Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I guess it goes without saying that Spring time is truly a magical time in the gastronomic world. Just as quickly as the last of the snow dissapates, buds and bulbs are slowly finding their way out of their proverbial winter wombs, only to be delivered into the crisp, spring sunlight. Our palates and appetites recognize these seasonal changes (at least mine does). Now is the time to tuck away our stew pots and full-bodied Cabs, in exchange for a grill and the ever-welcoming sign of spring; Rosé!

Every spring I find myself more and more excited to see the previous year's harvest of Rosé wines hit the loading docks, after surviving their long and arduous oceanic trek. Thanks to refrigerated shipping crates, most Rosé make it over unharmed and as fresh as the day they were bottled. These beautiful pink wines are truly custom-made to accompany an afternoon on the deck, an evening picknik, or a classic bbq.

I love rosé for several reasons. The sheer versatility of Rosé wines is absolutely amazing. In my experiences, very few wines can accomodate such an array of cuisine and occasions as rosé. Yeilding super high acidity, a slight touch of tannin, a fluid mouthfeel and a fresh and apealing aroma, rosé screams out to accompany food. Take, for example, fresh vegetable salads like Arugula with goat cheese and vinagarette or the classic Salad Nicoise. Both are perfect accompaniments for your traditional styles of French rosé from regions like Provence, Languedoc, or the Rhone where the wines are super fresh, often smelling like fresh berries and melons and much of this flavor continuing on to the palate. On the other hand, take a big smoky burger on the grill or a bbq chicken breast. Can rosé possibly stand up to such massive flavor profiles?! Definately! Luckily, areas like South Africa, Italy, and California are putting out some really massive and intense Rosé that easily support a chunk of protein. South African Pinotage rosé can exhibit an intensity characterized by massive earthiness, smoke, and a full and creamy mouthfeel, all of which would be a beautiful match for bbq. As well, i've tried a few Italian Nebbiolo-based rosé wines that could easily be mistaken for a light red under blind-tasting and could certainly hold up to a grilled steak!

Besides being extremely versatile, I find rosé to be the crazy burn-out uncle of the wine family. This is to say, rosé exhibits an unpretentious and care-free nature, unlike any other wine. In terms of flavors, it tends to be very approachable for every palate. Whether you're used to drinking pink Franzia from a box or expensive California pinot, chances are, you'll appreciate a good glass of pink. Despite it's lax reputation, it should be noted that a lot of rosé today is real and respectable juice. I often wonder if perhaps Rosé's carefree reputation was born out it's misfit beginnings. In the U.S., pink swill labled as 'Blush' or 'White Zin' flooded the market in the 1970's. Most of it was made out of cheap and crappy grapes that failed to sell after the harvest. Worse yet, many producers simply took bad white wine and blended in some red, a practice that is thoroughly looked down upon in the wine world. However, in the birthplace of rosé, French producers have produced rosé for centuries, as a means to saving their beloved red wine harvest. Many times, during maceration and fermentation, it is determined that the juice-to-skin ration is simply too high, potentially leading to a lighter bodied, less tannic, and watery red. Consequently, producers 'bled' some of the juice out of the tanks to create a better ratio of grape skin to juice contact and ultimately, rescue the red wine from certain death. The leftover bled juice was sometimes later blended with some of the saved red wine to add a bit of acidity or just immediately thrown into bottles for consumption. So the birth of Rosé, as we know it, was out of a sort of sacrifice to save the beloved reds, resulting in delicious bottles of pink that were faint and ghostly skeletons of their red counterparts. Nonetheless, besides rosé's humble beginnings, rosé today is serious business. Many producers still use the bleeding method, but just as many plant grape varietals for the sheer production of rosé wine. As well, more and more producers are coming out with pink wines that truly test the boundaries of what we know as rosé. Much of the pink on the market today is as sophisicated and worthy as some of the most quaffable of reds and whites, often exhibiting vibrant and other-worldy flavor profiles that go above and beyond berries and melons and dance on the verge of being vegetal, tobacco-infused, and earthy.

Just as the seasons change, so do our palates and I think it's easy to say that a change is good and welcome. So as we say good-bye to those long, dreary snow-filled days i'll be bidding farewell to all of my big, red friends in favor of their pink counterparts and hope you will do the same.

My Highest Recommendations from Lightest to Fullest:

Loimer Rosé '07--Kamptal, Austria
Chateau Des Karantes Rosé '07--Languedoc, France
Graham Beck Pinotage Rosé '07--South Africa
Chateau Haut-Sarthes Rosé '07 --Bergerac, France
T-Vine Psychedelic Rooster Rosé '06--Napa Valley, California
Cantalupo "Il Mimo" Nebbiolo Rosé '06--Piedmont, Italy