Thursday, June 18, 2015

La Vie en Rosé

You've probably noticed the displays of rosé in your local grocery store of wine shop. There's a sea of pink colored wine, but how is one different from the others?

Here's a place to start.

It is a common misconception that rosé is a blend of red and white wines. It's not, and in France, that practice is illegal. 

Here's how rosé wine is made: 

Nearly all wine grapes yield clear juice. Red wine's color comes from compounds in the grape skins that leach out into the grape juice during a process called maceration.

Rosé is made by shortening the amount of time that grape skins are in contact with the grape juice. When making a red wine, the juice might be in contact with the skins for 14 days, but when making rosé, the skins are in contact with the juice only 1 to 3 days before the juice is drained off. 

Rosé is often assumed to be a sweet wine, but this is another misconception - most styles of rosé are dry.

There are a dozen or so styles of rosé, and in this episode of Mark Rambling On About Wine, I'm going to spotlight my favorite style, Provence rosés.

One easy way to spot a Provencal rosé is by the traditional curvy bottle, which is called a corset or a skittle. It looks like a bowling pin.

Sadly, this style of bottle is becoming harder to find, with many Provence producers abandoning tradition and using a style of bottle which may look a little more familiar to consumers.

Provence lies east of where the Rhone river meets the Mediterranean Sea. Within Provence are several noteworthy wine regions.

Depending on which region the wine comes from, these delicious rosés are made with Grenache and Mourvedre, with Cinsault and Syrah also being used depending on the specific region.

Grenache supplies lots of fruitiness, usually strawberry and raspberry flavors, with some definite spiciness and an inviting ruby color.

Mourvedre provides a fuller body and floral aromas. Think violets and roses. It tastes of plums and cherries, but also provides a savory, almost smoky, element of dried herbs and sagebrush. These savory flavors complement Mediterranean cuisine, think olives and grilled meat.

While an all-Grenache rosé will be ruby red, an all-Mourvedre rosé will be pale coral colored.

Cinsault is aromatic and is used to soften the blend. It will supply some fruitiness, but will also add a little nutty character.

Syrah provides bolder strawberry and cherry flavors and a white pepper and green olive quality. See how this would pair well with Mediterranean food?

Here are a few typical Provence Rosés for you to try.

Bieler Père et Fils
Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence
about $10 USD

This is what I would call a “porch pounder”- easy to drink and attractively priced. 

Cuvee Sabine has a pale coral color and has floral aromas, with flavors of red berries with savory herbs de Provence thrown in. This year's rosé is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Cinsault and Rolle (the French name for Vermentino) thrown in.

This is a great example of Provence rosé. Did I mention it was only $10? 

Chateau Gassier
Cotes de Provence
$10 USD 
Here is another classic example of Provence rosé. 

Ten dollars buys you a traditionally shaped bottle of salmon colored wine that tastes of strawberries with hints of watermelon. It pairs perfectly with sunshine and, perhaps, a picnic blanket.

Miradou is 40% Grenache, with 20% each of Syrah, Cinsault, and Carignan (a Spanish grape used to add color).

Chateau Gassier also makes the equally delicious Sables d'Azur.

Domaine Sorin 

Cotes de Provence

$15 USD, often on sale for $11.

Along the coast, east of Cassis, you'll find Bandol, which makes a salmon-pink rosé of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsault. The weather here is hot, so the grapes get very ripe, and they make a wine with high alcohol and low acid. Bandol is a very full bodied rosé, and if you closed your eyes you might think that you were drinking a red wine.

Domain Sorin is located in Bandol, but not all the fruit comes from Bandol, so their wine is labeled Cotes de Provence, the larger wine area surrounding Bandol. This rosé is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Syrah, with a handful of Ugni and Rolle (Trebbiano and Vermentino) thrown in. Again, you get strawberries, but this time with a nice lime tang in the finish.

Provence rosé is easy to pair with food.

For cheese pairings, avoid stronger, aged cheeses and pair with younger cheeses. Feta is common in Mediterranean cuisine. Look for feta made with sheep or goat milk (or a blend of the two). Personally, I avoid feta made with cow's milk. I think it crumbles too easily and quickly develops a spoiled milk taste.

Pair Provence rosé with a spinach salad incorporating feta and sliced strawberries. The wine will pair well with the feta and the strawberries will mirror the strawberry flavors in the wine. An herbed vinaigrette will echo the herbal quality of the wine.

Rosé is a versatile food pairing wine because it contains elements of both white and red wines without any one quality being extreme.

Rosé goes well with grilled fish, lamb, vegetables with herbs, or stuffed tomatoes. Rosé is equally comfortable with Greek meze and American barbecue.

I recently found out that Domain Sorin goes well with Korean bulgogi. I would like to say that I determined this pairing via extensive research, but really, one afternoon I had some leftovers in the fridge and I was out of beer. I had half a bottle of Domain Sorin and thought “why not?” It was delicious.

Provence rosé pairs well with practically everything. I like to talk about Provence rosé, but I'd rather drink it!

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