Food & Drink

The Grapevine: Rosé is a wine best enjoyed young and fresh

There’s something about hot weather and a juicy, refreshing dry rosé that just feels right. Whatever the season, I’m not the only wine drinker who finds pleasure in dry rosé: Sales continue to grow, up nearly 15 percent in 2011. Are they the most profound wines around? For the most part, no. But many are flat-out delicious.

Some winemakers make their rosés by bleeding juice off their reds, which concentrates the red wine and creates a pink wine as a byproduct. (The pink color comes from brief contact with the red skins.) But as red wines got riper, so did the rosés, and it’s tough to make an attractive rosé with 15 percent alcohol. Now I’m seeing a lot more pink wines made from grapes that are picked earlier specifically for rosé, when sugars are lower and acidity is higher, resulting in a fresher, livelier wine.

Rosé can be made from any red grape. But my favorites are usually made from pinot noir or Rhône reds such as syrah and grenache.

A couple of good examples of the former are the 2011 Toad Hollow “Eye of the Toad” Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir ($13) from Sonoma County, which has fairly deep color and bright cranberry and raspberry flavors, and the 2011 Ponzi Pinot Noir Rosé ($15) from Oregon, which is on the tart side but very refreshing.

As for Rhône-style rosés, a perennial favorite is the 2011 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($16), which is dominated by grenache and contains a small portion of white grapes, specifically grenache blanc and roussanne. The wine is quite fragrant, with raspberry and cranberry flavors. The 2011 Curtis Heritage Rosé ($18) from Santa Barbara County is another blend, this one dominated by mourvedre; it’s lively and aromatic, with cranberry and lemon flavors. Another Santa Barbara County wine, the 2011 Beckmen Grenache Rosé ($18), is quite fruity, with raspberry, cranberry and green apple and a slightly drying finish.

Rosés made from Rhône grapes are found all over southern France, from Provence to the southern Rhône to Languedoc. The 2011 Paul Jaboulet Ainé “Parallele 45” Cotes du Rhone Rosé ($15) offers pretty cherry and cranberry with some structure. The 2011 Bieler Pere et Fils Rosé ($11) from Provence is more delicate, with raspberry and watermelon fruit, accented by mineral. Another reliable — and inexpensive — rosé from southern France is made by La Vieille Ferme.

There’s the odd rosé here and there that ages well — a prime example is the Lopez de Heredia from Rioja, which evolves gracefully for 10 years or longer — but as a rule, rosés should be drunk when they’re young and fresh. Look for wines from the 2011 vintage. Older wines have probably been gathering dust on the store shelf.

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