My girlfriend’s daughter is three years old and she loves the color pink. She also wants to be a princess, a mermaid, and oh yes, let’s not forget the quintessential princess mermaid. Her room is pink. Her shoes are pink. She has pink pants, pink shirts and pink socks. When we pass the bakery at the grocery store she’ll ask for a pink cupcake. She cries pink tears and she shits pink turds. Now I ask you, how can you take anything pink seriously when three year-old girls are so strongly attracted to it?
I can’t. I can enjoy a nice Rosé, however. Which, um…is pink.
Rosés, or as the septuagenarian (that’s a 70 year-old, sonny) refers to it: “blush”, are very often synonymous with White Zinfandel, especially in the good ol’ US of A. And in it’s 30 years of existence it has spawned other aberrations like White Merlot, White Cabernet and White Grenache. I don’t mean to bash White Zinfandel and it’s cronies; California has always been a pioneer state, even when accidents occur and they turn bad zinfandel into White Zinfandel or lemons into lemonade or what have you. And if you’re not a wine drinker, White Zinfandel can even be a good wine for beginners. But those sweet concoctions, no matter how popular they once were, are not rosé wines as they are known.
As best can be traced back, rosés have belonged to the French for centuries. And that’s where my familiarity with rosés comes in. French rosés are much dryer than the California variety. Yet they maintain their flavor and fruit characteristics. Take Tavel in southern France for instance. Some of the best rosés in the world come out of Tavel. There, rosé is made from Cinsault and Grenache.
Cinsault is a mass produced red wine grape used for blending that has little flavor but a lot of perfume and has a supple texture. As it is a blending grape I won’t give too much importance to it, although it produces a sweet and juicy varietal. On the contrary, Grenache produces a dry red wine that is prone to oxidation and compliments Cinsault’s fruitiness.
Grenache and Cinsault are the usual suspects in most rosés made in France, except in Anjou in the Loire Valley where Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Grolleau are typically used. You’ve heard of Anjou pears. Well, it’s the same Anjou. But for the rest of the rosés of Provence and Languedoc-Rousillon, they are of the Grenache/Cinsault and maybe a little Syrah variety.
There are other regions in the world that make rosés, like Spain, whose rosés are made from Garnacha (the Spanish word for Grenache) and are called Clarete or Rosado. South Africa and Australia both produce some exciting rosés. And even California, home of the bastard White Zinfandel, has produced some fantastic rosés.
But to return to pink and the little girls that love it, one might wonder just how “pink” wines are made. One way as you might suspect is blending. Yes, blending. You take a red wine and you mix it with a white wine. Typically it is a finished white wine that is blended with a fraction of red wine to make the coveted-by-toddlers “pink”.
Another way, the more practiced way of making “pink” wine is through a process called Limited Maceration. After crushing and de-stemming the Grenache and Cinsault, let’s say, the juice is kept in contact with the skins just long enough to give it the blush effect. Red wines are red because of the contact they maintain with their skins in this same process, called Maceration. Hence with rosés, the “limited” maceration. Both of these methods, blending and limited maceration, are used to control the color of the rosé produced.
Again, I don’t want to bash White Zinfandel, although it’s easy. Having been a bartender for over twelve years I got used to a certain clientele asking for it. But if you want to experience rosé as it has been produced for centuries before White Zinfandel came into being in the 1980′s, I recommend doing so. It makes for a great summertime treat, but can be drunk on any occasion. White Zinfandel, on the other hand, is a great no hassle party favor that everyone will enjoy and all in all it does make a great wine for beginners.