Free rosé tasting | Saturday, April 6 3:00—5:00PM
I'm going to spare you the cutesy puns and clever innuendo that has become the mainstay of what I'm calling rosé season (aka spring). It's a thing, we all know it's a thing: the "Think Pink" marketing blitz of April. I'm going to skip all that and go straight to the fact that, yes, this time of year we see the release of a lot of rosé wines, some still and some sparkling, some of which are fantastic, but many of which are not.
The most basic thing to understand about rosé is that it is made almost entirely from red grapes. Beyond that, there are two common methods of production. The first is the more obvious of the two: pick designated grapes at an appropriate level of ripeness, crush those grapes and let the skins add color and phenolic character to the juice for just long enough to turn it the right shade of pink. Then remove the skins and ferment the juice, rest, bottle, enjoy. There are plenty of variations on this method and every winemaker has her own style.
And then there's the second way, what's referred to in French as saignée or in English as bleeding. Saignée is achieved by bleeding off juice along the way to making a red wine (a process that makes the red more concentrated). Traditionally, this byproduct was used around the winery in various ways, and until pretty recently never bottled on its own. Put simply, it's the easy way out, and is less likely to make a wine of distinctive character. Although exceptions abound.
The difference, mainly, is that in the first method (limited maceration) the wine is made from start to finish with the intent of it becoming rosé, which should be more acidic and less tannic than a red from the same varietals. The grapes are treated with respect to a single idea, refreshingly springy dry pink wine. Whereas the second method (bleeding) is the result of a detour on the way to making a red.
Both can produce highly drinkable wines, wines that will be a perfect accompaniment to your spring and summer outings, your al fresco dining, even your roasted meats of fall. Wines made in the first method tend to be superior to saignée wines, but there are plenty of saignée wines I love to guzzle too. The key is, I don't want to drink a wine built on market principle alone. And that's really the difference between wines of character and mass-production slop.
When I'm "thinking pink" I treat the experience the same as when I'm thinking red or white or green or brown or anything at all for that matter. I seek out the stuff made by the guy who wants to connect to me, who wants to create an experience for me and my friends across land and sea, language, culture, time. No matter what the market deems.
Here's an assortment of our current faves:
Chateau Sainte Eulalie — $16 (Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache) Minervois, France
Commanderie de la Bargemone — $18 (Grenache, Mourvedre) Coteaux d'Aix en Provence, France
Lioco — $18 (Carignan) Mendocino Co., CA
Copain "Tous Ensemble" — $22 (Pinot Noir) Anderson Valley, CA