In the Pink
Poor pink. It has certainly been a rough road for this lovely color to make it in the wine world. Blame it on the imported Mateus and Lancer bottles of the 50s or the beloved white zinfandel wines of the 80s. Pink got its start with a bad rap. Not that those wines are bad. On the contrary, these are still some of the most purchased wines on the market today.
But these wines are sweet and cheap, and for some reason that quickly became the standard for many pink colored wines, no matter where they came from. For far too long, drinking pink signaled that you were a novice drinker with little knowledge of good wines. Wine snobs loved to belittle the pinks while holding up their pinkies. And heaven forbid you would order a glass of blush in a fine dining restaurant.
Little did we realize that those mainstream pinks of yesteryear were actually the exception to the pink rule. Across the pond, the color pink has always been highly admired in the wine world. It signals wines of great character and complexity. In French regions like Provence and Champagne, these wines are highly sophisticated quaffs that the nest winemakers consider to be some of their best. Instead of being the cheap choice, these pink wines often command the highest prices. They are worshipped. But, they are dry, meaning that there is no sweetness in the wine.
These dry pinks are known as rosé. Some people will tell you that the phrase “dry rosé” is redundant. It is a given. The rise to popularity of rosé here in the United States has been lengthy and tedious. After all, we have a lot of preconceived notions to overcome.
But it has happened. I have witnessed a complete turn-around in the past few years. Maybe it is the explosion of pink exports from Europe. Maybe it is because so many good restaurant sommeliers have been singing the praise of pink at the dining table. Or maybe it is because our adventurous American spirit has reached out to the lesser known, and been properly rewarded for it.
Four years ago, I attended an event in Finger Lakes to introduce some of the newest dry rosé wines of the region. It was so exciting to see so many of our local winemakers getting behind the rosé movement. There were about fourteen wines to try, and they were delicious.
But it was still a hard sell to many customers. I served the wines at many summer soirees that year and people were still skeptical of the pink. “Isn’t it sweet?” But one taste is all it took. Surprised faces and exclamations of delight were commonplace, and I felt there was hope after all.
The fourth annual “Discover Dry Rosé” was held in March at Fox Run Vineyards. There were thirty-six wines available for tasting. The place was packed. Upon reflection, I decided they should rename the event “Dry Rosé Discovered.”
Rosé wines are the best of both worlds. In most cases, the wines are made exclusively from red grapes, so you get the flavors you would find in a red wine, like cherry, raspberry, and spice. Red wine lovers like that. But you serve the wines chilled, like you would a white. Crisp, clean, and refreshing. And white wine lovers like that.
The event was centered on the prowess of rosés with food. And believe me, you cannot find a more versatile wine. It pairs beautifully with fried veggies, goat cheeses, shellfish, salmon, tuna, poultry, sausage, or paella. It’s a wonder that rosé hasn’t completely taken over the wine market. Of course, there is still time...
And the amazing variety of styles—all you needed to do was look at the colors of the bottles lined up on the bars to see that each rosé has its own distinct personality. Depending on the grapes used (pinot noir, lemberger, cabernet franc, merlot, for instance), and the amount of time you let the juice sit on the skin (to pick up the color), the assortment of pink hues is mesmerizing.
The winemakers showed unbridled enthusiasm, not only for their own wines, but for the coming of age of a new local specialty. It is a worldwide rosé revolution, and the Finger Lakes region is on the front line.
Warm weather is straight ahead, and the winning 2016 vintage of rosé is fresh for the pickin’. These wines are made in smaller quantities, so don’t wait too long to stock up. After all, pink is now the new red.