My, how the world changes. There are likely many reading this whose first ‘real’ wine (i.e. not Boone’s Farm or Riunite) was a White Zinfandel. Of course, that “gateway drug” of a wine was usually quickly left behind as we fledgling American wine drinkers matured and moved on to “fighting varietals” and then KJ Chardonnay, then Blackstone Merlot and then the world of wine at large … never to return to White Zinfandel. Of course we still sell lots of White Zin, but “serious” wine drinkers wouldn’t be caught dead with a glass of pink wine … until now. Perhaps as a sign that we are maturing as a wine drinking nation, perhaps simply because the wines are so delicious and versatile, pink wines are red hot.
Like any other category, there is a pretty wide range of styles, appellations, and prices. The color can show just a hint of blush, to a deep, almost electric pink (and some border on being red). Some are in plentiful supply and some are extremely limited (we actually have one—which we will not name here—that is strictly allocated to just a case per account at just a handful of accounts; who would have thought—a rare rosé?). And though pink wine can be made from virtually any red grape, there are a few grapes that have a particular affinity for making great rosé wine, most notably:
- Grenache/Garnacha – Most notably from southern France and all over Spain (Provence and Tavel the most renowned). From electric pink to almost clear in color, almost always dry and almost always delicious. Generally considered to be THE rosé grape.
- Cabernet Franc – Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, used to make some “serious” rosés in various locales, most notably the Loire Valley’s Cabernet d’Anjou the big brother of Rosé d’Anjou.
- Pinot Noir – It’s hard to get right, but when one does … yummy. Excellent examples from Sancerre, sometimes Burgundy (and new world locales that make good Pinot), and of course in Champagne.
- Zinfandel – Great, full colored wines that are frequently off-dry to sweet, but a few close-to-great dry examples. Uniquely American.
Excellent rosés from myriad grapes are also made in Italy (pink Lambrusco being our favorite—really), Germany, and Portugal (usually in funny looking bottles). Almost everywhere in the world actually.
It is worth noting that these pink wines can be made by several techniques, including short maceration with the skins (4 hours= pink, 4 days = red). Pink wine can also be made by the saignée method (French for bleed), which is used frequently as a tool to concentrate red wines by “bleeding off” some of the liquid from the tank right after fermentation begins thereby concentrating/increasing the skin to juice ratio of what is left in the tank. The stuff you bleed off is rosé saignée. Pink wine is also produced by simply blending red and white wines, a process that is mostly used for lower-priced wines.
As alluded to above, in addition to being delicious, rosé wines are a wonder at the table. They pair with many dishes that are either red or white prone, and sometimes work better than either a red or white would. Serving by the glass is the best way for restaurateurs to get these wines in people’s hands (mouths), and offering two or more increases the possibility as well. There is one area restaurateur that went hog-wild a few years ago, after being bitten by the pink craze (after a trip to Provence) and offered eight different rosés by the glass. In his words, “my guests could not ignore them anymore.” And indeed, they sold tons of these wines to folks that until then would have never tried a rosé. He only ended his experiment after he determined he liked them so much, his “5 o’clock glass of wine” came earlier and earlier during the summer. Some testimonial.
So, if you truly consider yourself a wine geek, and/or if you want to turn your customers onto wines that they will enjoy and drink in copious amounts … think pink!