Hard to Explain the Lack of Appreciation for Rose

Posted: Apr 04, 2009 12:01 AM
Hard to Explain the Lack of Appreciation for Rose

Rose is a wine that typically generates sneers from wine snobs. Even white wine comes in for some denigration, so you can imagine how disrespectful some people can be about pink.

Once, during a very hot luncheon with a man who makes a rather high-alcohol chardonnay, the conversation drifted to rose. I asked him if he ever considered making one.

“Rose?” he virtually shrieked. “I can’t sell rose,” and he spat out the word as if it were an epithet. “No one can sell rose.”

He went on to describe the sickly sweet pink junk of the 1960s. I reminded him that winemaking has moved far ahead of those pathetic wines, and a string of terrific rose wines have been made in numerous places for the last decade or more. Such wines are perfect for brow cooling on a 100-degree afternoon, or when nighttime temperature declines to dip.

Made well, a dry rose can be a glorious meal-enhancer. It can parry flavors in many different sorts of dishes, it usually has lower alcohol than most reds, and its fruitiness is charming on a hot day when the wine is being used partially to cool off.

Dry rose paired with cold poached salmon, salads, Asian foods, or pork can be a real winner.

Today, those of us who love pink wines can get great examples from Spain, the south of France, California, and Australia.

However, some of the roses you will find are made rather clumsily. These usually are wines with a lot of alcohol because the winery chose to make a wine by a process called “saignee,” which in French means “to bleed.”

What they do is harvest red wine grapes that are rather high in potential alcohol to make a dark red wine, and then to concentrate the wine even further they “bleed off” a small amount of the juice in the fermentation tank.

This concentrates the red wine left in the tank -- more skins-to-juice ratio -- and the liquid that is drained off is allowed to finish fermenting in a separate tank.

What this does is make a rose that is 14.5 percent alcohol or more, and such a wine is a bit lugubrious. Quality rose should not be heavy and rich. It should be light and sprightly, and no self-respecting rose would be that high in alcohol.

The best roses are made with good acidity to balance whatever sugar is left in the wine to allow it to be succulent, and with higher acid levels to keep it brisk and crisp. As such, it’s best to harvest the grapes for rose at lower sugar levels.

One recent find I love is the 2008 Nine Vines Rose from Angove in Australia, about $10 a bottle.

Wine of the Week: 2007 Marques de Caceres Rosado (Rose), Rioja ($9) -- From Spain, a charmingly fruity/cherry aroma and a dry aftertaste in a perfectly balanced Rose.