Possessing a lovely pinkish hue and noticeable tannins, a rosé is extremely food-friendly, while also drinkable on its own.
Known around the world by many names (rosé in France, rosado in Spain, rosato in Italy, and as outdated “blush” in many parts of the United States), most rosés begin just like red wines, whereby red grapes are destemmed, crushed, and fermented. However, instead of spending a few weeks on the grape skins, with pulp and seeds intact, the juice is pressed after a few hours up to a full day. The relatively short period of skin contact allows enough time to make the wine pink, and adds a touch of tannin.
The second method of making rosé is a process called saigneé, literally meaning “to bleed,” during which the excess juice from an already fermenting red wine is drained off. It also simultaneously helps to concentrate the original red wine. This process is used to make many of the rosés in Provence, France. Two of the more well-known rosés from this region are Domaine Tempier and Chateau Pradeaux, both blends of cinsault and mourvedre hailing from Bandol, the only region in the world making mourvedre-based red wines. These rosés are redolent of white flowers and honey, with ripe tannins and a dusty finish—a perfect match for grilled chicken and pork.
When it comes to seasonal summer foods, rosé makes the easiest pairing for just about anything. Pizza topped with fresh arugula, tomatoes, and pesto is sublime with the Proprieta Sperino Rosa del Rosa 2012 from Piemonte, Italy (found at Wine Warehouse). It is nebbiolo- and vespolina-based, giving this wine a slight orange color reminiscent of its red counterpart. Grilled beef and lamb are highlighted, not overwhelmed, by the Charles & Charles rosé from Columbia Valley, Washington. It’s a blend of what would have been full-bodied red grapes—syrah, mourvedre, cinsault, and grenache.
Sausage Craft, based out of Richmond, makes specialty small-batch sausage (sold at Greenwood Gourmet Grocery) such as Carmelina’s, San Miniato, and Bratwurst that are quick grillables, and an ideal accompaniment to any rosé. Edmunds St. John “Bone-Jolly” Gamay Noir Rosé from El Dorado County, California, will chill the heat of any of these spicy offerings. Light in body, with hints of melon, and thirst-quenching gulpability, “There aren’t many kinds of food this wine won’t make more fun to eat,” winemaker Steve Edmunds said. This wine can be found at Market Street Wineshop (Uptown) and Greenwood.
Favorite local selections include Pollak Vineyards’ 100 percent cabernet franc rosé, which elicits notes of strawberry and rhubarb, a dry finish, and a desire to drink the whole bottle (whether food is ready or not). Keeping it in the neighborhood, Veritas Vineyard & Winery also presents a refreshing blend of cabernet franc and merlot that is bright in color and spirit, making it the ideal beach wine when served chilled alongside fresh seafood.
Since we live in a Southern state lush with good barbeque, rosé stands up to the diversity of the assorted flavors of smoky pulled pork, vinegary slaws, and gooey baked beans. The Jean Maurice Raffault Chinon, another cabernet franc from the Loire Valley, has a piercing acidity and crisp, clean finish that cuts through any fat, while matching the citrus or vinegar in accompanying sauces and sides. I was pleasantly surprised by the selection at Wine Warehouse.
Europeans caught the rosé bug long before Americans, and their cuisine balances the wines miraculously. Try a few tapas at MAS while sipping on the classic rosado from Muga in Rioja. Garnacha based with a touch of the white grape viura to lend brightness, it has hints of strawberry and raspberry, and finishes dry with subtle lingering fruit that begs for just one more taste.
Tracey Love is the event coordinator at Blenheim Vineyards, the sales and marketing associate for the Best of What’s Around farm, and proprietress of Hill & Holler.