Rosé is the New Red

Why men should set down their glass of Cabernet and drink pink wine

by Zachary Stine

This blog is about rosés, so I need to make something clear right off the bat… Rosé does not equal white zinfandel.  Now, I do not mean to insult the many white zin’ drinkers out there.  To quote my mother’s eternal wisdom, “It does not matter if it comes in a box or a bottle, with a cork or a screw.  If you like it, then it is good wine.”  Since Sutter Home sold its first bottle of white zinfandel over 30 years ago, it has been the wine of choice for many people. That means that it is good wine, and I consider it a sin to belittle anyone who is passionate about any sort of wine.

That being said, distinguishing between white zinfandel and rosés more generally is of the utmost importance because rosé is a complex and varied class of wine.  It is is often over looked, especially by men, due to its association with Sutter Home’s sweet pink wine.  When most male wine drinkers are presented with a glass of rose, all that they can see is a glass of that sugary pink stuff that their grandmother drinks.  It is the wine that their girlfriends and wives bring to book club along with a copy of Eat, Pray, Love.  It is a fad wine that Sutter Home started in the crazy days of the 1970’s. It is a fru-fru wine that cannot even begin to match the strength, structure, and severity of Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is my duty as a lover of wine, to inform all of these men, that they are dead wrong about rosés.  Do not fret my Cabernet comrades.  I do not burst your bubble out of spite.  I am here help.  It is time to roll up your sleeves, equip yourself with a sturdy wine glass, and begin to explore the new and foreign world of rosés.

To understand what rosés have hidden behind their shades of pink, it helps to know how they are made.  Despite their association with white wines, the process of producing roses is more similar to the creation of red wines.  A red wine derives its color and flavor structure from the skin of the grape. Unlike white wine, red wines are fermented with their skins.  This imparts a higher level of tannins to the wine.  These tannins are what give the wine its structure and depth.  When you take a sip of a good Cabernet you get a wave of sensation through your mouth and the back of your throat that is almost like goose bumps, and it leaves you craving another sip.  That sensation is produced by the tannins in the wine.

Rosés can possess all of the same features of red wine because rosés are produced by the same basic process.  Like red wine, rosés are fermented with the skins of the grapes.  But, while most reds will ferment with the skins for a few weeks, rosés may be pressed after only a few hours or, at most, a few days of fermentation.  The pinkish tint of the wine is produced by this difference in the length of fermentation; the skins do not have enough time to add the dark red hue to the wine.  Though, the contact with the grape’s skin that does occur gives rosés the tannins which provide them a structure and mouth feel that most white wines lack, the shorter period of contact keeps a rosé from becoming as heavy as a Cabernet or a Merlot.  This means that the wine is structured while still being refreshing.

This combination of structure and refreshing lightness is why I argue that rosés are the perfect spring and summer wine for the southern vinophile.  Let’s be honest guys, no matter how much you love a good dry glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, trying to drink a glass or two of the red stuff while also enjoying the sun and surroundings of the Louisiana bayou can be difficult.  A rosé is the perfect solution to this problem. Rosés provide a red wine die-hard with the tannins and structure which he craves in his wine, but the wine is still light and refreshing and can provide a reprieve from the heat of our Southern sun.

Lets test all this talk about rosés by looking at a specific example of the wine.  Palmettos on the Bayou is currently featuring a splendid rosé by the name of Gulilhelm as one of its Spring wines.  Guilhelm comes from the Moulin de Gassac estate in the Languedoc region of the South of France. When I pour the wine into my glass I am first struck by the color.  The wine is clear but vivid.  I can see my fingers wrap around the stem of my glass as I gaze into the wine, but my hand appears pink.  It is as if I am looking at the world through rose tinted glasses.  The aroma of the wine is subtle.  The smell is sweet, but not sugary sweet.  It is floral. It smells fresh. There are hints of gardenia and melon.   The first sip tells me that this is definitely not Sutter Home’s white zinfandel.  The wine is dry, but the light floral notes balance out the acidity of the dry wine, keeping it from being overpowering.  As I swallow the wine, I get the goose bump like sensation across my tongue and the back of my throat from the tannins.  When I finish I find myself confused but intrigued.  This is not a one note wine cooler.  It takes a bit of effort to understand this wine.  I can comfortably sip it on the back deck of Palmettos as I over look Bayou Bonfouca, but behind the wines’s refreshing outer layer there is a depth and complexity that would leave any Cabernet drinker pleasantly curious about what the next sip may hold.

Galileo once said, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”  Science tells us that sunlight holds every shade of color that the human eye can see.  This is demonstrated every time you look at a rainbow.  Sunlight contains, white light, red light, and even pink light.  Sunlight is sunlight no matter the color.  If Galileo is right about the relationship between wine and sunlight, then the same rule has to be applied to wine.  Wine is wine no matter the color.  That is not to say that you will like every wine no matter the color.  Not every pink rosé is great, but there are some truly great rosés.  It is the job of a true wine lover to explore every corner of viniculture in search of these great wines.  So come on guys, set down your glass of manly cabernet and pick up a glass of the pink stuff.  You have nothing to loose, and so much to gain.