Wine Newsletter by Ed Young

July Rosé Wines Summer 2016

Many years ago when my wife and I were dating in Washington, D.C. it was the epitome of sophistication to order Mateus, the famous Portuguese Rosé, with dinner. Maybe some of our readers will remember that distinctive flat bottle. It was very reasonably priced and widely available, and it went down easily. Unfortunately, in later years sweet, cheap Rosé got a bad reputation as the drink of choice for street people. The fact that most had a screw top cap also detracted from the image of this wine. Many wine drinkers turned up their noses at the very thought of drinking a Rosé (except for White Zinfandel, which became immensely popular and remains so). We are happy to report that those days are gone forever. If you are one of the few who hasn’t yet discovered the pleasures of this wine, this message is for you.

Sales of well-made dry Rosés have been increasing for ten years. Last year in the U.S., sales went up by 41%. In France, where people know their wines, Rosés are more popular than whites. Five years ago, Rosés were just a trendy thing in avant garde New York wine bars. Now, it is no longer a fad. Rosés are increasingly found on restaurant wine lists all across the country.

If you have ever been in a vineyard and picked a red grape and squeezed it, you may have been surprised to see clear, white juice. So, how do Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, and Pinot Noir get their red color? When the grapes are crushed, the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice. Day by day, the fledgling wine darkens until it takes on the red color that you see in the bottle. Now, if the juice is drained off the skins before that process is complete, you have a Rosé! Rosés can be made from any red grape, but the most common ones are Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault—or blends of these and others. The quality of a good Rosé is the same as the finished varietal would be, but with fewer tannins, and a lighter body.

The most famous Rosés come from Provence, in France, but a growing number of U.S. vintners are producing good ones. The most striking feature of these wines is their color, which can vary from slightly tinged clear to dark salmon. They are beautiful in the bottle and the glass. The winemaker has complete control over color, depending on the length of time the skins stay in contact with the juice. Once, in Argentina, we tasted one that looked like pink water. The winemaker told us that he only allowed the juice to remain on the skins for fifteen minutes! The most common tasting notes are strawberry, honeydew, rose petal, citrus zest, and rhubarb. A crisp, chilled, dry Rosé is just the thing for hot weather, but the wine has become a strong performer all year long (it is a great choice for Thanksgiving dinner). Rosés are versatile, food-friendly, fresh on the palate, and they are inexpensive. It is even being used in trendy cocktails! A popular one is Basil Lemonade with simple syrup, vodka, and lemon. Or how about a Tequila Lime and Rosé Margarita? There is even a recipe for a drink with Bourbon! This wine is terrific also in Sangria, with orange slices and your choice of fruits. Search “Rosé Wine Cocktails” on the internet for a wealth of choices.

As recently as a year ago, Frugal had only a half-dozen or so choices on the shelf, but with the growing popularity of Rosés, that number is now closer to three dozen. Here are some of the staff’s top recommendations.

  • Terre des Oliviers, Cotes de Provence, $14.99;
  • Gerard Bertrand Cotes de Roses, $15.99, (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault). Gorgeous color, and one of the most elegant bottles we’ve ever seen;
  • Domaine Serene Oregon Dry Rosé, $34.99 (Pinot Noir);
  • Charles and Charles Rosé, $12.99, (Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Counoise), Columbia Valley Washington (my personal pick for best price/quality value);
  • Miraval Provence, $28.99, (Grenache, Syrah), great French wine from the vineyard of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie;
  • Ballette Rosé of Pinot Noir, $19.99, Russian River Sonoma;
  • Le Pive Vignobles Jean Jean, $16.99 (Grenache Gris, Grenache Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc).

All of the above choices come in glass bottles, but glass is heavy, breaks easily, has to be recycled, and is prohibited at most pools. We have a great alternative! A winery in Denver with the unlikely name of Infinite Monkey Theorem produces canned Rosé made from Merlot. A 4-pack of 250 ml. cans is priced at $14.99.

Do yourself a favor and try one or more of these Rosés soon. You’ll be glad you did!