Rose Wine

Imagine a wine that would go with just about anything you placed on your springtime or summertime table. Imagine a wine for which neither storage nor aging were ever an issue, since it should be drunk as young and fresh as possible. Imagine such a wine, and then imagine that it would be refreshing, prettily aromatic, and that sipping it would instantly put even the biggest sourpuss in a happy-go-lucky mood.

The wine of your dreams exists: it’s rosé.

WHAT IS ROSÉ?

Without getting into too much techno-speak, rosé can be produced one of two ways. Usually it’s made by crushing red wine grapes, then leaving the dark skins in contact with the juice for a much shorter time than they would be for a red wine, so that the wine takes on only a pink coloring. (Rosé actually means “pinkish” in French.) From that point, it’s made like a white wine, though it’s not usually oaked. The second method, used most commonly in France’s Champagne region, involves adding a small amount of red wine to white wine in order to stain it pink.

Rosés can be made from just about any red grape variety, from Grenache to Merlot to Cabernet Franc. Depending on the grapes used and winemaking technique, they can range from a pretty pale salmon color to almost a watermelon shade.

Other than blush wines, which are a type of off-dry rosé made by leaving skins in contact with the juice only long enough to turn the wine a very pale pink (White Zinfandel is an example), rosés tend to be crisp, dry, light, and aromatic. Those craving a drier blush should seek out vin gris, which simply means a blush wine vinified to be dry.

It used to be that the best rosés came from France, but a rosé renaissance that has taken place over the past six or seven years means that lots of lovely pink wines are coming from American wineries from California to Long Island, as well as South America, Australia, Italy, Spain, and other regions. French rosés such as those from Bandol or the southern Rhône are still great, but now there’s plenty of competition.

A GREAT FOOD WINE

Rosés may be the most versatile food-wines in the world, pairing well with just about every kind of warm-weather food, from salads and pastas to grilled fish, vegetables, or chicken (not to mention bouillabaisse or paella). Nothing beats rosé when it’s picnic time—it’s the ideal wine with the ham, potato salad, cheese and bread you’ll unload from the picnic basket as well as the burgers you’ll pull off the barbecue. Since they’re so light and pretty, they make wonderful apéritifs (the queen of all apéritifs is a rosé Champagne), yet their abundant fruit lets them stand up even to spicy and assertive foods like salsa and chips, Indian curry, or even chili-spiked Thai dishes.