Thursday, June 13, 2024

The First Blush of Summer

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 clear long stem wine glass lotAre you anxious for summer to begin?  I ask, because the first day of summer is next week, so I'm not really rushing things with this post.  And you'll excuse me for suggesting in the title, that this piece will be about blush wines.

A blushing person has a red face, caused by embarrassment or shyness, while a white wine takes on a "blush" of red when fermented from black grapes.  Blush is what the folks at Mill Creek Winery had in mind when they named their new lightly tinted wine.  The origin of the name was disputed by a wine writer, claiming he first used the term "blush." 

Truth be told, Mill Creek and the wine writer were never associated with blush wines as much as Sutter Home, the Napa Valley winery that adopted a variation of blush and then sold a gazillion cases of White Zinfandel.

But this piece is about rosé, a wine made from dark-skin grapes that undergoes  a short maceration, resulting in a wine ranging in color, from the pale orange-pink of Oeil-de-Perdrix (Eye of the Partridge) to the darker pink wine known in Spain as clarete.

The French are credited with many things associated with wine, including the development of rosé wines.  Among the most noted French Rosés are Tavel from the Rhone Valley and Rosé d'Anjou and Cabernet d'Anjou from the Loire Valley, and the pink wines from Provence.

Wherever black wine grapes are grown, you're likely to find pink wine:  Weissherbst and Schillerwein, Germany;  Rosato and Chiaretto, Italy; and Rosado and Clarete, Spain.

Making Rosé

Before looking  at the more popular rosés, here are a few words on how rosés are made.

At one time, pink wines were made by a number of different methods, including mixing red and white wines together and by using charcoal to extract the color from a red wine.  Today, the most common ways to make a rosé is by skin contact for a short period, of dark-skin grapes, in a press or tank, or by a maceration until the desired color is achieved.

Other methods for making a pink wine include saignée and vin gris.  Saignée is  the French term for "bled."  After a short maceration, a certain amount of free-run juice is run off during crushing of dark-skin grapes.  Saignée can be tricky, arriving at just right amount of pink color. 

Despite its name, Vin gris is not grey, but a pale pink wine, often made from the dark-skin Grolot, using white wine making techniques. Thus, the grapes are lightly pressed but not macerated; the key difference between vin gris and other pink wines.

The Best Known Rosés

Consumer buying habits for wine are usually based on price and brand familiarity. While the French rosés, Tavel and Rose d'Anjou, may be the most highly rated and considered to be the essence of what a pink wine should be, they are more expensive and less known.  Retail prices for Tavel range from $20 to $25, Rosé d'Anjou is $12 to $20. California roses have a wider price range, $12 to $35. 

                                       Chateau D'Aqueria Tavel Rose 2015

Tavel is an appellation in the southern Rhone Valley.  Tavel has three distinctions that set it apart from other French wines: Tavel was one of the first six wines to be granted an AOC designation in 1936; Tavel is the rare French appellation producing only rosé wine; and Tavelis is dry and long-lived for a rosé.              

The popular pink wine is a blend of Grenache and other grapes, most noteably, Cinsault, which is also a component of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.   Tavel rosés worth trying: Ch. d'Aqueria, Domaine de la Mordoree and Domaine l'Anglore.

The flavor profile of Tavel features strawberries and raspberries, with hints of honey, dark  cherries and black pepper. Grenache rosé has refreshing acidity and the slightest amount of tannin for texture.

Rosé d'Anjou is an unusual pink wine from the Touraine region of the Loire Valley. It is   made from the Grolleau noir grape (better known as Groslot) and blended with Gamay.  The odd thing about Rosé d'Anjou  is while the grape is allowed in Rosé d'Anjou, the variety is not permitted in AOC Touraine red wines, such as Bourgueil. 

Fruit salad, leaning to dark cherries are the main flavor features of Rosé d'Anjou. The color is a deeper red, some even like a light red, and the finish is medium dry to sweet.  The charm for some rosé fans is its fruit-forward sweetish flavors.

Cabernet d'Anjou is the more high-brow of the two Anjou pink wines.  Made from Cabernet Franc in the western Loire valley, this pink wine occasionally is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, or a blend of the two cabernet grapes.  

Cabernet d'Anjou can be very sweet, with brisk acidity and enough tannin to be noticeable.  The fruit sweetness and drying tannin is an odd combination that works, attracting fans looking for a pink wine with substance. 

The Rest of the Pinks

Rosé fans may claim that Grenache makes the best pink wine, but there are plenty of folks who  can rattle off a list of other grapes that make successful rosés.  Zinfandel has its champions, as does Syrah and Petite Sirah.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are three Bordeaux grapes that make respectable pink wines, as does Italian Nebbiolo and Sangiovese and the very popular Spanish Tempranillo.

A special category of pink wine is Rosé Champagne, an expensive bubbly made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a blend of the two.

Matching a pink wine with food depends on the style of the rosé and the primary grape used to make the wine.  Just as Pinot Noir is an excellent match with grilled salmon, ham is very good with rosé, especially one with a little sweetness, like Rosé d'Anjou.  Tavel, Cabernet d'Anjou or a dry California rosé.  Though dry, these wines still have sweet fruit,  a nice match with grilled pork chops or a pork stew.   

The choices are nearly endless, but bold flavors and rosé are not a good match, so whatever you decide, keep the dish simple.

Next post: French or American Oak?

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