First, let’s get one thing straight: anyone who knows me knows this: PINK IS MY FAVORITE COLOR! I wear it, I carry it, I live it, I sleep in it, I eat it, and of course, I drink it. I’m talking about rosé and I am excited about it!
Rosé is not only pink, it’s happy, fun, optimistic, delicious, versatile and French! Well, sure it can be from anywhere, but today the French #Winophiles are talking French rosé, and specifically Provencal rosé, so let’s take a little rosé road trip, shall we? Please feel free to pour yourself a glass before we start; we have a handsome French designated driver by the name of Henri.
Why and How Is It Pink? The reason any wine has color is because of the pigment in grape skins. Red wines are red because the grapes spend a lot of time on the skins, so the juice soaks up all that color. For rosé wines – which are made from red grapes like Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cinsault, Cabernet Franc, etc. — the grapes spend just a short little time with the skins so very little color is transferred to the juice. And that is why rosé is rosé.
How Come It’s Called Rosé and not Pink? This is where the Frenchiness comes in. Rosé originated in France – specifically Provence — waaaay back in 600 BC. When the Greeks founded the city of Marseille, they were packin’ wines and vines, and all the wines were very pale pink – it was just the style. They didn’t leave the grapes to macerate for very long with the skins, so it was light in color. When the Romans came in 125 BC, they brought red wines, but pink wines always prevailed, and Marseille and the surrounding area of Provence became known for high-quality pink – or rosé wines.
Why is so seasonal? Why do people go bonkers for rosé in the summer? Can’t I drink it anytime I want? For generations, rosé was the bevvie of the playground of the rich and famous – the French Riviera. Posh people hit the sexy coast of the Mediterranean during the summer, often docking their yachts for long, pink-tinged lunches on the beach. So rosé acquired a reputation as “the wine of summer.”
But yes, you absolutely should drink rosé before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. The selection might be slightly smaller, because of the production / selling cycle, because rosé wines are released young and we in the U.S. are quickly sweeping the shelves clean all summer long. Generally the cycle is: harvest and ferment the grapes in fall, bottle in January or February and get the stuff onto shipping palettes so it hits store shelves by April and May. Sure you can drink rosés that are a year or two or even three years old, but they are meant to be consumed upon release.
When did it become such a thing in the U.S.? Will it last? Rosé started its rise to fame in the U.S. about 10 years ago, when discovery-loving Millennials (that would be people who are now about 20-38 years old) stated plucking the limited rosé offerings off store shelves. They started a trend and now everyone wants rosé. It’s a delicious, refreshing, food-friendly wine style and just as it’s been super-popular in France for generations, so will it be in the U.S.
Do all rosés taste the same? The short answer is no, but generally speaking, all rosés, no matter the grape or grape-combo, tend to bring flavors and aromas of some of the fruits shown above — watermelon, strawberry, raspberry, peach, white plum – plus apricot, pear, honeydew or other melon. I also find most rosés pack a little whiff of black or white pepper, which is a nice contrast to the fruit. Here are four Provencal rosés recently tasted and truth be told I loved them all! All but one of the wines here (the Triennes) were complimentary samples, but all opinions are my own.
Urban Provence 2017 Rosé (also goes by the moniker UP Rosé) – Oh, what a delightful basket of summer strawberries and raspberry, dusted with black pepper! This is a more serious wine that would be great with food – charcuterie, cheeses, grilled seafood. It has a soft, velvety, crisp, bracing acidity and an elegant structure that says someone knows what they’re doing. It’s made by a winery – Ultimate Provence – that makes exactly one wine: this rosé. The grapes are a classic blend of Provencal’s best: 45% Grenache, 35% Cinsault, 15% Syrah and 5% Rolle. $23.
