It’s the peak of Summer, and for many of us it will be a last chance to enjoy the beverages that we love on warm outdoor afternoons and evenings.
During my Malibu wine store years, the industry people returning from the festival in Cannes would seek out the recent Provence Rosé release they had just enjoyed…mostly Domaine Ott. Ironically, the makers and importers would always have the first bottles of that year’s release on a slow cargo vessel waiting to unload in LA.
Fortunately, with Rosé’s popularity, winemakers around the globe are finding markets for their wine. The best Provence Rosé may not reach LA until the start of summer, but if you live in a warmer climate…like Scottsdale, you can and should enjoy them year round! (Remember, all the southern hemisphere winemakers are trying to ship their wines out 6 months after we Northerners would, to free up space, so it is constant!)
Rosé can range from extremely light and subtle, and great for all-afternoon quaffing, to big and bold, capable of complementing a great lunch…ideal for a steak salad.
Provence Rosé can show faint pink coloring, like the popular wines of Ott and Chateau d’Esclans, and hundreds of others (Whispering Angel is d’Esclans mass market, more budget-priced wine…they are known for extended aging of their more expensive Rosés which adds a very creamy mouth feel to the otherwise crisp Rosé, and creates a more substantial wine which pairs well with summer dishes).
The well-known Bandol Rosé from Domaine Tempier raises the intensity of flavor and color, and the dominant Mourvedre grape blend is capable of aging for several years, unlike the lighter, typical Provence Rosé we commonly see.
(as an aside, let’s address Orange wine…which I also adore! Think of Orange wine as being made in the same style as Rosé, but using white wine grapes rather than red, and allowed to stay in contact with the skins and then ferment for a longer period of time. The result is neither clear, nor Rosé, but orange-ish. Orange wine is now produced around the world, including here in America, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Australia and most major wine regions.)
DIRECT PRESSING is the traditional method that crafts light, subtle Rosés. The grapes are pressed after harvest to separate the juice from the skins and stems. There is very minimal contact with the red skins, as the juice only mingles briefly with the rest of the crushed grapes as it runs out of the press. This gives it very subtle coloring and muted flavors from the skins, and yields the typical strawberry and citrus notes we associate with the classic lighter style of Provence Rosé.
SKIN CONTACT (Maceration) will deliver a more potent Rosé style. Since the skins of the ripe grapes will impart color and flavor, keeping the juice in contact with the crushed skins ups the intensity. Longer contact (from several hours to days…), will result in more obvious and distinct flavors, and a darker hue. When the wine maker thinks the juice is right, they will draw it off the skins and start fermenting it into a wine.
BLEEDING (Saignée) creates Rosé as an additional product while making a red wine. This can be a very focused production that delivers a batch of flavorful Rosé wine along with their production of red wine, or it can be inconsistent as it may just be used to concentrate the red wine being made. In Bleeding, the wine maker is producing a red, but after a brief resting of the juice with the skins, a portion of wine with shorter skin contact, will be drawn off early. This portion is ideal to be fermented to make a Rosé. The remaining, reduced portion of juice is now left in contact with ALL the skins, and allowed to rest and gain as much of the flavor and color as desired to create a richer red wine. Well-made Rosés, produced using the Bleeding or Saignée method, can be very flavorful.
BLENDING finished red wine with white wine to create a Rosé of the desired intensity, almost seems like cheating after the technicalities involved in the other methods, and it is prohibited in the traditional wine areas. One of the only traditional areas that allows and indeed favors blending to create a Rosé, is Champagne. Here blending of the red with white gives them a more consistent approach to delivering the same wine style with each release. For large volume production in newer wine areas around the globe that permit it, this will also be a favored method for crafting mass market Rose wines.
I always tell people to try new things when they can, but drink what they like. I love great wine, but I really do appreciate a simple, inexpensive bottle of cold Rosé, quaffed with friends on a beautiful afternoon.
Chateau Minuty M is a lovely Rosé available at many wine stores including Total Wine for under $20, but most stores, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s will have a light Rosé from Provence for around $10-12 that will give loads of pleasure. (another aside-I just enjoyed Michael Broadbent’s Vinho Verde imported white wine from Portugal that is a spritzy, fizzy bottle of lime-tinged summer fun for $11.95 at Whole Food’s)
If I want to change it up a bit, and my friends appreciate the difference and wish to savor rather than quaff, I will open a wine from Chateau d’Esclans Estate. Here Sacha Lichine makes amazing Rose that ages in Barrel and Bottle. The Chateau d’Esclans Estate wine is great (about $40/btl) and the increasingly complex and powerful Les Clans (about $75/btl) and Garrus (about $90/btl) bottlings, are distinct, and delightful! Sadly, if you live in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado or Utah, you’ll have to buy these from a California store and have them shipped…check wine-searcher.com!
Don’t hesitate to try some California or Arizona Rosé…I loved a Stolpman Rosé that I opened last week.
And if you want a benchmark Rosé as companion for your lunch, try the Bandol Rosé from Domaine Tempier…Total Wine will bring it in on request!