Memorial Day traditionally marks the beginning of summer, so what better time to discourse on rose -- one of the Wine Curmudgeon's favorites and a style of wine that is too often overlooked?
The quality of rose has improved dramatically over the last decade. I don’t know that I have actually tasted a poorly made rose in the past couple of years. Some of them have been too expensive, but that’s another story. Usually, you can buy quality rose for $10, and often less.
The most important thing to know about rose is that it isn’t white zinfandel (or white merlot or whatever); roses are pink wines made with red grapes, and roses aren’t sweet. Why are they pink? Because the red grape skins are left in the fermenting grape juice just long enough to color the wine. That's how all wine gets its color, in fact. White wine is white because the skins aren't used to color the wine.
More, after the jump:
Rose’s fruit flavors are mostly red berries (think strawberry or cranberry). They should be served chilled, and they pair pretty much with any food, including beef and barbecue. Rose was made for Sunday afternoon, sitting on the back porch, rose in hand, burgers on the grill.
A note on vintages: Look for 2009, and be wary of anything dated much earlier than 2008. Roses are not made to age, and should be fresh and flavorful. The color in older vintages starts to fade, like paper that yellows.
Rose styles vary by country, and almost every wine-producing region makes rose. Spanish wines are going to be bone dry with less fruit flavor. French and South American roses are a little more fruity, while U.S. roses are the most fruity of all. Some U.S. wines are so full of strawberry flavor that they might even seem sweet.
The Toad Hollow pinot noir rose is in the $10 Hall of Fame, and I always recommend it to first-time rose drinkers. But the following (and this is far from a complete list) are well worth trying:
• Ménage à Trois Rosé 2009 ($10, purchased): Yes, the name is silly, but the quality of the wine makes up for it. This is the rose for people who want to try something other than white zinfandel. It's not sweet, but as noted above, it's so fruity that there is a suggestion of sweetness. It's also widely available, which is not always the case for some roses.
• Yalumba Sangiovese Rose 2009 ($13, purchased): Australia isn't much known for roses, but this wine shows that it should be. The Yalumba is more like a Spanish rose, with very little fruit and lots of minerality. Plus, using sangiovese gives it an interesting little something that many other roses don't have. Highly recommended.
• A to Z Wineworks Rose 2008 ($10, purchased): Also made with sangiovese, but with more fruit (cranberry?) and not quite as much minerality than the Yalumba. This is a style of rose for people who say they don't like rose because it's too fruity.
For more on rose:
• Fourth of July wine 2009
• Wine of the week: Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2009
• Rose update 2009