Welcome to the annual Wine Curmudgeon rose post, where our motto is: If it ?s summer and you have $10, you can buy a pretty good rose ? and sometimes even get change back. And Memorial Day weekend is a fine place to start.
The quality of rose available in stores continues to improve. When I started writing about rose regularly, about 10 years ago, there wasn’t much to choose from. Since then, there are not only more wines, but they are better than ever. 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.
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 they 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. (All red wine gets its color from the grape skins. The skins are left on cabernet sauvignon and merlot for much longer, so the wine is much more red.) This is also why roses don ?t have tannins, the flavor that makes your mouth pucker, since the skins give red wine its tannic quality.
Rose’s fruit flavors are mostly red berries (think strawberry). 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, wine in hand, and burgers on the grill.
A note on vintages: Look for 2008, and be wary if anyone sells anything much earlier than 2007, save for Spanish wines. 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. 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. Any of the following (and this is far from a complete list) are well worth trying, but please experiment:
• From France: Cave de Saumur ($10), Bieler Sabine ($12), and Chateau Famaey ($10). The latter is almost like a strawberry popsicle, and not common in French wines.
• From Spain: I don’t know that you can go wrong with any Spanish rose that is around $10. Just don’t expect a lot of fruit.
• From U.S.: McPherson Cellars ($12) from Texas, Toad Hollow ($11) from California, and Charles & Charles ($12) from Washington state.
For more on roses: