Everything is Coming Up Roses
As the days get longer and the sun shines a little brighter, I can't help but think about Ethel Merman singing Everything's Coming Up Roses from the Broadway Musical Gypsy. The song just causes me to think pink and places my mind on the pink wines sometimes called ros, blush, blanc de noirs and vin gris.
In the 1970s, Sutter Home commercially marketed its White Zinfandel wine. The wine appealed to many white wine drinkers because it was nearly white - pale pink - refreshing and sweet. Although not to everyone's personal taste, it is moderately priced and extremely easy to drink. On nearly every restaurant wine list you will find a White Zinfandel by the style's largest producers, Sutter Home or Beringer, and perhaps a few other California producers such as Barefoot. Since imitation is the greatest form of flattery, you may also find White Merlots, White Cabernet Sauvignon and White Barbera.
Imagine if you will, a restaurant wine list that simply categorizes wines as reds, whites or pinks in both still and sparkling styles. You order a wine from the pink category and your first sip does not evoke the sweetness you are accustomed to. What happened? Aren't all pink wines sweet? Not necessarily. Long before our New World producers began making the sweet and fruity "white zin", Old World wine makers in France and Spain were creating bone dry and invigorating ros wines with or without the sparkle for wine drinkers in much warmer climates. These wines are made from black grapes such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Grenache, Cinsaut, Syrah and Monastrell.
Sparkling ros wines include French Champagnes and California sparkling wines made with Pinot Noir. Cava, a spanish sparkling wine, is made with the Grenache and Monastrell grapes. Sparkling wines can have varying levels of sweetness ranging from bone dry to very sweet. The possibilities can endless despite the fact that the proportion of ros wines to white and red wines in your average wine store or restaurant is low.
So how do the black grapes produce the pink wine that we sometimes call white something or the other? This occurs in one of two ways. The primary method is to let the must or juice spend a few hours in contact with the skin of the black grapes. The wine term is called maceration and for red wines the length of time the juice is in contact with the skin determines the depth of flavor and deepness of the color in the wine. Another way to become pink is to mix a little red wine with the juice. Pink wines can range in color from the palest pink to deep onion skin.
Pink Wine in Action
Most ros wines make excellent aperitifs due to their crispness and moderate alcohol content. Ross are usually very light to medium bodied wines. For some, it is almost impossible to imagine ros wines pairing well with food, however there are several interesting and appropriate pairings waiting to be discovered. Pairings to consider include dry medium-bodied ross with fish, shrimp or tapas. Ros Cava pairs remarkably with salmon and egg dishes. Dry Spanish Rosado is wonderful with charcuterie, green salads and grilled seafood. French Blanc de Noirs is quite versatile and will pair well with a myriad of foods including bouillabaisse, lobster and rare lamb or beef. The drier ros styles prevail when paired with food. Sweeter ross can be a fantastic pairing with some desserts as long as the wine is at least as sweet as the dessert. The "right" ros, the one you like, can be paired with almost anything.
Barefoot White Zinfandel NV (California)
Chivite Gran Feudo Rosado 2005 (Spain)
Castellblanch Rosado Seco NV (Spain)
Kir-Yanni Estate 2005 (Greece)
Montcigale Ros 2005 (France)
Mumm Napa Blanc de Noirs NV (California)
Gallo Family Vineyards Twin Valley NV White Merlot (California)
Jamie Foster is a wine educator whose mission is to broaden individual wine horizons one sense at a time. She holds London's WSET Advanced Certificate in Wines, Spirits, and Other Alcoholic Beverages. She has trained in some of the world's most prestigious wine education programs including the Court of Master Sommeliers. She developed the VinSenses Wine Education Series to teach people about wine in public and private venues. www.vinsenses.com