It's flowering in Napa vineyards.

It's flowering in Napa vineyards.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Drink Rosé In Winter? To Be Sure!

Most wines can be enjoyed on a year-long basis. A rich, robust red like Zinfandel is, and can be, enjoyed virtually anytime of the year. It can accompany all manner of slathered meat and poultry from your summertime barbecue, and then it can turn around and be the ideal match for a soulful, slow-cooked, winter stew of lamb or beef. Similar time and food flexibilities exist for other reds like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

White wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc also possess a multi-season personality. Whether sipping them at an alfresco book club meeting with casual finger food, or matching them with sautéed or roasted chicken breast in the fall, they both are quite comfortable no matter which equinox they’re centered in. And while wine enthusiasts more often reach for reds in late autumn and winter, they don’t totally abandon their favorite whites, often using them as pre-dinner, aperitif-like sippers.

Rosé wines, however, have not as yet been widely accepted as having a comparable twelve month utility. Because they are very effective at transporting your emotional hard drive back to the French Riviera or the Italian countryside, Rosés are primarily utilized as summertime slurpers—cool, quaffable drinks to slake your thirst or clear your palate after a bite of uncomplicated outdoor food. In those settings, Rosés—and the food that accompany them—are the background music to the festivities of the moment.

However, for any wine to be on your dinner table any time of the year, it needs to be well made. And as I have lobbied herein before, today’s dry Rosés—particularly those from France, Spain and Italy, and I don’t mean to denigrate New World producers—are particularly well made. They are not your Granny’s Mateus of decades ago; they are not your Mama’s Blush of yesteryear: and they are not your Auntie Bertha’s White Zinfandel of whenever. Moreover, while the color of today’s Rosé may remind you of those three versions, that’s where the similarity ceases. Modern Rosés are bone dry (note: not sweet) and have much more character and complexity than those sugary predecessors.

Character and complexity, by the way, are not achieved by blending mediocre red wines with equivalent whites. Good dry Rosés are produced the same way first rate red wines are produced—from high quality red grapes. The primary difference between red wines and Rosés is the length of time their grape skins are left macerating in the crush. Rosés macerate for hours, not days, and barrel aging or oak seasoning via chips also is typically not a part of the recipe. How long they macerate is determined by the nature of the underlying grape(s) as well as the winemaker’s intent as to tint, flavor, fragrance, and overall wine style.

While styles vary slightly as to complexity of skin contact, crispness of acidity, and depth of color, Rosés generally can be summed up as follows: they are brightly colored, engagingly aromatic and always flavorful, with a long, crisp finish that easily meets the requirements of pairing well with many different food preparations. To be sure, Rosés may well be the most versatile of wines you can serve whether it is summer, autumn or winter. (Thanksgiving, with its kaleidoscopic side dishes, is an ideal venue for Rosé wines.)

Lastly, I should also mention one of the relatively unknow bonuses of drinking Rosés in winter—their price often is lower than at any other time of the year. Many retailers cut the price of their current or prior vintage Rosés to make room for spring’s new arrivals. However, please be aware that Rosés with one or two years of bottle age will still be fresh, vibrant, and most definitely will be ideal for current drinking and/or stocking up for your summertime grilling. As such, and with all the above in mind, there is no reason why Rosés should not be in your wine racks for enjoyment throughout the year.

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