It’s that time of year again, so which rosé should you buy? F&W’s Ray Isle reveals the bottles that make him happy.
As long as a rosé is pleasantly crisp, charming to look at, appropriately chilled and served to you in something other than a shoe, it will provide happiness. Some wines deserve quiet thought and contemplation. Rosé is not one of them. (If, at a party, someone starts talking to you about the raspberry nuances and subtle spice notes of the rosé you’re drinking, you’re officially allowed to push him or her into the pool.) Rosé is a wine of the moment. It’s a fling. People get married to Burgundy. Rosé, they wake up in the morning and realize they’ve forgotten its name.
This lack of seriousness may help account for rosé’s startling rise in popularity. Ten years ago, no one in the US drank it. If you wanted pink wine, you drank White Zinfandel, often in a retirement home. Now things are different. Essentially, over the past few years everyone has decided they want to spend the entire summer drinking as much rosé as humanly possible—something like 500 million bottles per year in the US alone, according to recent statistics. In France, people now drink more rosé than they do white wine.
Because of that enormous thirst, there are now inexpensive rosés from every wine region on earth, made from every red grape variety imaginable. Recently, I’ve tried new versions from Provence, rosé’s homeland, plus Shiraz rosés from Australia, Nebbiolo rosés from Piedmont and Agiorgitiko rosés from Greece—and that’s just the start. Chilean rosé? Sure. Lebanese rosé? Of course. Rosé from Georgia? No problem. Would you prefer one from the Southern state or the former Soviet republic?
That all these regions are capable of producing pleasant, inexpensive rosé is excellent news for fans like me. A short winemaking lesson reveals why terroir is relatively unimportant: Producers simply need to pick grapes on the early side (to keep acidity high and alcohol low) and allow minimal skin contact during fermentation (hence the pink hue), and that’s most of the rosé in the world. Alternatively, rosé can be a by-product of making red wine: Early on, before the wine has fully absorbed the color from the skins, the winemaker bleeds off some of the pink juice (hence the name for this process, saignée—French for “bled”). This both intensifies the color of the red wine and produces rosé to sell during the two or three years that the red is sitting in a barrel.
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