At Once Ancient and New, Rosé is Here to Stay. (Yay!)

Rosé all day. All night. All year. For millennia.

I hope you can deal with it. I sure can. And I’m by no means alone in that regard. Rosé is ubiquitous, it’s the fastest growing category of wine, and it’s seriously having a moment. I would call it a “Rosé Renaissance.”

And while we may a bit late to the rosé game, it was actually the beverage of choice during ancient times. As the earliest recorded wine in history, the “rosé lifestyle” is as old as time. Snapchat that!

What is rosé anyway?

Rosés are pink wines made from red grapes, whose depth of color is dependent upon the amount of time the juice remains in contact with grape skins. Like any wine, rosé can be made in a slew of styles, from dry to sweet, ranging in color from very pale pink to Kool-Aid red. Rosé winemakers are careful to limit contact time between the skins and juice so that only a slight degree of color is extracted from the skins and incorporated into the final wine.

It’s important to note though that color does not necessarily indicate sweetness, and a common misconception is that darker rosés must be sweeter. On the contrary, these can be just as bone dry than their more pastel counterparts.

The earliest wines were pale in color because vinification techniques involving extended maceration and pressing were not widespread. Ancient Greeks brought grapevines to what is present-day Southern France in 600 BC, and the Romans, through their well-developed commerce networks, helped distribute the rosé that had already gained a foothold in the region. As a result, Provence had become, and still is considered, the center of the rosé world.

How is rosé made?

The “maceration” process--the most common method for making rosé--involves crushing and fermenting red grapes and allowing that juice to soak for a few hours or several days until the desired amount of color is achieved. The entire batch of juice is then finished into rosé wine. Most pale Provencal and rosé wines from Southern France are made in this fashion.

In the much less common saignée method of rosé production, a certain amount of juice that has been crushed and vatted for a short period of time is run or “bled” off and made into rosé wine. The remaining juice soaks with the skins and is made into red wine. Many of these rosés tend to be bolder, darker, and more unctuous on the palate.

What rosé should I drink today?

The beauty, and hence the recent resurgence, of rosé lies in its diversity of styles, flavors, and food-friendly characteristics. Provence is considered the standard-bearer but quality rosé is produced worldwide. For a textbook example of Provencal-style try AIX (Morganelli’s, 18.99) made from the classic blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault. It’s dry, mineral, and refreshing with aromas and flavors of watermelon and strawberries. For a more serious and complex take on a Provencal rosé, sample the Cru Classe Clos Cibonne (28.99, Palmetto Wine Sellers) produced from the unique Tibouren grape and aged for a year in hundred-year-old oak casks. Salmon-copper in color, this wine is savory, spicy, and truly deserving of its classified growth designation.

Discover J. Mourat’s Loire Valley rosé ($13.99, Vino Garage) for a more herbaceous yet flinty rendition of the wine. Produced from a distinct blend including Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, it’s lean, refreshing, with crushed cherries and sweet herbs on the nose and palate.

Rosé or “rosato” from Abruzzo, central Italy’s newest wine region, tend to be brightly-colored like a ripe cherry. More fuller-bodied and perfumed than a Provencal-style rosé, try Terre Sabelli Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo ($9.99, Vino Garage) produced from the Montepulciano grape.

Finally, for a New World rosé that pays homage to tradition, sample Lorenza California rosé ($17.99, Morganelli’s) made from a blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvedre. It’s barely-there hue belies its intense floral fragrance, bright citrus acidity, and prominent minerality on the palate.

Looking to revel in more rosé? Partake in more pink? Bask in the blush? Local rosé sampling events abound to help you explore what has become a bona fide wine category. Head to Vino Garage 7 April from 5:00-7:00 for their Rosé Fest. On 22 April, from 3:00-6:00 Palmetto Wine Sellers is hosting a Rosé Soiree.

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erlinda@thevinicola.com  |  202.247.1268

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