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  • Writer's pictureRichard Murff

It's Hot, Rosé

For the record, rosé wine is not a mix of red and white grapes – that would be called “gold wine.” Throwing it all together like that is how the Romans did it, and the result was so harsh that they had to cut it with hot water. It lacked finesse, but they made up for with gusto. They attacked whatever it was they were drinking with a weapons grade enthusiasm.

Rosé, on the other hand, calls for a lighter touch. They are made from red grapes in a process close to that of white wines. All grapes, regardless of skin color, have white flesh and produce clear juice, so what gives red wine it’s dark color and tannins and all the wonderful qualities is the skin. The Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio as the Italians say) is actually a big blue-purple grape. When these grapes are crushed, the juice is separated from the skins to keep the light color and flavor.

To get a rosé, red grapes are lightly crushed, with the skins allowed to sit in the juice from anywhere for a few hours for a wine light in color and flavor, to a few days for a darker, bolder wine. The result, even for the deep ones, is a fresh summer wine – a white for red wine lovers. You don’t need to look for an old respectable vintage, don’t even try. If you did find one there is probably a nasty reason it hasn’t been opened. Age doesn’t improve a rosé.

The free-market upside to all this young, summer wine is that good rosés are cheap because they have to be moved. After a quick trip across the top shelf of several liquor stores the most expensive one I could find was about $30 and from what I’ve tried there isn’t a pressing reason to pay any more than $15.

The real problem with pink wine is perception rooted vacations watching your aunt haul around what looked like a hatbox full of Franzia. Or maybe that’s just me. When I pull the cork from a bottle I can almost hear the train conductor calling, “Now arriving at Rosé… next stop: White Wine Spritzer!” I have no moral issue with white wine spritzers, that’s just not a road I want to travel down very far.

Rosé can be made from any red varietal and are produced nearly everywhere. Because diabetes isn’t as wildly popular in Europe as it their former colonies, old world rosés tend to be drier – wine speak for less sweet – than the new world wines. I am, however, painting with a wide brush here.

While you can get a good one anywhere, the Provence region of France is famous for the style and Champs de Provence will run you about $16 a bottle. It’s light and pale and dry enough so you don’t get that sweet mouth. Or I’d imagine, a roaring hangover. There are also several Côte du Rhônes that are very good – try M. Chapouteir’s Belleruche for about the same price point.

If you are looking for a bigger wine with more fruit, go new world or even the Spanish rosados are a lively option. Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé is out of, well only the Germans would have a winery call Wolf. I was at a loss to describe this last one until a friend of mine, a veteran of the business told me the word I was looking for was ‘fleshy’ – wine speak for God only knows what. Still, the term was weirdly on the mark. In summation: The Germans make fleshy rosés.

As for food, it’s the sort of wine that really sings with cheeses and cold, smoked meats or oysters with a mignonette sauce. For that matter, fried chicken. Don’t sneer until you try it, this is Memphis.


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