Summer is here! (Apparently). I hear that there has been a heatwave in the UK, however in the past week I have been caught in two thunder and lightening storms. Ah well, life goes on and I’m positive we will get some sun soon. So, in anticipation of a lovely hot season; I wanted to give a guide to everyone’s favourite summer wine – Rosé.
Rosé has had a bad reputation to some extent. It is synonymous with drunken hen parties and for some reason, it is regarded as an inferior wine when compared to its red and white counterparts. I mean I can understand to an extent because when I go to a supermarket, the pink wine section normally consists of the same brands, Blossom Hill, Gallo Family and Echo Falls. The thing is, these brands are producing average wine, something to drink for the night. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to as far to say these wines are shit, they serve their purpose as a party drink; something affordable to have with friends. They won’t set the world alight but if someone offered me a glass of Blossom Hill white Zinfandel I wouldn’t throw it back in their face.
In a way, the Californian Rosé movement in the late 20th century is one of the major wine success stories of recent history. These guys are responsible for bringing pink wine to the masses and it was kind of by accident. A chap called Bob Trinchero suffered from a ‘stuck fermentation’* of his ‘72 red Zinfandel vintage and salvaged it by releasing a sweeter, paler, pink looking wine which he labelled as ‘White Zinfandel’. With a lot of marketing and publicity, the popularity of this new form of Rosé wine rocketed. Jancis Robinson (THE wine writer of our time) has labelled this in her book ‘The Oxford Companion to Wine’ as a marketing triumph. She isn’t wrong. The popularity of White Zinfandel actually saved a number old Zinfandel vines that were about to be ripped out of the ground in favour of other, more popular grapes at the time and actually lead to more plantings.
There’s a few ways to make Rosé. You can blend red and white grapes together. At the vineyard I work at; that’s how we make ours. We blend Maréchal Joffre and L’acadie which makes a delicate off dry, slightly sweeter pink wine in the style which people often refer to as a ‘blush’. The most popular method of Rosé production though is to lightly press red grapes after only a short amount of time with skin contact (typically a day). Grape juice is clear so when a red wine is made, the liquid is dark because of the amount of red skin contact the juice has. When producing Rosé; the grapes are pressed and only allowed to absorb a little bit of colour, that is why it looks pink.
Notable Rosé producing regions:
In the ‘New World’, California is widely known for it’s Rosé. As previously mentioned, it became prévalant towards the later 20th century and was marketed amazingly, so well that it dominates the pink wine sections in supermarkets and liquor stores across the USA, Canada and the UK. In the ‘Old World’ the most famous region for Rosé is Provence, Southeast France. Provence Rosés are made predominantly with the Grenache grape and then made with a secondary blend, typically either Cinsault, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Mourvedre. The Grenache grape is typically a fruity/spicy grape. If you think that in most Riojas, Grenache (known as Garnacha in Spain) is normally added to Tempranillo to give it more flair and character. Basically, it’s a lively grape. In Provence, the Rosé created there is typically dry.
Personally, I used to be a bit of a snob about Rosé. I let the Blossom Hills of the world cloud my judgement and didn’t appreciate it as a drink. It is actually only as recently as this year I have had an active appreciation for it. When I lived in France I bought one bottle of Rosé and that was actually for nostalgic purposes. I was in Beaune, Burgundy, at a bar and saw they had Chateau Minuty. This particular wine isn’t anything special but it was the house wine at Sunset Beach. Back in 2010, at the tender age of 19, I somehow ended up working a season in Shelter Island, New York. It’s a small island in The Hamptons and I basically spent a summer working hard, serving entitled rich New Yorkers and damaging my liver by doing as much drinking and partying as possible. So six years later, on a Tuesday night in a bar in Beaune Grand Place I see it on the ‘carte du vin’ and just had to order it for old times sake. It was just as average as I remembered. I actually only started to actively order Rosé when I arrived in Nova Scotia. I fell in love with the 2015 Rosetta at Luckett Vineyards. It was light, not too acidic (acidity is prevalent in a lot of Nova Scotia wines) and had a sweet finish. It was so easy to drink and made me start to want to explore more options for Rosé. I’m adult enough to say that I have been judgemental about certain wines in the past (specifically Merlot), however I’m happy that I now have a new appreciation for Rosé and as I write this I’m actually drinking a glass of Gaspereau Vineyards 2015 Rosé, a delightful blend of Lucie Kuhlman and Triomphe d’alsace that has a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.
So go out! Go to the patio, the beer garden, the rooftop terrace or the backyard, enjoy a glass of pink wine and listen to some summer songs. I’d personally recommend Anderson Paak’s 2016? album, ‘Malibu’.
– J A M E S
*Stuck fermentation occurs when yeast becomes dormant and the remaining sugar hasn’t been converted into alcohol. Making a more sweet, off dry wine.