Rosé is often my go-to selection when it comes to wine. I love it. And I’m not talking about Lancers. Or White Zinfandel. Or Blush. Some of you might love that pink sweetness and that’s just fine with me. It’s none of my business. Personally, it makes me gag and I want no affiliation with it, truth be told. I take my palate way too seriously, and if I’m going to have a sweet wine, I’ll take a nice Vin Santo or Sauterne or Port after my meal. Sorry if I sound like a snob, but in this case I’ll admit it: I am.
And so are a whole bunch of other people out there who were traumatized by their mother’s Blush in the box when they snuck some from the fridge at an early age and woke up with the “sweetest” hangover, second to what Sangria can deliver.
But most Rosé is dry. I’m no sommelier, but when I order Rosé in a nice restaurant, the wait person always nods at me with a knowing respect. The problem emerges when my table mate raises her/his eyebrow as if to say, “I’ve just lost all respect for you.” When really, it’s kinda the other way around. And I take the bait and I actually go into a dissertation that sort of rivals sorority hazing.
It’s ridiculous, and I know it. I actually go so far as to garner justification by aligning myself with these three cooking and eating and writing giants: Alice Waters, Russell Chatham, and Jim Harrison who claim to love the same wine I have at the top of my list: Domaine Tempier Rosé. .
“You should read about how Alice actually based Chez Panisse on an experience of sitting with Domaine Tempier’s Lucien at his vineyard, slathering a piece of rye with fresh sea urchin, and sipping their Rosé. It actually makes me weep.”
Usually I get a chirp chirp. Not budging.
“Come on– try it. It’s heaven.”
And if they’re kind enough, they will. They hold the glass to their nose, cringe, and drop their tongue in its pale pink waters like they’re considering a swim in a snake-infested river. “Too sweet,” they say.
“Too sweet? It’s as dry as can be! You’re a wine-ist, is what you are.” And I grab back my glass.
It’s how the Italians treat you when you order Parmigiano with a fish pasta dish. Non va! It doesn’t go. One waiter in Venice actually told a friend of mine that he’d get fired if he served her cheese with fish. With significant fear in his eyes.
In my recent experience of travelling the country for book promo and dining in many major cities across the US, Rosé is one of the hottest wines out there. In certain circles. But old judgments (and hangovers) die hard, and often enough, I get scoffed at by my dining partner.
So…to that end…this is what Wikipedia has to say about it: I rest my case.
How it’s made: Red-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically two or three days. The grapes are then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain much of the strongly flavored tannin and other compounds, thereby leaving the taste more similar to a white wine. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.
How it got a bad rap:
White Zin: In the early 1970s, demand for white wine exceeded the availability of white wine grapes, so many California producers made “white” wine from red grapes, in a form of saignée production with minimal skin contact, the “whiter” the better. In 1975 Sutter Home’s “White Zinfandel” wine experienced a stuck fermentation, a problem in which the yeast dies off before all the sugar is turned to alcohol. Winemaker Bob Trinchero put it aside for two weeks, then upon tasting it he decided to sell this pinker, sweeter wine.
Blush: In 1976, wine writer Jerry D. Mead visited Mill Creek Vineyards in Sonoma County, California. Charlie Kreck had been one of the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon vines in California, and offered Mead a wine made from Cabernet that was a pale pink and as yet unnamed. Kreck would not call it “White Cabernet” as it was much darker in colour than red grape “white” wines of the time, yet it was not as dark as the rosés he had known. Mead jokingly suggested the name “Cabernet Blush”, then that evening phoned Kreck to say that he no longer thought the name a joke. In 1978 Kreck trademarked the word “Blush”. The name caught on as a marketing name for the semi-sweet wines from producers such as Sutter Home and Beringer, although Mill Creek no longer produces any rosé wine.
The term “blush” is generally restricted to wines sold in North America, although it is sometimes used in Australia and by Italian Primitivo wines hoping to cash in on the recently discovered genetic links between Primitivo and Zinfandel. Although “blush” originally referred to a colour (pale pink), it now tends to indicate a relatively sweet pink wine, typically with 2.5% residual sugar; in North America dry pink wines are usually marketed as rosé but sometimes as blush. In Europe almost all pink wines are referred to as rosé regardless of sugar levels, even semi-sweet ones from California.