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Think Pink!

Maybe it’s happening to you as well, the daffodils and tulips are catching my eye in the stores and sometimes the sun feels a little warmer. Then it rains again, but hear me out - the subtle hints of spring are here, a preview of the new season that is just weeks away – hopefully. In the wine world, it harkens the arrival of the new releases of rosé!  Just about now – many roses are in the finishing stages at the wineries and will be enroute to our tables. I am one to drink rosé all year round, it’s a delightful pairing partner for food and conviviality. The timing of the new releases and the arrival of sunnier days makes for the perfect pairing. Do pour yourself a glass, as you may find yourself thirsty for some pink as you read on. . .

Many wine scholars believe that rosé is one of the oldest styles of wine. It was documented by the Greeks and Phoenicians; in fact, it was the Phoenicians who brought grape vines from Greece in the 6th century BCE to what  would become Marseille in the south of France – arguably the spiritual home of the dry rosé.  The popularity in the US can be partially attributed to the returning GIs and their desire to drink the wines that they experienced in Europe. Portugal began exporting Lancers and Mateus, both sweeter rosés. These styles were well received by the American wine consumer until the public wanted drier styles and explored other regions – such as expressions from the south of France. Now, we see the full range from bone-dry Provencal style to sweet White Zinfandel, pale (onion skin orange) to extravagant pinks, still to sparkling, and wines for everyday drinking to hard-to-find icons like Domaine Ott.

There are a handful of ways to make rosé; one is direct pressing where the red grapes are pressed and the skins are left in contact with the juice for as long as needed for the desired color. The length of time is also based on the type of the grape – grenache (one of the most common grapes used for rosé) has a relative lack of anthocyanin which gives grapes their color and needs 8-12 hours of skin contact; heavily pigmented grapes, like Zinfandel or Syrah, need less time, while very lightly pigmented grapes may need a day or two.  Another important method that you will see mentioned is saignée – a French term that means “to bleed”. This is an important method and term used often to denote a promise of deeper depth of complexity and aromatics.  What makes it different is that some of the juice from the early stages of red wine production is siphoned off before it has gained a deep level of color and made into a rosé. Often the winery will take what is left after the saignee part is removed  for rosé production and will make a concentrated red wine.  Finally, there is blending. Only legally allowed in a few regions – most notably Champagne, blending is taking red wine and white wine and blending it. An approach developed by Madame Veuve Clicquot in 1818, it stipulates that a bit of still red wine from Pinot Noir or Meunier ( 5-20%) can be added to the sparkling wine to instill the color. Commonly used in Champagne, this method helps maintain a consistent color and flavor profile, these would be the  roséd’assemblage Champagnes. Then there are the rosé de saignée Champagnes made with the saignée method that may have a deeper color, aromatics, and depth of flavor due to the extended contact with grape skins during the fermentation process.

This is just the tip of the pink iceberg, there is a world of delicious and refreshing rosé to explore and food to be enjoyed with it; think cheese, anchovies, paella, tapas, charcuterie, Niçoise salad, richer seafood, and lighter meats. Try rosados from Spain, dry rosés from Provence, richer rosés from the United States, sparkling rosés from Champagne and Sonoma, and so much more.  Pair with sunny afternoons, spring flowers, and relaxed dining.  I can’t help but think of a classic line from one of my favorite  Audrey Hepburn movies, Funny Face, “Think Pink”!


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