Rosé is a tricky one, because it’s not a varietal in it of itself, it’s a style of wine. All rosé, well true rosé, is red wine. But it can be made from many, many different kinds of red grapes and into a number of different style wines.
Much like Zinfandel, in fact in part because of white Zinfandel, rosé gets a bad rap. Because it’s pink, and pink is girly, and silly, and worst of all sweet. But rosé can be a really lovely, nuanced and serious wine if you give it a chance. Something that a lot of people who grew up with Mateus, and Lancers, and something called Boone Farm (which come on, sounds more like a type of moonshine than a wine) are really reluctant to wrap their head around. But rosé, while yes still pink, does not have to be sweet. It can be, it be sweet, it can be off dry, or and this is true of a lot of them out there now, totally dry. Rosé is basically the best of both a red and a white wine combined. It has the full fruit flavors of a red wine with the crisp acidity and chillability (technical term) of a white wine, and there is nothing girly about that. Rosé is a supremely versatile wine that pairs beautifully with a number of different foods and is a crisp alternative to white wine.
So how exactly do we get rosé? There are actually two different ways (well, technically 3 but actually mixing red and white wine together is pretty much frowned upon unless you are making champagne.) The first is whole cluster press; in this method the grapes are picked with the distinct purpose of being made into a rose. This means they are usually picked a little bit earlier than they would be if they were being made into a red wine, resulting in higher acid and lower sugar content in the grapes. These grapes are then crushed and allowed to sit on their skins for only a number of hours and are then fermented like a white wine. The other way is called a bleed, or if you want to get fancy, and French, saignée. Basically for this method you pick the grapes for a red wine that you want to make and then, when that wine is fermenting in a tank you bleed some wine off. The wine the you bleed off is what you make the rose out of, you finish fermenting it like you would a white wine. The wine that is left fermenting in the tank is now going to have a more concentrated flavor because the ratio of juice to skins is now lower.
So what exactly can you pair rosé with? Rosé is kind of like Pinot Noir in that it goes with A LOT. It’s great with seafood, chicken, white meats, grains, pasta, and summer vegetables. The tart acidity can be a nice balance for richer dishes while the fuller fruit flavors allow it to pair with more powerful dishes than you could typically pair with a white wine. Rosé is also excellent with a wide range of cheeses. Basically you have a lot of options, and if it continues to stay this ridiculously warm out here in California then you are going to want to stock up on this summer staple.