WHAT IS ROSÉ WINE? HINT: IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH SKIN CONTACT
Welcome to the Amaro Spirits & Wine July Wine Club edition featuring “rosé wine.” Let’s back up a bit and recall that some of us of a certain age remember rosé wine as being synonymous with a genre of wine we also knew as “white zinfandel,” from California, which was deep pink in color, and quite sweet on the palate as a generous amount of residual sugar was left unfermented. For quite a long time, this was how rosé wine was marketed in the United States, well into the ‘90s, and let’s just say that among the small burgeoning community of Americans who were discovering wine in even a slightly serious manner, rosé wine was not taken seriously as a result. Then as the worldwide wine industry took a deeper hold in the United States, we started seeing rosé wine from abroad showing up in reputable restaurants, mainly from France, and, behold, they were translucent pink in color and bone dry, and the people selling them took them seriously. Fast forward to today and by Spring even the smallest of wine shops has at least 15 varieties of rosé wine of various hues in color, and 14 are dry and all 15 have as much variety in taste as white wines do from each other and red wines do from each other. So, okay, let’s repeat what we did for last month’s wine club about orange wine and re-explain some elementary winemaking knowledge that will help explain rosé wine.
What mostly gives wine its color is the skin of the grape. We say “mostly” because there are some exceptions of grapes with pulp that has a dark hue, but usually the juice of almost all grapes is clear. Hence, a red wine is red because when the wine is vinified, the reddish skins of the red grapes are purposely included in the process of fermenting and sometimes left to soak even further to both impart a deeper color to the juice as well as unique flavors, tannins being one of the more prominent examples. For white wine, being naturally lighter due to the light-colored skins of white grapes, many winemakers made it a practice to take full advantage of this lightness and press the grapes to squeeze out only the juice to be fermented and aged (Fun fact: most red grapes, if pressed for just the juice produce the same color juice as white grapes, and, in fact, Amaro Spirits & Wine has some “white” wines in the store made from red grapes), but white wine winemakers just as often purposely leave the skins of the white grapes in contact with the juice for hours or a few days or even weeks or months to give the wine more body, and to pick up desired flavors that come from the skin. When they do it for longer, the wine actually takes on shades of orange, hence “orange wine.” So, you guessed it, rosé wine is simply wine made with red grapes that are allowed only limited skin contact for a lighter bodied wine that comes in a variety of shades of pink rather than shades of red.
The two primary ways of making rosé are 1) to press the grapes for the juice and let them sit with the skins for a minimal amount of time, and 2) to “bleed” off some of the juice of crushed grapes that are sitting with the skins to make red wine. The first is called the “free press” or the “maceration” method, and the second is called the saignée or “bleeding” method.
As we’ve noted, rosé wines can be made from nearly any red grape varietal. With only three wines to offer you, we decided to be highly strategic. We selected a rosé made from a rosé-only appellation in France, a rosé from the most classic rosé-producing region of the world (again in France) but with a special geographical twist, and a rosé from Abruzzo, Italy that doesn’t even purport to be a rosé… but clearly is.
DOMAINE LAFOND IS MAKING ROSÉ IN A ROSÉ-ONLY APPELLATION
As you can imagine, for the most part, a winemaker who makes rosé is usually also making red wines from their estates. The rosé wine demands less time to soak and less time aging, so they help the red winemaker to start making money off their crops earlier. Of course, it’s not always for financial reasons that winemakers make rosé, but the flexibility of using their red grapes for two very different types of wine expressions is always a plus. But winemakers that produce wine in the Tavel AOC in the Rhone Valley region of France are NOT making red wine. Their red grapes are devoted exclusively to rosé wine. Ironically, the Tavel appellation region is right across the river from one of the biggest, richest, red wine appellations in existence, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC.
Tavel vineyards can be found in three different types of terroir, one of which is cobblestone
Some claim Tavel wine to be the best rosé wine in the world as it is rich, structured with tannins that can hold up to a variety of food pairings… like a red wine. We’ll let you make that determination. The varietals are typical to the Rhone Valley, predominately Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvedre, but nine varietals are allowed, and none can constitute more than 60% of the blend. The other five include Bourbolenc, Carignan, Clairette, Calitor, and Picpoul.
