If you read my column regularly you know I am a dedicated rose wine enthusiast. One of my greatest joys as a wine educator is to watch someone who thinks of rose as strictly sweet discover the palate-pleasing range of styles this wine has to offer.
As rose overcomes its cloying reputation, more and more wine drinkers are discovering that, just as with reds and whites, there’s a rose for everyone.
We sometimes think of rose wines as dainty, low-alcohol summer sipping wines, but this isn’t always the case. Roses can be robust, high-alcohol wines equal to many full-bodied cabernet sauvignons, topping 14.5 percent alcohol.
In determining which style of rose is best for you, it’s important to look at its composition.
PINOT NOIR ROSE = PERFECT
One of my favorite vineyard memories is sitting on the deck overlooking Presqu’ile Winery’s Santa Maria Valley vineyards sipping their rose. We generally don’t think of pinot noir as a grape variety for rose. But it only takes one taste of Presqu’ile’s expression to bring you to a new love of rose. Made using 100 percent pinot noir from their vineyards, Presqu’ile makes its rose using the direct pressing method, fermented by native yeasts and aged 6 months in stainless steel.
- 2016 Presqu’ile Vineyard Rose of Pinot Noir, California (about $20 retail)
TAVEL ROSE = ROBUST
For those thinking of rose as a “ladies who lunch” kind of drink or the sweet syrup mixture popularized in the 1970s and ’80s, then it’s time you meet Tavel rose. The Tavel AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) is in France’s southern Rhone wine region. It is France’s only region that exclusively produces rose wine. It is legend on its own, but it was also said to be one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite wines. Hemingway is often thought of as a man’s man, and this expression of rose definitely falls at the masculine end of the spectrum. Made primarily from Grenache and cinsualt, these dry wines have more body and complexity than other roses and are often compared to red wines with less color.
- 2016 Chateau D’ Aqueria Tavel Rose, France (about $22 retail)
ZINFANDEL ROSE = SWEET
White Zinfandel is perhaps the best known and most popular rose wine in America. These wines not only account for the most sales by volume for rose, but also represent over half of all zinfandel production. Aromas of strawberry, cotton candy, sweet melon as well as high acidity are in line with the American palate, making white zinfandel a popular, refreshing summer drink.
There is a world of difference in how the zinfandel grape for red wine (high alcohol, jammy, peppery full-bodied wines) are brought to market versus rose. The name “white zinfandel” was coined by Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home in the 1970s after a zinfandel vat of juice became “stuck” during fermentation. (If the juice does not fully become overtaken by the yeast and ferment to dry, the sugars are not converted and it leaves a sweetness to the wine.) Rather than see a glass empty, he decided on half full and today we have “white zinfandel.”
- 2016 Buehler Vineyards White Zinfandel, California (about $10 retail)