Since we’re starting to feel that almost-90-degree weather with 6am sunrises, that can only
mean one thing: Summer is here. That means grillin’ and chillin’. Of course, that also means
chillin’ bottles of Rosé to pair with the grillin’ fodder. “Rosé, isn’t that that white Zinfandel
stuff”? Well, white Zinfandel is a Rosé wine but I’m talkin’ ‘bout the whole world of blush
wines, not just the original California version.
Where Do They Get All Those Pink Grapes From?
All Rosé wines are made from red grapes. Period. There are no “pink” grapes to make these rose
colored wines. Even white Zinfandel is not a hybrid species. It’s made from the same Zinfandel
grape that makes the red variety. So how are Rosés made?
There are three techniques that are used to make Rosé wines. The first employs the same method
used to make all red wines with one simple change. The amount of time that the grape juice
spends in contact with the skins is shortened thereby giving the grape juice just a hint of red
color. Therefore the final wine produced just has a “blush” of red color to create that
characteristic salmon hue in all Rosé wines. Because skin contact is limited, the final wine also
doesn’t have any of the tannins associated with red wine, making them as easy to drink as any
The second method is known as the saignée method which is commonly used in France to
intensify their red wines. Since most of the flavor compounds are found in the grape skin, if you
remove some of the free run grape juice before fermentation begins, you’ll get a higher ratio of
grape skin to grape juice which translates to a finished wine with more concentrated flavors and
aromas. You’ll also be left with a bunch of pink tinted grape juice that you can either a) save as
your breakfast juice of choice or b) ferment on its own to produce Rosé wine.
This is the exact approach Bob Trinchero took to create California’s most popular Rosé; White
Zinfandel. To concentrate his red Zinfandel wines, he bled off some of the free run juice and
used that juice to make a dry Zinfandel based Rosé. On his 3rd vintage, the pink juice refused to
ferment to total dryness and voile, the semi-sweet Zinfandel Rosé that we now know as White
Zinfandel was created. While its popularity has dropped, White Zinfandel is still one of the
biggest sellers in the Golden State.
The last method isn’t used much other than in small Champagne houses and that’s simply to
mix white wine and red wine until you create a salmon colored wine. Obviously we can all
accomplish the same in our own kitchens.
Why Rosés and Summer?
When old Sol is beatin’ down at you at 90 plus degrees and that spicy barbecue begs for a
beverage to temper the heat, nothing quenches like a chilled, low alcohol libation. You could
chill your favorite Cabernet but that mouth filling fruit and tannins still seem to weigh down
your palate. That chilled Chardonnay cools the palate but that oak and buttery qualities also
makes your palate feel like its wearing a winter wool coat. Now a chilled Rosé with its light red
fruit, nice acid and low alcohol and in some cases, a touch of sweetness livens the palate in the
heat of summer. Kinda like the linen of wines.
Rosés also pair with most types of food. They have ripe red fruit qualities like lighter red wines
but no tannins to interact with certain seafood the way a Cabernet or Syrah might clash.
Therefore they pair with most poultry dishes, a wide variety of seafood and they are one of my
favorite wines for spicy foods; Vietnamese, Thai, Szechuan along with Indian, Middle Eastern and
Mediterranean cuisine. Kinda like that black dress of the wine world.
More Than Just Zinfandel
Rosé wines come from many other grapes than just Zinfandel. Because most Rosés are made via
the saignée method, the red used grapes most commonly used are Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah,
Grenache and Tempranillo. You rarely see a Cabernet – especially California Cabernet – because
they are concentrated enough on their own and don’t need “bleeding” of the unfermented juice
whereas the other grape varietals can be a little thin especially in “off” vintages and benefit from
the “bleeding” of this pink grape juice.
A benefit of the saignee method of Rosé production is that most Rosés are under $20 per
bottle. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find a bottle more than $20 (winemakers do understand
that Rosé production is usually a by-product of red wine production and price accordingly).
Since Rosés are also meant for early consumption, you don’t need to purchase a fancy wine
storage unit – I usually consume them the year I purchase them. In fact, I usually refrigerate
them as soon as I get home – kinda like I would with newly purchased beer. That way, you’ll
always have a chilled bottle on hand in case company drops by for that unexpected grillin’
The Gochiso Gourmet’s Short List of Rosé
A blend of Sangiovese and Merlot from California with flavors of strawberry, watermelon and a
hint of spice.
A French original made from the traditional blend of Rhone red grapes. Richer than the usually
Rosé which makes it pair with heartier foods.
Made by Palmina from Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Barbera. Released every year on Mother’s day, a
portion of wine sales benefits the Dr Susan Love Research Foundation for breast cancer research.
Hundred Acre Pink Gold Rosé
A festive Rosé that gets its color from Cabernet and blended with other white grapes with
shimmering 24 carat gold flake. This off dry Rosé pairs nicely with spicy Asian cuisine.
Will the Real Rosé Please Stand