With apologies to the Bard of Avon, a rosé by any other name would indeed taste as sweet. But it also might be crisp, with a hint of acidity – or dry, leaving the palate cleansed and refreshed.
Shakespeare, of course, was talking about the flower in his oft-quoted line from “Romeo and Juliet.” In this case, however, the subject is rosés, the bright pink wines whose color range and flavor palate fall neatly between straw- colored, acidic whites and inky, robust reds.
The right wine for any season is always the one you enjoy the most, but a chilled rosé, tippled from a delicate stem, is a brighter and often more flavorful alternative to another tired round of chardonnay – oaked or otherwise.
Rosés – called “rosado” in Spain, “rosato” in Italy, and even “blush” in the marketing- conscious United States – are produced from red wine grapes whose skin is left macerated with the juice after crushing. Contact with the skin creates the color, which can range from a pale rosé to an almost vibrant hot- pink hue, depending on the grape used and the length of exposure.
Most red grape varieties have been used to produce rosés, the most popular of which may be Grenache. But vintners regularly try their hand with Pinot Noir, Malbec, Zinfandel, Tempranillo and other varietals because of the unique flavors and characteristics they bring. Flavors range from bone dry (more European in style) to almost sweet (most prevalent in the United States), with count- less iterations in between.
The burst of bland “white Zinfandels” in the 1970s did little to enhance the legitimacy of rosés. But they’re coming back as more vintners realize their potential, and more wine drinkers discover the delightful alterna- tives now available.
Here are some suggestions from the 2011 vintage for your next summer outing:
• El Coto de Rioja Rosado ($10) fills the glass with a lively pink hue.This Spanish rosé, equal blends of Tempranillo and Grenacha (Grenache) grapes, pours with herbal notes on the nose and juicy, almost cherry over- tones refresh the palate.
• Michel Torino Malbec Rosé ($12) cap- tures the essence of one of the great red wine grapes, reintroducing it to the summer crowd. The Argentine wine, aged five months in oak, is more fruit-forward and boasts a deep pink coloration. Strawberry and bubble gum flavors slide across the palate with a white pepper finish that echoes the wine’s spicy nose.
• Biohof Pratsch Rosé ($12) proves that even the Austrians can be pretty in pink. Produced from a blend of the local varietals Sankt Laurent, Blauburger, Zweigelt and Pinot Noir grapes, the sunrise-pale pink wine is dry on the palate with peach, pear and strawber- ry flavors offset by a crisp acidity that makes it a natural with food.
• The Acrobat Rosé of Pinot Noir ($13) offers some of the best of what Oregon’s favorite wine grape has to offer.There is rich- ness to the pale pink color and a surprisingly viscous mouth-feel on entry.The wine has the aroma of watermelon and spice, with a pleas- ing flavor palate of raspberry, pomegranate and coriander.
• Filmmaker-turned-vintner Francis Ford Coppola pulled out all stops in producing his Sofia Monterey County Rosé ($16), named for his filmmaker daughter. Blended from 80 percent Syrah and 20 percent Grenache grapes, the wine arrives packaged in an elegant, curvaceous bottle and boasts a dramatically rich pink hue. A nose that suggests lavender and candied orange peel gives way to a palate of cherries and strawberries, with a touch ofanise at the edges.The dry finish makes it a leader among other wines of its type.
So this summer, drink pink and open your- self up to a new category of wines.