Summer arrives with a blast
After last month’s initial blast of 100-degree days, the summer has settled into a routine of hot days and sultry warm evenings, perfect for entertaining outside.
However, summer entertaining can pose a challenge for wine drinkers finding themselves choosing between heavy-bodied reds and over-simplified white wines.
Oddly, many wine drinkers have a pre-conceived bias against rosés, even when it’s someone who hasn’t tasted one since the Beatles were together.
“I think the last one I had was in a funny-shaped bottle way back in college,” said a guest recently, her hands outlining the unforgettable shape of Lancer’s Rosé, which did double duty as a wine-bottle slash candleholder for many a college student when Nixon still was president.
Sadly, it’s easy to dismiss pink wine. Say “rosé” and most Americans think of something cheap, the sweet “blush” wines such as Lancer’s or Sutter Home’s white Zinfandel.
But there are many reasons to enjoy rosés, as fellow wine writer Jeff Siegel, aka The Wine Curmudgeon, noted recently in his annual rosé review.
“I especially pondered that question (of why American’s don’t do much rosé) preparing for this post, the blog’s fifth annual rose extravaganza,” Siegel wrote. “And I can’t come up with a good reason. Rose is cheap. It’s better made than ever before. It’s food friendly. You can put an ice cube in it. What more do you need from a wine?”
A bit of pink-wine history is supplied by David White, founder and editor of the Terroirist.com.
In a recent column, White explained that way back in 1975, Sutter Home winemaker Bob Trinchero had some of his white Zinfandel get “stuck” during fermentation, meaning the yeast died before all the sugar had converted into alcohol.
Rather than add more yeast, Trinchero let the wine sit for two weeks, White said.
When Trinchero revisited the wine, he knew it would be a hit, and Sutter Home’s modern-day white Zinfandel was born. As White and others have seen, countless imitators soon would follow.
But popularity does not mean great wine. White Zinfandels and similar “blush” wines usually are too sweet, more like strawberry Kool-Aid with an alcohol kick.
True rosés, particularly those from France and Spain, are bone dry, multi-layered and refreshing. And those layers of complexity make the wines as food friendly as any wines.
There are several ways to make a rosé wine, but the two most common are leaving grape skins in the fermenting juice just long enough to add some color (remember all grapes give white juice) and the process called bleeding (“saigneé”), where the light-colored wine is siphoned off the freshly crushed grapes.
The main flavors are strawberry, cranberry, watermelon and raspberry although you might find a kiss of red flowers, some spice and even a hint of minerality.
They aren’t all pink. Rose´s range from a light salmon to a medium red. And most alcohol levels can be 13 percent or less, which means a glass or two won’t have you falling asleep by the pool.
Americans slowly are coming around to rosés, in part, I think, because Americans are traveling to countries where good rosés are common.
– Chateau Pesquie “Les Terrasses” — $13, well-balanced, dry, medium-bodied with raspberry and red cherry flavors.
– Plum Creek Cellars Palisade Rosé — $9, semi-sweet, notes of ripe strawberries, watermelon and red cherry.
– Canyon Wind Cellars 47-Ten Rosé — $14, dry, medium-bodied, notes of strawberry, cranberry and pineapple, 14.6 percent alcohol.
– Chateau Sainte Eulalie Minervois — $15, dry, made in the saigneé method, hints of strawberries, raspberries and spice, 13.5 percent alcohol.