Pink wine is the perfect summer red...
By Jonathon Alsop
July 23, 2004
Although I have taught a broad spectrum of wine classes -- everything from "Intro To Wine" to "Un-Speakable French Wines: $50 And Up" -- it's always in the beginner classes that I personally learn the most. Beginners, because they don't know any better, ask the interesting questions wine experts know better than to ask.
A few months ago in wine class a woman asked, "What's the difference between red wine and white wine?" and everyone laughed. I think what she meant was why are red and white wine so different.
Obviously, white wine comes from white grapes and red wine from red, but if you press red grapes gently, you get white juice. Some of the most famous Champagne -- considered a white wine -- is made from red grapes and always has been.
The big difference between white and red is that after pressing out the juice, red wine is fermented with its grape skins, and white wine is not. All manner of tannins, pigments, and other compounds are extracted from the skin contact. This is what makes red wine a "bigger" glass of wine than white. There's literally more stuff in the juice.
If you press red grapes normally, you get pink juice. If you just ferment this juice and don't add the skins back in, you get pink wine: around the world, it's called rosato, rosado, rose, gray, gris, pink, and even white, as in white zinfandel.
Pink wines are stereotypically thought to be weakened, softer versions of real red wine, and some Americans see rose as -- forgive me -- a lady's drink.
In fact, rose wine is something of a guilty pleasure among wine lovers: it's almost always cheaper than its white or red cousins, it tastes obviously great in an unserious way, and you can chill it down for summer without any fear.
2003 Les Baux de Provence Rose (about $12, available everywhere)
This vintage year is great all across southern France, so this wine's usual strawberry-apple-raspberry flavor profile is pumped up a little, making you wonder where the line is between red and rose. Really super with grilled fish. Serve it nice and cool.
2003 Routas Rose (about $11, available literally everywhere)
Rugged, rustic, and delicious Routas (pronounced roo-TAH) is an earthy rose from southern France, smoky and aromatic and kind of woodsy. The juice is nice and ripe and round. Delicious with grilled meats and herbes de Provence.
2003 Domaine de Beaurenard Cotes-du-Rhone Rose (about $12, from New Castle Imports, 843-497-8625)
Elegant and balanced, refined and tasteful, this is a lovely rose you can bring indoors now and then. Very flowery aromas are followed by rich melon flavors. Perfect with lobster.
2003 Domaine des Forges Bourgueil Rose (about $15, imported by T. Edward Wines, 212-233-1504)
This is without a doubt the biggest, reddest rose ever. The light amber color fooled me, and blindfolded, I would have sworn it was a red wine. Delicious with the pomegranate glazed lamb we ate the night we first tasted it. Now a new favorite.
2002 Guigal Tavel (about $14, should be available everywhere)
Famous for quality and dependability, this Guigal rose delivers structure, flavor and balance. A classic example of great old-world rose, it's best with fish stew, even bouillabaisse.
2003 Raffault Chinon Rose (about $20, imported by VOS Selections, 212-967-6948)
Elegant, bright, and refined, this wine reminded me of a young Jacqueline Kennedy. The flavor is like delicate baby strawberries and raspberries on toast.
Southern Italian Sunburn
2003 Torre Quarto Guappo Rosato (about $12, from North Berkeley Imports, 800-622-9088)
Guappo is from Puglia, the southern heel of the Italian boot, one of the hottest, sunniest places in all of Italy. This wine is wildly ripe and dense in layers of flavor and fruit unlike either white or red. I tasted this outrageous wine with a group of other wine lovers a few weeks ago, and they haven't stopped talking about it since: they're worried it's going to go away when summer ends.
Forgiven For The White Zins Of Others
2003 Bonny Doon "Ca' del Solo" Big House Pink (about $11, should be available everywhere)
Why Randall Grahm does what he does is known only to him, and he often makes some deliciously freakish wines under the Bonny Doon label. Big House Pink is civilized, the prettiest, pinkest California rose ever sealed with a screwcap. It's bright and lively, nice and crisp when it's chilled as cool as beer. Grilled skewered curry shrimp would work for me.
2003 Renwood Syrah Rose (about $10, available nationally and at Trader Joe's)
Syrah is an extremely intense black grape in the first place, and this pink version has a tremendous amount of body and weight with rich fruit and red wine acidity. It's enough to make you forget all the bad white merlot that's still being made somewhere.