Blame white zinfandel for the common misconception that pink equals sweet. Those who drink rosé know better.
Dry, crisp and thirst-quenching, rosé may share the same hue as the sugary white zins and blushes popular in the ’80s and ’90s (the gateway wines for many), but that’s where the similarities end.
Made by incorporating just a touch of color from grape skins and fermented to dry, rosé is light, refreshing, acidic, and currently in insatiable demand in the states. Rosé sales are growing at least 10 times faster than the growth of overall table wine sales, according to Nielsen research reported last year.
The pink pour is the red-wine drinker’s white and the white-wine drinker’s red. It’s the full-bodied yet easy-drinking crossover wine that even guys are getting into (#brosé is a real hashtag). Even Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie have gone pink. The celeb couple further boosted rosé’s reputation when they bought the expansive Chateau Miraval estate in Provence and released their first vintage in 2013.
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“Over the course of the last 10 years, people have started to realize that just because it’s pink doesn’t mean it’s sweet,” says J.R. Clark, Central Market Fort Worth’s beer and wine manager. “During the 2014 rosé season, sales here were up 500 percent. It’s like that nationally. We used to be able to carry a certain bottling year-round. Now we’re selling out in a couple weeks, especially the high-end premium ones.”
Clark says the wine’s easy-to-pair flavor profile and increased accessibility has contributed to the trend. The amount of rosé imported to the U.S. has grown substantially since 2010, according to Nielsen, especially those from the southern region of France. Provence is widely considered the benchmark for dry rosé, and more wines from that region have established a following here.
“Ten years ago, the most expensive rosé was $40,” Clark says. “Now we’re selling $60 to $70 rosé, even up to $100 rosé.”
Teill Claassen, who worked at Zambrano Wine Cellar for five years before becoming the assistant general manager at Kent & Co. Wines, a trendy bar on Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue, says it wasn’t that long ago that most people didn’t know what rosé was.
“I’ve watched people say, ‘Oh, it’s pink. I want that white zinfandel,’ ” Claassen says. “People are absolutely drawn to it because they see the color and think it’s blush wine, or they’re absolutely repulsed by it because they see the color and think it’s blush wine.”
But unlike rosé, blushes like white zin and white merlot are purposely left with a higher sugar content during the fermentation process, says Claassen.
“Instead of letting that yeast go in and Pac-Man attack all of the sugar, they stop the fermentation process by chilling the tank down and taking the yeast out so it can’t take all of the sugar away,” she says. “Rosé is different in that it’s fermented completely to dry.”
Claassen categorizes rosé as “somewhere between ‘I only drink reds because whites aren’t complex enough’ and ‘It’s too hot to drink reds,’ ” she says. Rosé’s rich mouthfeel means it can stand up to heavier dishes that many whites can’t, but unlike many reds, it can still be chilled.
“It’s a fantastic barbecue wine,” says Lindsey Crawford, owner of WineHaus wine bar in Fort Worth. “It’s got high acid, but it’s full-bodied and can take on heavy meat, like hamburgers or hot dogs, but it’s not going to overpower anything. You can serve it with potato salad or things that are a little lighter, too.”
On the East and West coasts, rosé season typically has been Memorial Day through Labor Day, but folks are now drinking it year-round, especially at Thanksgiving, when pairing can be tough. Crawford recommends examining the shade of pink to determine level of body.
“Color factor is really neat. As they get darker, the more full-bodied they are. The lighter they are, the lighter they are in flavor. If you’re looking for something more light and acidic or heavier, you can always look at color,” she says. “Rosé is my go-to in winter or summer just because it’s between white and red and pairs really nicely with anything,”
If you want to drink pink this spring, start with these top rosé picks from Claassen, Clark and Crawford, who also shared recommended bites for easy pairing.
Teill Claassen, Assistant General Manager, Kent & Co. Wines
While this pinot noir rosé is a product of Germany, there’s a Fort Worth tie to the Smith Story name. Alison Smith-Story, known in wine circles as “Texicali Ali,” is a Fort Worth native who founded Smith Story Wine Cellars with husband Eric to create and distribute wine from small properties under the Smith Story logo.
“People know Ali in Fort Worth,” says Claassen.
Sippers will sniff sweet citrus and white flowers before tart, bright splashes of under-ripe strawberries and dried apricot hit the palate.
“Wines from higher latitudes tend to be mouthwatering with not a lot of alcohol,” says Claassen. “Smith Story rosé is perfect for patio-pounding. . . . It’s meant to be extremely refreshing.”
The wine pairs well with any cheese board, but Claassen liked aged white cheddar and goat cheeses, especially Purple Haze goat cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre in California, which is dusted with lavender and wild fennel pollen.
“The creaminess of this almost-spreadable cheese will play opposites attract with this rosé,” Claassen says. “The acidity in the cheese is masked by the texture. The acidity — that pucker, mouthwatering freshness — in the wine matches the cheese wonderfully, but the texture on the tongue is about as opposite as you can get.”
Top Pick: 2014 Smith Story Pinot Noir Rosé ($23)
J.R. Clark, Beer & Wine Manager, Central Market Fort Worth
Made with 60 percent syrah and 40 percent grenache, this traditional rosé is from one of the northernmost regions of Provence, says Clark. He loves it with anything off the grill, as well as with sushi or chilled shellfish. Thanks to its subtle, spicy notes and long, fruity finish, the rosé also pairs with delicate French desserts like apricot frangipane tart or macarons.
“As soon as red wine grapes are crushed, the skins start to bleed,” Clark says. “The longer they bleed, the darker the wine gets. For a cabernet, you might soak the grapes for 10 days to two weeks. For this one, the grapes soak for a half-hour. Then it immediately goes into stainless steel tanks for fermentation.”
Top Pick: 2014 Chateau Paradis Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence Rosé ($17.95)
Lindsey Crawford, Owner, WineHaus
“Nowadays they’re making rosés out of everything,” says Crawford. “There are cabernet sauvignon rosés and traditional Provence rosés made out of grenache and cinsault. Always try as many as you can to decide what you really like.”
One of Crawford’s favorites is Puech-Haut Prestige, a classical rosé from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France made with 75 percent grenache. She recommends pairing with seafood dishes, such as salmon rolls from neighboring Chadra Mezza, which are stuffed with shrimp, spinach, feta and ricotta. WineHaus patrons often order nibbles from the Mediterranean restaurant.
“This wine would go well with light fish dishes. It’s not overpowering and very nice with any seafood,” she says. “Stick with Provence-style for lighter dishes, like chicken or pasta with olive oil. But rosés are one of the easiest wines for pairing. They’re going to stand up to most foods and not get in the way.”
Top Pick: 2014 Puech-Haut Prestige Rosé ($24)