Looking through rose-colored glasses

By Celia Strong

I haven’t mentioned it in a long time, but our monthly tasting group just met, and because we insist on learning at these tasting, we sometimes have wines that we might not drink if left to our own devices. True, too, maybe after tasting them we still might not, but, at least with a tasting on our record, we can say we’re mature enough to have tried. And, guess what?  There is always one in the group who expected not to like the wines and is converted, which is the whole point of the wine tasting!  So, this month, in keeping with the warm weather, we tasted rosé wines.

Wine-roseWhen we picture these pink-colored wines, it’s always hard for some to get past that color thing.  It’s important that we remember that these wines are made almost exactly like red wines, and from all the same grape varieties. Since the color for red wines comes from the skins (grape pulp and juice are both white), it’s easy to see that rosés must also get their color from the grape skins. The difference is just in the amount of time the juice and fermented wine is allowed to sit with the skins, soaking up more color the longer they sit together.  Reds can sit for up to two and three weeks, rosés for hours and days only.

In addition to less color getting soaked up, rosés also get fewer tannins from the skins. Tannins are that texture you feel on the back of your teeth with a red wine. And, it’s tannin that helps red wines cut through the fats in red meats. Since rosés have fewer tannins, they are balanced with higher levels of acidity. Not as much as most white wines, but enough so that they taste better slightly chilled. What we need to remember are several things — rosé wines can be very good, especially with certain foods, they can be a perfect compromise in summer warm weather, they can be fun for a change, and, best of all, they taste really good. Oh, one more thing, they can look really pretty as part of your table’s décor. Aesthetically pleasing, besides gastronomically.

So, our group met and lined up six bottles of rosé. They came from Italy, France, Spain and Argentina. In choosing them, we wanted to have a variety of styles (some lighter, some heavier, all dry, though) and grape varieties. We did not pick any from the United States only for time reasons. And, we did make sure to point out to guests that rosé wine and blush wine are not the same thing. Bar none one of the most confusing issues of doing this tasting. Blush wine is made not by letting the must soak with the skins, but by making a white wine, usually sweeter, and “blushing” it with a bit of grape juice to add some color.

Here is a description of our wines and what we thought if them.

Santi Infiniti Rosé comes from northeastern Italy, near Venice. It is actually a rosé of Bardolino (the baby version of Valpolicella), and is made from the traditional three grapes of those wines — Covina, Rhondinella, and Molinara. Yeah, we’re all going to remember that, for 10 seconds. This wine is light pink in color,  crisp and dry, with cherry and black currant flavors. It pairs really well with slightly spicy foods, like gazpacho. Our group liked this wine, but of the six we tasted, most of them preferred others. It was hard choosing because all were good, just really different from each other. For $10.99.

Chateau de Campuget Rosé is our second wine. It is a Costières de Nimes appellation, from southern France. A blend of Syrah and Grenache, this one is very aromatic, well balanced in your mouth and has a lovely, long, fruity finish.   A bit paler colored than the first wine, the group did think this is a really well made wine, because of the aromas, balance and long finish. For $10.99.

Marc Roman Rosé is again from southern France, the Lanquedoc area. It was a deep geranium pink shade, and, as the slightly darker color tells us, a bit fuller bodied than the first two wines. Not heavy mind you, a bit more is all. Red fruit aromas and flavors,  a hint of red roses, and mild acidity made this one of the favorites at our tasting. And, we can move the food up a notch here to hams and sausages. Of course, when the price was revealed, this wine moved into first place for some of our tasters. A deal at $6.99.

Torres Sangré de Toro Rosé was our one wine from Spain. But, we are trying to learn that rosés are made all over the world. Coming from the Cataluña area of Spain, this wine is a blend of Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan), both varieties that are popular on either side of the Pyrenées mountains.  Again, a deeper shade of pink, with hints of purple at the edges, and, again, a bit heavier than the previous wines. Still a good march for ham and sausages, roast poultry, and, because it’s Spain, saffron and paella. For $9.99.

Chateau d’Aqueria Tavel comes from the town of Tavel in the Rhône Valley. This appellation is known for its rosés, thank goodness because that’s all they make. Most of us in our group were familiar with the name and, at some point in the past, a Tavel wine. We do have to remember that there are lots of different Tavels, just like there are lots of Napa Cabernets. This wine is a blend of many more grapes, mostly Grenache and Syrah, and some white varieties as well. And, definitely fuller bodied so it will go with grilled seafood and poultry, goat cheeses and Asian flavors. For $15.99.

Susana Balbo Crios Rosé of Malbec, our last one, was probably the biggest surprise of any wine in our lineup. Much more color, which is explained by the mere fact that it’s made from Malbec. Malbec, a blending grape in Bordeaux, is used for two main reasons — a softer mouth-feel and deeper color. So, a rosé made from one hundred percent Malbec will have more color, without even trying. Going along with its deeper color, though, this wine was the fullest bodied of any. And, yes, it is from Argentina.  If you’ve ever been to an Argentine asado (a long, course after course meal that runs the gamete from salads to sausage to chicken to multiple cuts of beef, all cooked on an open fire) you know this wine is perfect for many of the courses. At $12.99.

So, there we are, six opened bottles of rosé, and we go through and taste them in order a second time. The second time, now that our mouths are more mellowed with the first six tastes, can get a second impression of each wine. And, as we re-visit them, we can better decide which style of rosé each of us likes better.

Just like any other broad category of wine — Chardonnays, Cabernets, whatever — we have only scratched the surface of rosés. Too bad we can’t get together more often. But, we can each do some homework and taste more on our own. And, you know what?  So can you. Like the group said, maybe not what they’d ordinarily go to, but a great tasting and some eyes were opened. There’s nothing like looking around through rose-colored glasses. Rosé colored I mean!  Enjoy.

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