Thinking Pink

Rose wines on table outdoors
Array of Rose wines

“A bottle of white, a bottle of red,
Perhaps a bottle of rosé instead.” 
“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” by Billy Joel  
For me, it’s definitely rosé. I love pink wine. It’s thirst
quenching – especially on a warm summer day. It pairs well with many foods,
tastes good, and is pretty to look at.
I’ve often requested a glass of rosé at a wine bar or in a
restaurant and have been frustrated by the lack of choices – or suffered the sneer
of the bartender or waiter, as if I were asking for ‘plonk.’ But I stand by my
long-held view that rosé
is a tasty, sometimes splendid, choice as an apéritif or with lunch or dinner.
rosé seems to be catching on with more consumers.
rosé is being produced these days than ever before,” says Los Olivos, Calif. -based
Larry Schaffer, owner and winemaker of award-winning Tercero Wines. “Rosés tend
to be inexpensive, and that certainly makes them more attractive to many
people. Rosés can be very food friendly, and that attracts folks as well. It’s
becoming ‘cool’ to drink rosés now.”
Rosé is neither red nor white, but at the same time both red
and white. It’s usually made from red grapes, although
many blended rosés will include some white grapes. There are several ways to
rosé, the simplest
(and least sophisticated) being to blend a small quantity of red wine
with white wine, producing an inexpensive fruity style wine. Think of the White
Zinfandels you can get for well under $10 at the supermarket.  A blend of red Zinfandel and more aromatic
white varietals like Muscat and Riesling, these white zins gained popularity in
the 1980s, but are frankly not my idea of a true
rosé. This blending method is not
even allowed in the European wine market (except for when making pink sparkling wines.)
A more traditional
way to create rosé is to start the process as if making red wine, but changing
it up a bit. The winemaker can just directly press the red grapes,
extracting a minimum of color and tannin from the skins, producing a delicately
colored rosé. Or, the winemaker can draw off some juice anywhere from 6
to 48 hours after the beginning of the fermentation. Wine with the least amount
of skin contact produces a light-colored rosé that’s extremely low in tannin –
good examples of this method are rosé wines from Provence in the south of
France. Wines kept on the skins for up to two days will have darker color and
more tannin. Tavel is France’s Southern Rhone produces very fine and fairly
pricey rosés in this style.
most common method is bleeding (saignée in French), where a portion of the juice is removed after
fermentation is underway and the rest remains in contact with the skins to
produce robust red wines. Here the rosé is a byproduct of the red wine
production, and since the grapes are not specific to rosé wine (which normally
have less color and higher acid), these may not the best representations of rosé.
The red
grapes most often used for rosé include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Pinot
Noir, and the styles of rosé wines produced run from pale pink or salmon
colored wines with a light, red berry nose and palette, to deeper pinks (sometimes
even orange) with floral, earthy, minerally, black-fruit nose and palette.
“I prefer to use Mourvedre for my rosé because, to me, this
grape adds a little ‘something else’ other than straight fruit qualities to a
rosé,” says
Schaffer. “I always find a touch of herbaceousness and a nice quenching
quality, not to mention a bit more body than many other rosés.”  Schaffer’s 2012 Tercero Mourvedre Rosé ($18) is available directly at or at his small,
but lovely, tasting room in downtown Los Olivos, Calif. Schaffer is often
there, pouring barrel samples from his wine beakers, and ready to talk wine. (Schaffer was recently named one
of nine “new legends in Santa Barbara County” by Touring and Tasting Magazine. Read at
Other wonderful rosé wines abound. Here’s a sample of some
2012 vintages (besides Tercero, mentioned above) that I’ve tasted recently,
which you can find either online or at a wine shop near you:
J.L. Quinson Côte
de Provence
($6 at Trader Joe’s) is a great value for the price, with a floral nose and citrus and stone
fruit on the palette. 
Dame Rousse C
ôte du Rhône ($17; is a
blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignon and Mourvedre, and typical of the saignee method of production. This wine
has orange, cherry, and a touch of aniseed on the palette and would pair well
with grilled meats or fish.
Fiddlehead Cellars Pink
is 100% Pinot Noir-based and has an earthy, gamey quality, typical of this
grape. Fiddlehead was one of the wineries featured in the 2004 film “Sideways.”
Liquid Farms Rosé
is a Santa Barbara-grown Mourvedre-based wine made in the lean, mineral-driven
style of Provence rosés ($24; 
Jolie-Pitt &
Perrin Miraval
is produced at the French chateau of Hollywood power couple Angelina Jolie and
Brad Pitt, in conjunction with the long-established Perrin family of winemakers.
So it’s not just a “celebrity wine,” but a product of true, Provencal
winemaking traditions. I found it remarkably refreshing and light in style.
So think pink, and drink up. And, if in California, check
out the 2nd annual “Real Men Drink Pink” wine festival in Paso
Robles on June 23. Ticket sales benefit breast cancer research (
Until next time, cheers!