Did you know that rosé is the new Albariño? Ok, not really, but it is when it comes to my backyard patio.
A few years ago I discovered Albariño and it seemed to me the perfect summer patio wine. Light. Crisp. A little fruity and pleasantly dry. Easy to sip and good friends with summery grilling fare. My Albariño was eventually joined by other trendy, light whites, such as Soave, Fruilano, and so on and so forth. They were the most delightful of sipping companions for warm, summer evenings.
Then I met rosé.
I’m not talking white zin, people. This ain’t the 1970s and we’re not suffering from an overage of cheap, Zinfandel grapes, and clever winemakers and marketing tactics. This is beautiful and elegant rosé — made from red grapes whose skin is left in contact with the juice for a few days, in order to impart a pinkish color to the final wine. Unlike ’70s white Zin, which tended to be rather sweet, rosé runs the gamut from sweet to very bone dry. It’s these wines on the drier side of the spectrum that are now my new, best summer friends.
Rosé is a type of wine, but can be made from all kinds of different grapes, whose use varies by country and region. In France rosé is often made from single grape or blends of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. In Italy, where rosé can go by the names of Chiaretto, Rosato, and rosé, you’ll see Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara (<– the three traditional grapes of Valpolicella wines, by the way), Nebbiolo, and Lagrein. Spain and Portugal have even yet more grapes that they use, and here in the U.S., as you might imagine, you’ll see even more. Got a country that produces wine? Got red grapes? You too can make rosé.
Not only are there many delicious varieties of rosé to try, they’re all gorgeous to look at too. Rosé’s color palette is as stunning as a summer sunset. You’ll see ones that have the faintest hint of sun’s-just-starting-to-set, pinkish-orange blush, to others that are moments-before-sundown, deep fuchsia-purple. They generally all have a nice fruitiness and, speaking (VERY embarrassingly and shamefully) broadly, I’d say that the French rosés tend to be the driest, with the rest coming in from dry to sweetish.
Which are my faves? I tend to like the drier styles, particularly blends from the Provence region from France, such as AIX. I also have a soft spot for the Veneto region of Italy’s Chiaretto, like this one from Guerrieri Rizzardi, because I “discovered” it last year while eating lunch at a little restaurant in Bardolino, on the shores of Lake Garda. Back here at home, I think O’Brien Estates’ Flirtation rosé, made from Merlot, is super nifty and enjoyable. And don’t even get me started on brut rosé Champagnes and sparkling wines — my heart is eternally yours, Bruno Paillard — love, love, love them all!
As with any wine, you just need to try a bunch and see which one (or ones) suits you best. Invite some friends over for a patio party and have everyone bring a different rosé. (This list of rosés from SFGate is a great place to start.) Sample a flight of rosés at your local restaurant or wine bar. Ask your neighborhood wine merchant for his or her favorite rosé recommendations. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a new, summer-patio-sippin’, best friend too.