Triennes 2017 Rosé This is a major global player (I’ve seen it everywhere in the U.S., the UK and Europe). And you know what’s cool if you’re a dork like me? This winery was started by Aubert de Villaine – who runs Burgundy’s famous Domaine Romanée Conti, and Jacques Seysses, who runs Domaine Dujac, another iconic Burgundy winery. And that probably has a lot to do with the massive popularity of this rosé. It’s mostly Cinsault with Grenache, Syrah and Merlot. It’s got juicy watermelon and ripe strawberry notes and again that subtle peppery bite, which I really like in a good Provencal rosé. $20
Mathilde Grand Ferrages 2017 Rosé Mathilde Chapoutier is the daughter of the “King of the Rhône” Michel Chapoutier. She is an absolutely delight of a person and sure, while her dad bought her a winery in Provence, she takes it seriously and makes a really beautiful rosé from Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Rolle. It’s got definite stone fruit notes, strawberry and softness. This might be my favorite everyday rosé. $18
Domaine de Figueirasse 2017 Rosé Made from all three Grenache grapes – red, white and “gris,” or gray – and Cinsault, this one is super interesting. I got raspberry and citrus notes – grapefruit, specifically – and again that slight spiciness, but here more like ginger than pepper. $13
What should I eat with rosé? OMG, it’s super versatile! Rosé goes with any type of green salad, or mayo-based salads like tuna, egg or chicken, fish tacos, empanadas, sandwiches, pastas, seafood and shellfish, cheeses. What I like it with best: Provencal dishes, like Salade Niçoise (lettuce, tomatoes, hardboiled egg, blanched haricots vert, good tuna, tiny boiled potatoes and Niçoise olives, with a simple French vinaigrette). But honestly, if given a bottle of rosé and a peanut butter sandwich, I would do it!
What is up with that pink crap called White Zinfandel? Well, it’s an interesting story! There’s a guy named Bob Trinchero who owns Sutter Home – a winery known for, shall we say, “Affordable” wine, that often comes in boxes. It was the 1970s. He was trying to make a dry white Zinfandel (where the grapes spent almost no time with the skins). But he wound up with a “stuck fermentation,” which is when the yeast that is converting the sugars in the grapes to alcohol stops doing its job, for some unknown reason. There are things a winemaker can do to re-start the fermentation (lower the temperature or re-inoculate the grapes with yeast), but Mr. Trinchero decided to just bottle it. It was sweet. It was Zinfandel. And it was very, very pale pink. And that is how White Zin was born. By 1987, it was the number-one wine in the United States.
I used to throw White Zin under the bus all the time as stupid and disgusting, but the truth is, while I still would never choose to drink it myself, it did get a hell of a lot of Americans drinking wine in the 70s and there are still an awful lot of people who buy it, like it and drink it. And if you’re in the wine industry, you always root for people to choose wine over beer or spirits, so I say, if you like it, drink up!
Want to talk more about Provencal rosé? Join us on Twitter on Saturday morning, July 21, at 10 a.m. CST, using #Winophiles. And check out these other fantastic posts on Provencal rosé by other French #Winophiles:
Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Côtes de Provence through Rosé Filled Glasses”
Mardi from Eat Live Travel Write shares “From Rosé? No Way! To #RoséAllDay”
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Warm Weather Rosé and Cheese Pairings”
Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares “Obscure French Rosé to Look for Today”
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator shares “#RoséAllDay with Grilled Cheese Gourmet for #Winophiles”
Nicole from Somm’s Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Ultimate Provence Urban Rosé with Herbed Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts and Roasted Eggplant Sheet Pan”
Jane from Always Ravenous shares “Summer Cheese Board with Rosé”
David from Cooking Chat shares “Always a Good Time to Sip Provence Rosé”
Jill from L’Occasion shares “Why Rosé Matters, According to French Culture”
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “The Pleasures of Provençal Rosé #Winophiles”
Payal from Keep the Peas shares “Provence Wine Experience”
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish, shares “Celebrating Our New Home with an Old Friend: Rosé from Provence”
Julia from JuliaConey.com shares “Rosé: Not from Provence but Just as Delicious”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Soupe au Pistou Paired with Rosé”