It wasn't that long ago when Roses were second-class citizens in the wine world, classified (and confused) with White Zinfandel, the overly sweet, rosy-pink concoction that marks the province of the novice wine drinker. But now these delicious sippers could not be hotter — sales are through the roof and wineries are hard-pressed to keep up with a demand fueled by Instagram-obsessed millennials and jet-setting celebrities who embrace catchphrases like "Rosé all day," "Yes way Rosé," and "Brosé," (men who drink Rosé).
Classic Rosés, such as those from the Provence region of southeastern France, are pale, salmony-pink in color, bone-dry (not sweet), low in alcohol and tannins, and snappy with acidity. But as popular as these are, they are just one expression of the Rosé style — these wines span a broad spectrum of flavor profiles and hues, from onion-skin yellow to a dark brick red, and it's these darker colors that are definitely worth exploring.
Rosé wines can be produced from any dark-skinned (red) wine grape varietal, from the lightest Pinot Noir to the most robust, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. Their color derives from limited contact with the pigments of the grape skins and their flavor profiles vary in accordance with the characteristics of the varietal. The most common means to make Rosé is the maceration process, in which the grapes are crushed and the clear juice is allowed to remain in contact with the skins for two to 24 hours — the longer the contact the more intense the final color. Dark Rosés can undergo maceration as well, but they can additionally be produced by a method called saignée, whereby during the production of red wine a percentage of the juice is drawn off and then fermented separately into Rosés. Some producers will blend a combination of wines made by both these methods. The results — ranging in color from strawberry to coral to ruby to copper to fiery orange to a dark extracted red — are fuller, richer, more complex, more structured, and ultimately more food-friendly than their paler cousins. While they tend to be more fruit-driven, they are not sweet wines and display just as much crisp acidity.
Dark Rosés should be chilled before serving. They pair well with rich and spicy dishes and hard cheeses.
EXPERT WINE RECOMMENDATIONS
Charlene Pontrelli at Cellar 406, 406 75th St., Downers Grove (630 968-2088):
2017 La Nerthe Rosé (France) $16. Dark pink with a bouquet of strawberries and citrus, this medium-weight saignée Rosé has a palate of berries, cherries, and grapefruit, balanced by lively acidity.
2016 Buehler Zinfandel (Calif.) $17. This elegant Napa Zinfandel is fruit-forward but not a fruit bomb. Lush and seductive, it shows off aromas of black cherries, berries, plums, and spice paired with a matching palate integrated with soft, muted tannins.
Lydia Slaker at Sixty Four – A Wine Bar, 123 Water St., Naperville 630 780-6464:
2017 Ponga Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) $15. Pale straw in color, with a lively nose of grapefruit, tropical fruits and notes of grassiness, then clean flavors of peaches and citrus accented by a chalky minerality and bright acidity.
2017 Brooks Rosé of Pinot Noir (Oreg,) $28. Aromas of watermelon, strawberry, white flowers, and pepper waft from this medium-bodied Willamette Valley Pinot, while the palate sings with flavors of red fruits, cranberries, watermelon,
and hints of orange peel.