Habits and social norms are always there to guide us when we’re trying to make sense of the world. They also have a role to play in the way knowledge is institutionalized. With rosé, the norm we take for granted is that this style of wine is not meant to be taken as seriously as red or white wine. This nonchalance towards rosé is the result of both the way it is consumed and the way winemakers commercialise it.
The inhabitants of Southern France love their rosé, but they only drink it in the summer. Bottles of rosé are meant to be opened at the beach, by the pool or during a picnic for a refreshing way to beat the heat. Rosé is the wine that gets the ball rolling; when the bottle is finished, it’s time to begin bringing out the olives, the marinated fish and the nuts and to open a bottle of white. Rosé’s role in social gatherings is to refresh and comfort with its notes of grapefruit or peaches. (I won’t begin a discussion about the yeasts selected to give these aromas). Suffice it to say that rosé procures pleasure and that in itself seems to be enough.
These simplistic notions asssociated with this style of wine are due to rosé being the first wine of a given winery to hit the market. Rosé grapes are picked in August and the bottles are on the shelves in May of the following year. It’s a way for the winemaker to get cash flow before his whites and reds are finished products. Rosés don’t require a prolonged ageing period and they rarely see the inside of an oak barrel. The goal is to have them out in time for summer. When the markets are flooded with rosés, we restauranteurs pounce on them for our wine lists. But nobody wants to be stuck with rosé in their inventory come October, so the goal is to sell it, get it out!
The way is rosé is presented in sommelier courses shares this same logic. The future professionals of the industry are taught about consumption patterns as they exist, not about how to break moulds or ways of thinking. I suppose that is a trait of all institutions.
So it comes as no surprise that the goal of this article is to confirm that serious rosés exist.
By serious rosés I don’t mean rosé as afterthought, but as a wine of depth and complexity, in short, a wine that can pair wonderfully with a main course.
Of course Provence has the reputation of making the best rosés with their Bandols. These wines can go for as much as $25 to $30, well above what the average consumer is used to spending on a rosé. Bandol rosé gets more love and attention during the vinification process and the grapes can also come from particular parcels of land rather than a hodge podge of different growing which nullify the terroir effect. Domaine du Gros Noré as well as Domaine du Souviou are two great examples of rosé made with an eye towards quality and complexity that can change perceptions.
I’ve been rambling on about France, but the rosé which most surprised me this summer was from Spain. The Barranco Oscuro winery in Andalusia has the highest altitudes in Western Europe for grape growing at 1, 300 metres. The name of the cuvée is Salmonidos, a reference not to the colour of the wine but to the fact the salmon always swims upstream, defying the current as well as convention. This is a rosé from a direct pressing of Pinot Noir with mineral tensions, creamy textures and chockful of delicious field berries! The colour is much deeper with dark red tones, leading clients at the restaurant to ask me, « Is this still a rosé? » to which I respond,