Ahhh, summertime. It recalls memories of rolling in the grass, running down hills, jumping rope, chasing cute girls, and getting loaded. It’s also the season for the sissiest looking, most easily ignored style of wine: rosé.
It’s pink. Like, really girly-frilly pink. Let’s face it, this usually conjures up images of cloyingly sweet, strawberry bomb White Zin (probably from Beringer) that we all witnessed many an unsuspecting high school girl getting loaded and subsequently unloading on. However, good rosés are actually refreshing, sophisticated, cheap, and totally freaking awesome. Most rosés go with just about anything, especially in hot and humid Minnesota weather next to a smoking charcoal grill.
The Making of Rosé
It’s actually just like making red wine. Only, less so. Instead of leaving the juice on the skins for a long time and fermenting with them, you just remove the skins from the juice after a couple of days, leaving a pleasantly femme pinkish color for which all of your less educated and refined friends will make fun of you. That is, until they try it.
Ram some yeast into the vat, ferment it bone dry, age for a couple of months in some stainless steel or completely overused-neutral oak, and you’ve got yourself a classic Southern French style rosé.
I’m personally very partial to Provence and Rhone style rosés, as they tend to be really, really, really, really dry and possess beautiful restrained berry aromas, lovely green to orange fleshy melon, sometimes grapefruit or lemon, and are bursting with stony minerality. It’s like budget Sancerre with a side of berries — ZOMFG!!!
Four locally bought rosés made for a good spread: A local wine from the St. Croix Valley, a classic Cotes de Provence, a Spanish Rosato, and a variety from down under.
#1. 2007 St. Croix Vineyards Rosé — $11.99 @ St. Anthony Village Liquors
This is a salmon pink rosé made in Stillwater from our very own Minnesota cold hardy grape called Frontenac. It was a bit tight really chilled, but it warmed up a bit to a good Chardonnay temp, at which point it produced sweet aromas of melon, blackberry, raspberry, and foxy concord. On the palate, it was clean, sweet, and had two distinct retronasal hits of rose (the flower) and green vine (kind of vegetal — but in a good way). It weighed in at 12.7% ABV with some heavy residual sugar, and drinks more like Lillet Rouge than it does a rose. With some soda water and a slice of lemon, it got far more enjoyable — that’s not a good thing. This could have been truly great had it been just fermented dry.
#2. 2007 Domaine du Dragón Cotes de Provence Rosé — $10.99 @ Solo Vino
The perfect, mineral-laced summer thirst quencher from Provence. It’s a simple wine — barely requiring words to describe, but if I must, it’s a limestone sandwich stuffed with fresh unsweetened strawberries and a slice of lemon stacked artfully on a clean white plate with a tiny herb and shaved melon salad.
#3. 2008 Castaño Yecla Monastrell Rosé — $9.49 @ Zipp’s
Okay, Spain. Spain is downright adept at producing pretty looking, pushing off-dry, round melon-bomb rosé. And this is no exception. Most of the Spanish rosés on the market around here are mostly made of Garnacha (Grenache) and Syrah, like their Southern French counterparts, but the Spanish are usually a little higher on the residual sugar, giving it a bigger body and larger fan base. A lot of people like these. You probably will too. This particular Monastrell has got some in-your-grill strawberry, raspberry, Jolly Rancher watermelon, and sloppy lactic butter banana creme pie… uh, you should try other Spanish Rosés made out of Garnacha if you’re not seriously into that whole banana creme pie thing.
#4. Jansz Sparkling Rosé NV, Tasmania — $29.99 @ Solo Vino
This wine can catch you off guard. It’s not that sparkling rosé is anything new; in fact, if any of you have been to La Belle Vie and had a tasting menu with wine flight, then you’ve probably noticed Sommelier Bill Summerville’s insatiable love for Haton, which is a Pinot Noir Rosé from Champagne. Which is seriously good shit.
This wine is a delicate balance of toasty-yeasty, red rose, and grapes. It’s very well made, a bit under ripe rather than over and therefore has less alcohol content (12.5% — a really good level) than a lot of its Australian counterparts. It’s definitely an upper end rosé, but it’s absolutely worth the money. It should be served well chilled, but not too cold.
Where to buy
Solo Vino (517 Selby Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102)
Chuck Kanski, the owner / operator of Solo Vino, took it upon himself some years ago to campaign for pink wine. He currently carries somewhere between 70-80 different rosés from all over the world. You’ll find something you like there whether you’re a luscious pink drinker or a dry-as-the-sky kind of guy. They have no Minnesota wines as far as I know.
Zipp’s (2618 E Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55406)
They have one of the most concise but fantastic wine selections in Minneapolis. The rosés are no different in this respect. What they have is of (mostly) very good quality, especially in the French, Swiss / Austrian, and Sparkling varieties.
St. Anthony Village Liquors (2700 Highway 88, St. Anthony, MN 55418)
The — by far — most surprising wine merchant in town. The Hwy. 88 location has a better wine selection overall, including a killer Minnesota wine selection. They have great values, friendly staff, and great wines that you’ll be surprised to find in the Twin Cities.
If you’re stuck elsewhere, a great rosé from Southern France called Routas is available almost everywhere. It’s not as minerally and bright as my favorites, but in a pinch, you’ll impress the schnitzel out of most vinophiles with it. It’s for real.