Warmer weather has arrived; soon it will be time for rosé. Pink wine is a harbinger of spring, like red-breasted robins, cherry blossoms, tax forms and tissues. Those serious reds and buttery whites we've been contemplating all winter can be pushed aside in favor of wine that is refreshing and fun.
It's time for a rosé refresher.
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Three years ago, I wrote that rosé's popularity had a downside: Many of the wines were simply, well, simple, and slightly sweet. The most delicious rosés I tasted -- dry and even electrifying in their refreshing acidity -- were not to be found on area shelves, as they were in short supply and retailers were apparently leery of offering them.
Not that there wasn't an audience. I heard from one reader who searched for weeks for a Beaujolais rosé I'd raved about and at last was able to special-order it from an out-of-state store. But one distributor lamented that he couldn't interest any retailers in a delicious rosé from Provence because "they all said it was too dry."
That might be shifting. The same distributor tells me now: "Attitudes seem to have changed over just the past year. Rosés are becoming trendier and trendier, leaving more room for different interpretations." And of the rosés I've tasted so far this spring, we have an exciting crop of vibrant, refreshing and delicious wines. Maybe there's a hint of wishful thinking in that statement, but I say it's also our just reward for enduring that prolonged winter.
As you search your favorite retailer's shelves for this year's rosé, remember: This is not your mother's white zinfandel. This is serious wine, ideal to slake a summer thirst but also to pair with garlicky or acidic and salty foods. Rosé's home is southern France, so think Mediterranean.
Rosé should be dry. Acidity means refreshment. Fruitier rosé may have sweet flavors (of fruit, after all), but it should not seem sweet or leave a sugary aftertaste.
Color does not signal quality. Some rosé lovers insist that the paler the wine, the better. But color really is just an indication of how long the juice was left on the grape skins after pressing (a matter of hours). A deep-red rosé is not inherently better or worse than a pale, salmon-colored wine, though you might reasonably expect a darker rosé to be bolder in flavor and body. It's a matter of personal preference.
Rosé can be made two ways. What I call an "intentional" rosé is made from red grapes grown with pink wine in mind, picked early to preserve their natural acidity, with the juice pulled quickly off the skins after pressing. The other kind, often called "saigneé," from the French verb "to bleed," uses juice that has been bled from a tank in order to concentrate a red wine; with a little added acidity, this juice can make a delicious rosé. Intentional rosés typically have more depth and finesse, and a bit more verve.
Good rosé can come from anywhere wine is made. Rosé's homeland is arguably Provence and the Rhone region of southern France. But delicious rosés come from any of the Mediterranean wine countries -- Spain, Italy, Greece -- as well as Austria, Argentina, Chile, Australia and, of course the United States. Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, Va., produces a popular saigneé each year. (The excellent 2013 Boxwood is in short supply because of the tricky vintage, available only at the winery and the Boxwood-owned Tasting Room stores around the Washington area.)
Break out the rosé and take in a sunset on the patio.