Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: The best roses are dry, and ideal for summer

By JIM BEAUREGARD May 08. 2018 11:24PM

What makes a rosé a rosé?

Remember that a rosé wine can be made from any type of red grape. I say red grape here, because that’s where the color comes from. Rosé is, in color, light red, which comes from the skins of red grapes. The hues, in wine terms, can run from pink to salmon to orange, but ultimately they’re all shades of red.

So, how is it done? If you take a red grape, crush it and leave the juice in contact with the skins for a long time, you get red wine. If you pull the juice off the skins after a few days, the limited contact time makes for a much lighter colored line, wine — in other words, a rosé. No matter how big and dark a particular grape varietal may be, the color of the wine is all about contact time between the skin and the juice.

There are different ways of making rosé wines, but the method that is most preferred today is referred to as short maceration, meaning that the grape skins are left in contact with the grape juice just long enough to extract the color that the maker wants the wine to have. The contact process may last a couple of days, but may be as short as 12 hours, depending on how dark the initial grapes are.

It is taking a long time, here in America, for us to get the sense that good rosé does not have to be a super sweet wine. In fact, the greatest rosés in the world are bone dry, and like others we have looked at, are made for pairing with food.

Somewhere in our wine backgrounds, most of us have probably had a glass of White Zinfandel, which is very sweet and was a California creation in the 1980s. It inadvertently created the impression that rosé wines had to be sweet, sometimes sickly sweet.

But the winemakers in Provence always knew better. So, nowadays, do winemakers in South Africa, Chile and Australia, who produce some excellent dry rosé wines. They can all be ideal for sipping on their own on a hot summer day, but because they are dry they are also made for pairing with foods.

Dry rosés often work well with salads, particularly those with some fruit on top, and one way to think about pairing rosé is to think about the color of the food you are having. It makes a nice pairing with salmon and with other similarly colored centers of the plate.

As with the past few wines we have looked at from Portugal, today’s wine, a rosé, is also a blend — in this case, of the following three grapes:

Touriga Nacional is a red grape, and a bold one that can impart heavy-duty fruit, tannin, peppery flavors, cherries, violets and some tea-related notes. It is one of the grapes that is used in making port.

Syrah is a better-known red grape, and almost matches the Touriga in its presence. It is known for producing very dark red wines, with high tannins. It contributes flavors ranging from smoke to pepper to chocolate, as well as Cabernet-like flavors of blackcurrant and blackberry. It is well known in both France and Australia, but Portugal makes good use of it in its rosé.

Aragonez is also a red grape, better known as Tempranillo when you cross the border into Spain. It also goes by the name Tinta Roriz in the south of Portugal. It is the most widely planted red varietal in the country, with more than 50,000 acres by the middle of this decade.

Finally, with these potential contributions in mind, let’s take a look at Terra Forte 2016 Vinho Regional Alentejano, a blend of Touriga Nacional (45%), Syrah (40%), Aragonez (15%). Pink in the glass, bright and cheerful. The nose is full of red fruit, and this is also reflected in the palate with red berries, strawberry in particular. I would actually serve this one a little bit chilled on a warm summer day. It has a pleasing fruit finish and will repay the attention you give it.

It’s springtime now (believe it or not), and summer will not be far behind (believe it or not), so it’s time to start thinking about summer wines. This one would serve well.

Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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