Featured Amaro Wine Club rosé wine: Domaine Lafond, Tavel Roc-Épine Rosé (2021)
VARIETALS: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Carignan, Clairette, Picpoul, Bourboulenc, Mourvèdre
The family-run estate is located in the Tavel appellation region of Rhone Valley, but Pascal Lafond also makes wines from the Lirac and Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellations. The estate is renowned for making the best Tavel available. For what it’s worth, Robert Parker even thinks so. What makes Domaine Lafond’s Tavel extra special is the fact that their vineyards are spread all over the appellation's nearly 2,300 acres, taking advantage of all three of the distinct terroirs, including limestone slopes, sandy soils, and a cobblestone-piled plateau. The Lafonds are careful to blend the grapes grown in all three different soils making for unique characteristics that other winemakers in the appellation cannot achieve given that their vineyards are restricted to only one or two of these soil types
FOOD PAIRINGS: duck confit, chicken satay, jackfruit tacos, any kind of spicy fare.
Two generations of Lafonds in their limestone soil vineyards.
MAS DE CADENET MAKING THE MOST CLASSIC ROSÉ WINE IN A ROGUE SUB-AOC
The Mas de Cadenet estate is located at the base of the mountain that Cézanne made famous in his paintings – Sainte Victoire. The estate has been family-run for seven generations producing wine in arguably the most iconic AOC appellations known for rosé wine, Côtes de Provence. But the twenty-two winemakers in this Sainte Victoire part of the Côtes de Provence region were not satisfied with the just the esteem of producing under the most prestigious rosé AOC region in the world because they felt that the microclimate that Sainte Victoire afforded them made their rose wines even more special than the others in the Côtes de Provence region. So after 15 years of petitioning, they won the establishment of a sub-appellation AOC of Côtes de Provence – Sainte Victoire. The Sainte-Victoire appellation is also noteworthy for a "gentleman's agreement" among all the winemakers that they practice organic viticulture.
The mountain contributes to creating a microclimate within the CdP region.
Featured Amaro Wine Club rosé wine: Mas de Cadenet, Sainte Victoire Provence Rosé (2021)
VARIETALS: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah
The Negrel family has run the Mas de Cadenet estate since 1813, and the average age of their vines is 35 years old, with the oldest vines now over 70 years old. The age of the vines is a key factor for the wines’ consistency and quality; the yield of the wines is naturally kept low to ensure high quality. As with all their neighbors, striking a balance with nature is central to the Negrel family's philosophy, and their vineyards have been certified organic since 2013.
FOOD PAIRINGS: grilled fish, shellfish and seafood, grilled meats and Mediterranean dishes
Representatives of the Negrel family which has run the estate since 1813.
COLLE TROTTA IS MAKING CERASUOLO AND DOESN’T CARE IF YOU CALL IT RED OR ROSÉ
In general, an Italian winemaker will purposely make a rosé, which in the Italian language is known as a rosato. But in the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo appellation where wines are made from the Montepulciano varietal, a rosato is not called a rosato; it’s called Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (not to be confused with Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which is a red wine from the neighboring Molise region). Are you confused? Let’s just say that they don’t care about standardization. A winemaker from Abruzzo who vinifies some of their rich Montepulciano grape varietal harvest with minimal skin contact is operating an appellation within an appellation – Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. The DOC has actually only existed since 2010. Before that, it just fell under the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo appellation, but it became such a distinct type of rosé that it demanded its own nomenclature and DOC… according to the people of Abruzzo at least. To be fair, it is an exceptionally distinctive rosé. Because of the thick, dark skin of the Montepulciano varietal and the significant sunlight that it receives in the Abruzzo region, even the rosé has considerable color and heft and not a little bit of tannin, to the extent that it can be mistaken for a light red wine.
The Colle Trotta estate is in the foothills of mighty Gran Sasso
Featured Amaro Wine Club rosé wine: Colle Trotta Q500, Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo
In 2006, Maurizio di Nicola aided by his great-nephew began the work of recuperating a centuries-old farm in the village of Penne, which is literally in the shadow of the 2,900-meter Gran Sasso Mountain. The family farm includes farro fields, fruit and olive trees, and only 3.5 hectares of vineyards. The name “Q500” was selected to reflect that the lowest altitude vineyards in the estate are still at least 500 meters above sea level. Farming is certified organic, fermentations are indigenous, and the wines are unfiltered. The juice for this Cerasuolo sees only 20 minutes of skin contact!
FOOD PAIRINGS: hard cheeses, cured meats, barbecue, charcuterie
Maurizio di Nicola recuperated a centuries-old farm with his great-grand-nephew