Rosé wine is hot these days, and it’s a great wine to enjoy when the weather is hot. But you don’t want the wine to be “hot,” when that word is used in wine jargon.
A hot wine is one that has too much alcohol. Or rather, an amount of alcohol the overbears the rest of the ingredients, such as the fruit and other flavors, the acidity and even the finish.
So went one of the lessons learned at Culinaria’s Rambling Rosé summer event at Becker Vineyards on Saturday in Stonewall. Dozens of attendees at three afternoon sessions sampled cool, pink wines in a blind tasting led by a panel of wine experts, wine writers and winemakers.
Dr. Richard Becker’s 2009 Provençal Rosé, made from 100 percent mourvedre grapes, was the consistent favorite throughout the three sessions.
This doesn’t indicate the deck being stacked in favor of the hosting winemaker: His rosé has been poured every year since the event began, a half-dozen or so summers ago. It has always done well, both with the crowd and the panel, but never showed better than it did Saturday. So, our recommendation is to get your bottle of his 2009 Provençal while it is still available.
A consistent second-place contender was the Robert Oatley Rosé of Sangiovese, from Australia, a wine that last year topped the list in the New York Times rosé tasting. The two wines had a lot in common, most obvious the clarity and shimmer of their color. Second, both were bone dry, as are most great rosé wines. The fruit and well-balanced acidity in the Becker wine edged out the Oatley, however.
Other wines included the Bonterra Vineyards Rosé; another Texas rosé from McPherson Cellars, out of Lubbock; Angoves NineVines, from Australia; and Menage à Trois, a French wine with a little sweetness contributed by a touch of gewürtztraminer.
Speaking of sweetness, a few in the crowd liked the Menage, but most were fans of the very dry rosé wines that have become increasingly popular in the United States. Dry rosé has long been the summer wine of choice in many European countries, notably the South of France, as well in Spain, which makes its rosado wines, or Italy’s rosatos. Even in the cooler climes you’ll find rosé being made, such as in the Burgundy region of France, where it is made from that area’s famous pinot noir varietal, or in Germany with its rosé, called weissherbst.
As one panel member, Russ Kane, a blogger and wine writer with VintageTexas.com currently working on a history of Texas wines, rosé is not a varietal, or type of grape — it is a wine made from a red grape varietal or a blend.
Nearly all red grapes have white juice. So, the red color in red wines comes from the extraction of the color from the skins during the winemaking process. One way to make a rosé wine is to wait for the juice in the fermentation tank to have just begun to take on a pink color from the skins. Then, the juice is drawn off and the fermentation of the pink juice continued in another tank. Taking off the juice in this fashion is called saignée in the French language; in English, it is referred to as “cap and drain.” (The cap being the mass of grape skins that float on top of the juice in the tank, at the beginning of the winemaking process.)
One might also blend red wine with white to get a color and flavor desired, but the saignee method is preferred.
As also mentioned by panelist Joe Abuso (left), a food and beverage consultant, rosé is a versatile wine that goes well with food. But, all rosé wines are not created equal. If you’re having a dish with a lot of sweet and sour going on, such as a spicy Thai stir-fry, it’s even OK to have some sweetness in the wine – in fact, a little more sweetness in the wine than in the food is best, suggested panel member John Griffin, SavorSA writer and editor.
This means that a supermarket jug wine, such as that lightly sweet Menage à Trois, chilled down and served with the food, would work well as a partner.
Just as in a red wine, a rosé can have off flavors, be flabby (not enough acidity in the mix), lack fruit or take on off flavors. Also, you can’t judge the rosé by its color. A deep, rosy pink might seem to indicate that the wine will have more flavor, but as we found in the tasting Saturday, a pale, delicate pink wine might turn out to be the real powerhouse.
Saturday’s panel was led by Steven Krueger, sommelier for Westin La Cantera Resort restaurants. He was joined by the panelists mentioned above, as well as Becker’s two sons, William and Jo and this writer, also an editor and writer for SavorSA.com.
Food for the event was prepared by sous chefs from the Omni River Walk restaurants, Las Canarias at the La Mansion del Rio and Pesca at the Watermark Hotel, which is soon to be renamed the Mokara Hotel. In photo at left are, left to right, John Ward, Lewis Guaranci and Taylor Fraser.
Photographs by Bonnie Walker