Three Top Reasons I love Dry Rosé
1. It is fresh, lively, crisp, pairs easily with favorite summer foods.
3. It instantly creates a sense of occasion, shimmering with vibrant color in the glass.
I recently poured mine for some wine sales pros in Napa who dubbed the color “electric coral” (thank you Ilse at the Vintners Collective). Very pretty in the light, which is where you tend to drink rosé.
The “I don’t like Rosé” Obstacle
Call me unpatriotic, but I observe that when Americans snag culinary ideas from other cultures, they often initially execute quite poorly, skewering the original concept before a few artisan producers come along and get it right.
Take coffee, chocolate, “American cheese,” and “spaghetti sauce” for a few examples. And so it goes with wine. White Zinfandel, the most successful rosé in US history (success measured in $ sold) is simply not a fair representation of what the French have been drinking all summer for generations.
Produced in massive volume and distributed by big brands in the US, supermarket rosé wines seem designed to fit a focus-group image of American taste: sweet.
How to Buy Good Rosé
I was recently asked at an event by a frustrated consumer, “How can you order rosé to know what you’re getting?” Her frustration was that rosé could be sometimes dark and sometimes light, made from any possible grape, sometimes really sweet and flowery and all called “rosé.” True, and ditto for red and white wine. It takes a bit of learning. Rosé is simply a color of wine, a broad category–a blush or pale wine made from red grapes, with varying length of skin contact. The style can be as different as creamy, heavily-oaked chardonnay tasting like baked apple pie is from flinty, citrus-laced Chardonnay reminiscent of fresh pear and wet stones in spring rain… Both are labeled “Chardonnay” and both are “white” wine.
The answer is to order “dry rosé.” And stick with small producers who refer to “French style” or French methods in the production. You won’t risk a lot of capital to try them out. You may learn that you generally prefer a rosé of pinot noir to a rosé of Syrah. Sadly, like all things early in the American marketing life-cycle, there are a surprising number of marginal rosés on the market. But worst case, you might spend something in the $15-$25 range to conclude it’s not your favorite.
A good wine retailer with a selection of rosé offerings knows you want what you want when you ask for a “dry” one–a crisp, lively, high-acid, refreshing wine that pairs well with summer foods, cools you down early evening on a warm night. If you see a big selection of them in early Spring, you’re in the right place.
Like beer or champagne, your best experience with a rosé will be serving it well-chilled, meaning a good four hours in the frig.
About Virage Rosé
First, the cabernet franc gives it a slippery texture that for me is just sublime. Our rosé is loaded with flavor–hibiscus tea, watermelon, bright red fruits, lime zest and chalk. The 2010 has just a hint of residual sugar (left after a long, slow, fermentation in our very cool cellar this winter); that hint of sweetness balances the very high acidity that would otherwise be unpalateable. Inspired by the “Fenceline Franc” running down the northside of our vineyard, much of the cabernet franc in the 2010 was picked specifically for the rosé a bit less ripe (with brighter acidity) than the cabernet franc used in our red blend. I find this sweet/sour balance perfect with spicy foods.
Pairings: fried calamari with some kick in the dipping sauce, spicy mango salsa on grilled fish, sushi, shrimp tacos, crab cakes, grilled italian sausage, barbeque sauce, rosemary-crusted pork tenderloin, quiche or frittatas, any asian-inspired salad–all my summer favorites. Just a great lunch or brunch wine.
My general rule: if what you’re eating would work with beer, or sparkling wine, you’ll enjoy it with rosé.
My inspirational rosé is the Domaine Tempier from Bandol, France. An allocated wine, and not inexpensive for rosé ($38), this is the wine that hooked me on French-style dry rosé, introduced to me by John Gillis of North Berkeley Imports (I drink anything he recommends). Worth the price if you happen to come across one.