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Dry rosés

Pink Pinot
Saintsbury Winery

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“Wow! That’s the first rosé I’ve had that wasn’t sweet!” That was the remark of a 60 year old student of mine when he tried his—evidently first—Provencal pinky.

That’s the view most folks hold: that pink wines are sweet or at least semi-sweet. Truth be known, most are. But there are a lot of pink wines out there that aren’t; they are actually as dry as your average Cabernet or Shiraz. But the perception is so strong that a lot of pinkies go undrunk because of it. But, sooner or later, we’ll be experiencing spring and summer--the days of grilling and picnicking—and these little gems will fit right in. Just a word of caution: try as much as possible to get examples from the 2011 or 2012: most older ones have faded.

Pink wines – rosés – are made mainly if not entirely from dark skinned grapes. They get their (semi) color from a short contact –a few hours to an overnight’s stay--with the skins of the grapes during fermentation or maceration. If they had a longer contact, they’d be red wines! Since most of the flavor of the red grapes comes from the skins, it follows that most pink wines will display less flavor than red counterparts. Which is why for most pedestrian rosés, a little of the natural grape sugar is left in the wine to add flavor. But some pinkos have enough intrinsic flavor so that they do not need the sugar boost. Enter classic dry rosés.

One of the most well known versions is Tavel. Tavel is an area in southern France—the Rhône Valley--where all they make is dry rosé, mainly from the local Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Clairette and other grapes which is the usual collection for most Mediterranean rosés. These are alcoholic wines—13 or 14%--and will stand up to many spicy meals. Some recent ones enjoyed were the 2011’s from the Dom. de Chantepierre, the Dom. De la Genestière and E. Guigal, all in the $15 to $20 range. The 2012 from the Dom. de la Mordorée is $25.

On the eastern outskirts of the Rhône is Ventoux where similar wines are made. Try the 2012’s from La Vieile Ferme ($7) or the more complex “Terrasses” from Ch. Pesquié ($12). To the west, there’s the Vin de Pays du Gard by Dom. St. Antoine ($10).

Provence to most Americans means (nude?) beaches but it also means dry rosés. The 2012 Côtes de Provence-St.Victoire by Charles Thomas is $12 and the 2012 Coteaux Varois en Provence by Ch. Routas is $14. There is also a tiny enclave on ther sea—Bandol—which makes a little pink wine. Try the 2012 Mas Redonne ($26).

There’s not much dry stuff made up north, but the Loire offers Sancerre rosé, made 100% from Pinot noir. Try the Jean Reverdy et Fils 2012 “Les Villots” ($22).

In America, a few wineries are also using Pinot noir for the dry pinkies. Saintsbury has long produced a “Vin Gris” from it using Carneros fruit: the 2012 is $18. Belle Glos makes an “Oeil de Perdrix” (partridge eye) to describe it color ($18) and from Oregon, both Adelsheim and Elk Cove source Willamette Valley fruit to make their Pinot rosés ($17). But an unusual one is the 2012 “Rosé of Sangiovese” from Alexander Valley Vineyards ($13) from the grape usually responsible for Chianti.

A last one, from northwestern Greece, and a great pair with hummus or yoghurt dishes: the 2012 Kir-Yianni “Akakies” from the local Xinomavro grape. ($14).

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