Rosé, You Say? Yes, Way!

When it comes to summer wines, think pink!

Rosé, You Say? Yes, Way! - YAM May/June 2024

BY JOANNE SASVARI

Rosé is the most easygoing of wines. Pretty, versatile and food friendly, it’s an ideal patio sipper and apéritif. It is one of the few wines that really pairs well with a charcuterie board. It goes nicely with seafood, salads, barbecue, even eggs, making it a great brunch wine. And besides, that colour just says warmer weather, doesn’t it? 

Now, you might think rosé is sweet and fruity, but don’t be fooled. What you probably remember is California white Zinfandel, a.k.a. “blush,” or perhaps Mateus Rosé, the sweet pink Portuguese fizz that came with a certain reputation back in the 1970s: “If you want to seduce, buy Mateus.” White Zin, thankfully, has largely disappeared (though if it’s your jam you can still find a 1.5-litre bottle of Gallo for less than $20 at BC Liquor Stores) while Mateus has made a surprising comeback among a new generation of wine drinkers.

The rosé we love is quite different. It can be still or sparkling, and is often bright, crisp and relatively low in alcohol. Some rosés are quite fruity, even off-dry, but most are very dry with subtle flavours of berries, citrus, tree fruits, even rhubarb.

Rosé is made around the world, in a variety of different styles. And there is a rosé for everyone, including zesty Italian rosato, full-bodied Tavel from the Rhône Valley, light-as-a-whisper Provence rosé and sun-kissed pink bubbles from the Okanagan Valley. We even have a number of bright, juicy rosés from right here on Vancouver Island (see Five to Try).

In recent years, rosé has taken off in popularity, and a flood of pink will soon be hitting  liquor-store shelves. We can hardly wait.

Rosé Styles

Quality rosé wines are made in one of four different ways:

Limited skin maceration: 

This is the most popular way to make rosé — red grapes are crushed and the juice left in contact with skins for six to 48 hours, before being drawn off and fermented. The longer the maceration, the darker the colour and richer the flavour. A huge range of styles are made in this way. 

Direct press: 

Where limited skin maceration is made like a red wine, direct press is how a white wine would be made. Red grapes are pressed right away, but traces of pigment from the skins remain in the juice to produce the palest of pinks, a colour the French call “onion skin.” These also tend to be light and citrusy in style (think: Provençal rosés). 

Saignée: 

The “bleeding” method actually produces two wines — a concentrated red and, from some of the juice “bled” from the tank, a rosé. It’s an economical way to make the most of the harvest, but if the winemaker considers the rosés secondary to the reds, it can produce wines of variable quality. At their best, these rosés are likely to be richer in style.

Blending: 

You might think red plus white equals rosé, but it rarely does. In fact, blending post-fermentation is generally prohibited in Europe except in the case of Champagne, but is a bit more acceptable in the New World. These wines can vary wildly in style.

5 to Try

Is there any surer sign that summer is on its way than the release of the new-season rosés?

Rosé, You Say? Yes, Way! - YAM May/June 2024

Averill Creek Vineyard Joue Rosé, Cowichan Valley: This unusual — dare we say, flat-out eccentric — blend of Marechal Foch, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris creates a wine that is powerful, earthy, a little bit savoury, a little bit floral and bright with red fruit flavours. 

Blue Grouse Estate Winery Rosé, Cowichan Valley: Gamay Noir is rare to find on the Island and that’s too bad — it creates a lively, juicy wine with notes of citrus, pomegranate and delicate white flowers.

Enrico Winery Red Dragon Rosé, Cowichan Valley: This Pinot-based rosé keeps picking up awards, including the top prize for rosé at the 2023 National Wine Awards of Canada. Clean, crisp, bursting with summer strawberry flavour.

Sea Star Vineyard Blanc de Noir, Pender Island: Pinot Noir is the base for this dry, zesty, Provence-style wine that is fresh and bright with strawberry, cranberry and rhubarb notes. 

Unsworth Vineyards Rosé, Cowichan Valley: Made from 100-per-cent Pinot Noir, this light, dry rosé is vibrant with flavours of wild strawberries, cranberries, rhubarb and red apple.