February 2007

Rosés are Pink...and Perfect for February!

Author: Krissy Cantelupe

Although often thought of as a summer wine because of its crispness and lightness, rosé is actually a perfect wine for the month of February—great as a Valentine’s Day gift or just something unusual to drink.

Sometimes referred to as blush wine, rosé’s pink color is a result of the grapes from which it is produced along with the way the grapes are processed. Red wine gets its color from contact with the skins of the grapes during fermentation. Rosé wine is made the same way, but with less skin contact, thus, the softer pink color and refreshing fruit flavors. Fermentation often continues in stainless steel barrels without any oak influence. Rosés do not need lengthy fermentation times; they are ready to drink early and do not need to age.

Rosés can be found in almost all regions of the world and are made from many grape varietals. Some of the best rosés are produced in Tavel, located in the southern Rhône wine region of France. Made mostly with Grenache and Syrah, these can be somewhat pricier than the average. In the south of France, especially Provence, the grapes to make rosé are harvested by hand at night, then packed on dry ice, taken to the winery and pressed right away to keep the wine fresh and crisp for release as early as February. The French rosés are usually dry and crisp in flavor.

In Spain, rosé is made with Garnacha (Grenache) or Tempranillo. The wine is known as Rosado, and is available at fantastic price points. The Spanish versions are usually a little fruitier, with hints of strawberry and raspberry.

In Italy, Sangiovese is the grape typically used in rosé, which is the same grape used to produce Chianti. The “Rosato di Sangiovese” is usually dry and less fruit-forward, with some hints of spice on the finish.

In Australia and South Africa, there is much experimentation with the Syrah grape, but both areas grow great Grenache—excellent for rosé.

In California, anything goes: Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, etc. With all of these different grapes being used to produce rosé, flavors vary from dry to sweet and are light to medium-bodied. Many California rosés are reasonably priced, making it easy to try a variety.

Valentine’s Day hint: Rosé is wonderful served with light salads, cheeses and meats. Plan a romantic picnic for two, and take a couple of chilled bottles of rosé. If it’s too cold for outdoor dining, spread the blanket on the floor indoors and indulge!

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