21 Jun Truth in Wine: Rosé: Pink Revolution Goes Mainstream
By Jeff Morgan
As summer approaches, I’m reading an avalanche of articles about rosé—the “new” darling of wine lovers everywhere. In fact, the rosé renaissance kicked off about 20 years ago. It took a little while to shift into high gear. But as anyone who has recently entered a wine shop knows, rosé is now ubiquitous.
Did you know that June 22 is International Rosé Day? Even more important, do we really need an excuse to drink rosé? After all, this is a wine for every culinary occasion—from salads and seafood to soups and steaks. Amazing with burgers and fries too! If they want to designate a special day for a special wine, I’m all for it!
Last year, I wrote a blog about my personal history with rosé, which included my book: Rosé, A Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Wine (Chronicle Books 2005) and my former “only rosé” wine brand, SoloRosa, dedicated to righting the wrongs done to rosé. (That sounded quaint 20 years ago.) While I stopped making SoloRosa in 2008, I remain somewhat of a rosé fanatic and—truth be told—a bit of a rosé expert. (After all, I wrote the book!)
Perusing the current chatter online regarding pink wine, I feel compelled to do a little myth busting:
- False: Rosé is best when it is pale pink—or barely pink at all.
Truth: Rosé comes in many shades—pale pink to very pink. However, if the pink borders on red, you might find that the wine drinks more like a red wine and has lost its fresh, light elegance. This happens when there has been too much red grape skin contact with juice during or before fermentation. I’ve seen a whole lot of barely pink rosés, too. They have the opposite problem—not enough skin contact. At best, they tend to taste like really good white wines. But they lack the fruit quality I look for in rosé. I call them rosé impostors! Today’s preference for barely pink rosé is a fad embraced mostly by the French. They’ll get over it.
- False: Rosés made from the saignée method are inferior to whole-cluster press rosés, because they have been made from grapes destined for red wines and not rosé.
Truth: This is ridiculous and simplistic. Any experienced winemaker will tell you that there is no one best way to make any wine, including rosé. As such, there are lots of great rosés made from saignée, and lots of crappy rosés made from whole-cluster press. (And vice versa, by the way.) To make great rosé, you need a good winemaker who understands that the wine needs to be refreshing and light-textured. How the winemaker achieves this is irrelevant. It’s the end result that counts. So when I hear some rosé know-it-all disparage saignée, it riles me. I’ve made really great rosé with both saignée and whole-cluster press. If you don’t screw up your fermentations, both methods can work beautifully.
- False: The best rosé comes from Provence.
Truth: There is no “best” anything. They make a lot of rosé in Provence because the terroir there lends itself to making pink wine. Some of it is extraordinarily good; and some of it is just vin ordinaire (or worse). It’s the same the world over. Good and bad wines are made everywhere. Today, with all the brouhaha over pink wine, winemakers are figuring out how to make stylistically correct rosé from whatever terroir they inhabit. Sometimes it takes a few vintages to figure it what’s best. But I’ve drunk top notch rosé from Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, Provence, Italy, Israel, Long Island, Napa Valley, Sonoma, California’s Central Coast and South Africa, among other locales. Nearly every wine region in the world has jumped onto the rosé bandwagon. My advice is to try lots of different rosés from different places.
- False: Rosé is not real wine.
Truth: I don’t really know what that means. But I’ve heard it said. Obviously, there are still some misguided viti-morons out there.
- False: Rosé is sweet.
Truth: Some rosé is, in fact, a little sweet—like the rosé of Anjou or white Zinfandel. (Not usually what I’m looking for, btw.) But they can still be refreshing. Most rosés, today, are dry. They have no (or very little) residual sugar and lots of bright acidity, which is what makes them so delightful.
- False: Rosé is cheap.
Truth: Like all wines, some rosés are cheap, some are moderately priced, and some (like Sasha Lichine’s Chateau d’Esclans) are very expensive. Price depends on a lot of things—from production costs to perception of quality by the media and the trade. This is a complicated subject worthy of its own blog (which I think I’ve already written). Suffice it to say that you want to look for rosés that you like at prices you can afford. They are out there. If you prefer really inexpensive rosé, you’re lucky. The rest of us will probably have to invest more money in our drinking pleasure.
- False: Rosé is only for summer.
Truth: Since it pairs with everything from salad to steak, let’s drink it year round!
The French just released a documentary about rosé on their TV channel, France 5. It’s called, “Rosé, la revolution du palais,” or loosely translated, “Rosé, a Revolution in Taste.” We’re excited to say that Covenant—both our California and Israeli rosé—is featured among many French rosés, including Brad Pitt’s and Angelina Jolie’s Chateau Miraval. You can see the show, which also features yours truly, by clicking here. (Our segment begins about 35 minutes into it, so you can fast forward if your French is rusty.)
Meanwhile, why not pop the cork on a bottle of refreshing rosé for lunch or dinner? It will surely enhance whatever is on your plate.
Vintner Jeff Morgan is the co-owner of Covenant Winery, in California and Israel. He’s also the author of nine books on food and wine and a former wine journalist. Jeff is available for select speaking engagements. To inquire about a possible speaking appearance, please contact Jodie Morgan at email@example.com.