The Rosés of Summer

June 2017

My greatest joy in wine comes from its vast diversity of styles and flavours, grown in differing climates and countries all around the world, each a reflection of its local history, geography and culture. This richness of choice enables us to cultivate personal favourites, with rituals and traditions around their use. My own preferences are well established: from Sauvignon blanc in the spring to Port by the fire in the winter to Champagne for any and every fabricated festive reason… none of this constitutes any set of rules other than the ones I choose to make up for myself, and to disregard at my whim and convenience. I encourage you to do the same, using your personal judgement guided by your own taste and life’s experience, always with a sense of adventure.

One of the easiest rules both to make and to follow is: rosé wine with anything at any time – so long as it’s outside in the summer. Most of the wines we most highly esteem are either red or white, but the one in-between has a special place in our hearts. Never as significant as a profound red, never as brilliant as a stunning white, a well-chilled rosé is what we wish every moment of our life outdoors could be – delicious, frivolous, happy, and not at all serious.

Rosé is made everywhere – I don’t know a wine region that doesn’t have its own version of rosé. Whatever the local red grape, it can be made into rosé. The coloured pigments in the grape skins that give red wine its deep hue are soluble in alcohol, so as fermentation proceeds, the wine’s colour deepens. By separating the skins from the juice early in that process, only a small amount of pigment will have been dissolved, and voilà – rosé! I like my rosé crisp and fully dry; but I must caution you that many are produced in a sweetish style, so check the LCBO’s dryness scale closely and let your own taste guide your selections.

Fine rosé comes to us from around the world, and prices are moderate, so you can afford to experiment. From this plethora of choice I find excellent value in good inexpensive rosé – rosado in Spanish – from Rioja and Navarra in northern Spain. For very little money more, Rosé de Provence from the Mediterranean coast of France is my favourite. New Zealand is now emerging as a new-world source of interesting rosé, along with our own Ontario vineyards. (Always check for the VQA seal on any bottle of Canadian wine.)

But easy and frivolous as it may be, many atrocities have been committed in the name of rosé. Some are clumsily sweet, quickly cloying your palate when you are seeking something light and refreshing. And avoid at all cost that mawkish embarrassment marketed under the misleading label ‘white Zinfandel’.

A few wine regions try hard to produce rosé in a more serious style, with real vinosity, forceful character and higher price. Tavel in France’s southern Rhone valley makes a flavourful, high-alcohol version that merits a place at your dining room table with trout, chicken or ribs. Gigondas, not far from better-known Chateauneuf-du-Pape, also makes a rich, savoury, barbeque-friendly rosé alongside its renowned red. From Marsannay in Burgundy comes a racy rosé made purely from the Pinot Noir grape – perfect with grilled salmon. And Champagne sends us not only their famous risqué pink bubbly, Champagne rosé, but also an excellent still version, Rosé des Riceys, a rarity outside its home and definitely worth your while if you find it.

Follow Paul Inksetter’s wine writing on his blog,

© Paul Inksetter 2017

Follow Paul Inksetter’s wine writing on his blog,
© Paul Inksetter 2016

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