It's summer time in New York City, and we're gearing up for a mid-summer, sweltering heat wave. Most would consider staying inside, not exercising outside, and staying as hydrated as possible. While those are generally great rules to abide by, my number one summer survival guide is a crisp class of rosé wine, preferably enjoyed outside.
But here's the thing we've never been able to understand: why is rosé only available in the summer?
For a long time, our young, uneducated minds didn't understand the difference between rosé and white zinfandel, that pink, sugar-sweet wine consumed by freshman girls around America. White zinfandel was easy to drink and even easier to come by in college, but when we graduated into the real world of adult wine drinking, we soon discovered the beauty and variety that is a crisp rosé wine.
For those of us that are amateur wine drinkers, we only ever understood red and white varietals (or blends). When rosé wine is made, some of the color from the grape skins is incorporated, but not enough to qualify it as red wine. This is called the skin-contact method, and it's akin to maceration like you'd make for a pie filling (aka everything is mushed together and left to soak developing flavors.) Before fermentation, the must is pressed and the skins discarded (different than red wine making where the skins are left in during fermentation.)
The most common and true way to make rosé is the skin-contact method, but there is also literal blending of red and white wine, as well as the saigneé method. This is a method of rosé production that involves bleeding off the juice after limited contact with the skins. My research tells me that this method is a process for red wine making and rosé wine ends up being a lower-quality by-product. The blending method is actually discouraged in many wine regions, including France where it is actually against the law except in the Champagne region. Blending is obviously lazy and low-quality, and the saigneé seems to be only partially accepted as an acceptable method. The President of the Provence Wine Council says this method doesn't produce "true" rosés as they are more of "an afterthought." So, there's that.
Rosé wines are available still, semi-sparkling, and sparkling. Rosé should be from a recent vintage (read: fresh), and should be dry (acidic without a lot of extra sugars). And, just like all wine, the color of the grape skin is directly reflected in depth of color in the wine, so rosés can range from a pale, blush color, to a dark, almost purple red, depending on the grape varietal. The official colors are named after fruits: melon, peach, redcurrant, grapefruit, mango, and mandarin. Or as I see it, every pink or orange fruit in existence.
Rosé wines come from France, Italy (rosato), Spain, Portugal (rosado in both countries), South America, Australia, and the United States. Basically, anywhere wine is produced, you'll find great rosés. My personal squad goals are to try rosés from all regions and be able to know where all the best ones are from.
So, now that we've got my basic rosé knowledge down, it was time to take on the wine world and figure out why it's so hard to track down rosé after labor day. It's as if the wine world is practicing the no rosé or white after Labor Day, but the white "rule" has been de-bunked, so let's debunk the rosé one as well.
Our initial idea was the try and poll every wine shop in New York City, but we quickly decided that was too much. We then decided to then take to the internet and ask the wine geniuses themselves. After a quick search, we found a few wine people to question, hoping to get to the bottom of this.
Respectively (first listed to last), the five we picked are a wine columnist for Details magazine, the NYTimes wine critic, editor-in-chief at Punch, wine director for Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud, and the beverage director for Rouge Tomate. This crew knows their wine and we hoped we'd get at least one answer.
First, our friend Dan got really excited about rosé:
But after his initial excitement, we got some real, but only moderately helpful, answers:
The link in the first is actually a few years old, but the "too long, didn't read" version is basically: We should drink rosé year round; it pairs well with all kinds of food. The problem is, most places don't continue to stock it into the fall, and those that do, don't carry that much. Great, but still disheartening. Pascaline just basically told me what we wanted to hear but then didn't follow up.
We didn't get any closer to knowing why we can't have rosé all year, or why there isn't more of a movement to make my dreams come true, but at least we weren't dead in the water.
Our next move was Flatiron Wine and Sprits, which stocks an impressive display of rosés in the window. We wanted to try a few varieties and ask questions, so we bribed our friends to help me (because, wine), and we rolled in on a Friday after work. The woman in the shop helped us pick out 3 bottles around $15 or less (info below), and as we packed up to head out, this conversation happened:
Brianna: (as I am packing 3 bottles into my backpack): "I have a question for you."
Isabel: (friend): "Why is rosé only available in the summer?"
Store clerk: "Well, it's not."
Brianna: "Yeah, but I never see it after labor day."
Store clerk: "Well most production happens in the spring and dies down by the fall. Most wine shops don't really re-stock at the end of summer."
Brianna: "Well why don't they start carrying it in the winter?"
Store clerk: "I mean, we do have rosé, but we just don't reorder. We carry stock until we run out."
Basically, the moral of the rosé mystery is that production just doesn't happen from the late summer and into the winter. Rosé is a wine that is best when consumed closest to production date, so it doesn't make sense to age the wine, or wait any longer. This means, you enjoy rosé all summer and then stock up around labor day.
New personal mantra: Rosé all day. Or at least until my winter supply runs out.
Zestos Garnacha Rose: Spain. Grenache. Fruity & Sweet. Isabel said it tasted like grape juice.
Chat Fou: France. Côtes du Rhone region (I can't seem to determine grape variety). Slightly heavy & Semi-sweet.
Musings from the team at Hook & Blade Mag.