What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about dry rosé? For most, it’s the Cotes de Provence, illustrious south-of-France motherland of pale pink juice for summer. I too venerate the gorgeous landscape, fields of sunflowers and artichokes, gravelly hillsides, seaside towns, bouillabaisse, and guzzlable wines. But while we do have Provence to thank for leading the charge on dry rosé, it is by no means the alpha and the omega. Rosé is produced all over the world now, from Seattle to Sagaponack to Stellenbosch, and stylistically they are as varied as the lands from which they inspire.
There are two common ways to produce rosé: skin contact, and saignée.With the first method, black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period of time, typically one to three days.The must is then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain tannin and other compounds, thereby giving the juice structure. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the deeper the color and richer the texture of the rosé.
Rosé can also be produced as a by-product of red wine fermentation using a technique known as Saignée, or bleeding. When a winemaker wishes to impart more tannin and color to his red wine, some of the pink juice from the must is be removed at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding; the volume of the must is reduced, and thus more concentrated. The pink juice that’s removed is the Saignée that’s fermented separately to produce rosé.
Some of my favorite south of France selections this year are the MIP which is gossamer pink in color. Made of Cinsault with Syrah and Grenache, it’s medium bodied with plenty red fruit, orange zest and clean acidity. Another light-colored quaffer is the Grimaud Golfe de St. Tropez, which is Grenache with Cinsault & Carignan. Bright and herbal, this wine smacks of freshness, and has a pretty label.
As for Pink Sancerre, the Reverdy Terre de Maimbray (100% Pinot Noir) is delicate, with raspberry and cherry on the nose leading to a mouthful of chalky minerals on the palate. Over in the Pfalz in Germany, Von Buhl is also doing nice rosé of Pinot Noir. Pale salmon in color, is lightly effervescent on the palate with plenty of vim and vigor. If spritz tickles your fancy, try the watermelon-colored Ameztoi Basque Txakolina rosé made of indigenous Basque grapes Hondarribi Beltza & Hondarribi Zuri. It’s attractive color conceals an equally appealing bitterness on the finish that makes it super food friendly. The Chidaine Touraine is the oddball of the group – orangy in color, it’s made of Pinot and Loire indigenous grape Grolleau and has good grip.
But sometimes you want something with a little more muscle. If you need something to match the ribs, burgers, or tuna steaks on the grill but don’t want to bring a red and think a white is too flimsy, Mulderbosch rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa is a sure thing. It’s dark red hue is sexy like a rosato cerasuolo, and it’s rich with pomegranite and eucalyptus on the palate and lavender on the nose. Another rosé of heft is Le Roc Fronton Saignée, which is made of peppery Negrette. It’s good with BBQ and pizza. The wines are inexpensive, which is always a good thing for afternoon parties, since chances are you’re going to need more that one or two bottles.
The Cotes to Provence will always be the spiritual home of rosé, as well as a powerhouse in production (80% of their output is the pink stuff), and you can generally count on it for a satisfying glass if you’re out at a restaurant or cafe and you need something to sate your thirst. But if you’re feeling adventurous, or if you love the diversity of rose as I do, try something different. I guarantee it will delight.
Summer solstice weekend was the only time of year I could bring myself to go to Chicago, a city widely known to have the worst weather in the country. With the exception of the tempest that kicked off just as I touched down, whipping winds and sideways rain for 20 violent minutes, the weather is soft, skies flooded with blue and buttery light, and deciduous greenery dancing on currants of cool air. After a shower in River North, we hop into a cab and speed to the spot Anthony Bourdain calls “the holy trinity of pork rinds, oysters, and beer” – The Publican on the Fulton St. Meat Market. The 2009 Michel Delhommeau Cuvee St. Vincent Muscadet Sur Lie satisfies the Fire River and Moon Shoal oysters we’re slurping, while NV Renardat-Fache Cerdon Rosé of Gamay and Poulsard gives wings to our crunchy handmade pork rinds dusted with powdered cheddar and cayenne. Flesh-lovers unite.
But we are still hungry. We stroll next door. To our delight, we find on the menu a burger, which turns out to be a dripping hunk of ground sirloin smothered in salty Fontina cheese and served between two slices of fried green tomato. The “Erotoburger” went seamlessly with a 2008 Seguret Cotes du Rhone. At once spicy, balanced, and indulgent.
Morning: Gooey French Toast and bellinis at Toast in Lincoln Park. Then we head on foot, through parks of orange daylilies and pines, through the zoo, to the cerulean, lapping, lake-like-an-ocean, where more friends meet us for a picnic. Out of the basket I’d been lugging I pull the 2010 Masianco Pinot Grigio/Verduzzo, a funky Veronese white that’s wicked inexpensive and guzzleable. Also, a crisp, limey screw topped 2010 Man Chenin Blanc (I LOVE screwtops,) and a pop top 2008 Winter dry Riesling liter bottle. The wines are cold. The sun nails us to the grass, lovingly. We watch people on bikes enjoying the rare perfection of the weather, pretty girls in bathing suits splashing, seagulls hovering. I don’t understand this lake. I lie back and watch light scatter through undulating maple leaves.
Up and at ‘em. Hotfoot it to Wicker Park to dive into the crowds at Big Star. Queso Fundito with Poblanos + pitchers of salty margarita and Schlitz + dirty jokes = joyful friends. A cab brings us back to the flat in River North to shower before late night dance party at Danny’s in Bucktown.
My final afternoon in Chicago yields the holy grail: the Chicago-Style hot dog. At a friend’s in Lakeview we steam the beef dogs and toast the poppy seed bun. Chop green tomatoes, pickle spears, and onion. From the fridge we take pickled sport peppers, piccalilli (neon green relish) and yellow mustard. Finish off with a dash of celery salt. Swallow in three bites washing it down with the 2010 Tablas Creek dry rosé which tastes like red chili pepper jam. Complete Chicago. I may not ever need to go back.