Grape expectations: Today’s roses bear no relation to those of old

  • Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Poor misunderstood Rose; it got a bad reputation from the ever so sweet White Zinfandels of the 1980s. Many a cheap rose was quaffed during my college days, never to be touched again until my palate and I matured and discovered the beauty of a good dry rose. Roses today are no longer the sweet wine coolers of the past. In fact, they have very sophisticated flavor profiles, are wonderful food wines and are great values as well. As an added bonus, no wine looks prettier in a glass than a rose.

Roses are also known for their food-friendly versatility. A well-balanced rose can handle both seafood and steak. It’s also a great picnic wine as its lighter in body and has more delicate flavors on the palate. And surprisingly, it’s great with BBQ.

Rose incorporates some of the color from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. It might be the oldest known type of wine. It’s unknown when the first wine labeled as a rose was produced but it’s very likely that many of the earliest red wines made were closer in appearance to today’s roses than they would be to modern red wine.

Roses are often country dependent, so a Rosado from Spain will often be derived from Tempranillo and Grenache grapes, while Italy may use more Sangiovese for their rosatos and the U.S. will lean towards using Cab, Merlot and yes, even Zinfandel.

Most rose is produced using the skin contact method. Black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period from a few hours to a couple of days, depending of the type of grape and style the winemaker is going for. The brief skin contact, in addition to adding a hint of color, adds a tiny bit of tannin and some complexity.

After the skin is discarded, the must is pressed and the skins discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The longer the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.

When pairing rose with dishes, our chef recommends the following.

Salads and cold vegetables such as a Salad Nicoise or cold grilled asparagus.

Charcuterie cold meats and cold cuts tend to have both the saltiness and spice to enhance to rose wine flavors, while the wines not only hold up to them but reveal more of salamis’ savory character.

Seafood and Fish: From anchovies to grilled tuna to grilled shrimp and poached cold or even grilled salmon work extremely; especially well with the more full bodied and creamy textured rose wines.

Vegetable and Seafood Paella Dishes.

Grilled Chicken and Pork Dishes: Marinated pork loin is a winner as is roast veal.

Spicy Foods: Such as Indian curries, Thai dishes, spicy sausages and dishes that feature peppers have a natural affinity with these wines.

Omelets are another great pairing with roses. Try one of our favorite omelets if you have any leftover steak: beef tenderloin tips, asparagus and Maytag bleu cheese.

Row 11 Winery in California produces a beautiful rose that’s like drinking liquid strawberries. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache and Merlot grapes from the cool coastal valley. Pairs well with creamy pasta dishes, BBQ chicken and spring salads.

Here’s hoping you’ve been tantalized enough to try a rose with your next meal or appetizers.

(Carol Voigt of Laura Alberts Tasteful Options writes this monthly wine column.)

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