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Revolution drink pink!
Back in the ’70s, people drank ros/, but it was a sweet pink wine. As consumers became educated and palates became more sophisticated, the old American ros/ became unfashionable and quietly disappeared off the grocery shelves.
However, Europeans have been routinely enjoying dry ros/, especially in the summer. Now not only are some of those imports making their way onto American tables, but some Washington and California wineries are following suit.
There are three ways to make ros/. One is using any red grapes like sangiovese or syrah. The grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short time. Then the grapes are pressed and the skins are removed; when red wine is made, the skins remain. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.
The second way to make ros/ is called saign/e (pronounced sen-yay) which is the French word meaning “to bleed.” Red grapes are picked, destemmed and crushed. The skins and juice are pumped into a tank. At this stage, the winemaking process is identical for both red and pink wines.
Within a few hours, the grape skins begin to separate from the juice and float to the top of the tank, where they create a “cap” of skins. To make red wine, the winemaker regularly submerges the cap into the juice, causing the red grape skins to make the wine more red and more tannic.
But when making ros/, the winemaker drains off or bleeds the pink juice, which is now ready to ferment. Some English-speaking winemakers refer to saign/e as “cap and drain.” Whether fermented in barrels or tanks, the wine is allowed to “go dry,” which means that all of the natural grape sugars are consumed by fermenting yeasts.
The third way is blending. Red wine is added to white wine. This method is hardly used anywhere except in pink champagne. Even in champagne, very few producers use this method.
One of my first experiences with Washington ros/ was Barnard-Griffin ros/ of sangiovese. Sangiovese is winemaker Rob Griffin’s favorite grape to make ros/.
“I think the downfall of this varietal is that there’s very little color as a red, the tannins are absolutely brutal and the fruit is prone to be burned out in normal red fermentation,” explained Griffin. “All of these flaws are virtues if the grape is made into a ros/.”
Griffin continued, “We started this ros/ thing in 2002 with a few hundred cases. A perfect storm of wine quality and renewed interest caused a sell-out. We missed 2004 because of winter damage to the sangiovese vines and made a syrah ros/ instead. Sangiovese is very well-suited for ros/ in this climate.”
Picture yourself on your deck on a summer day with cold salmon and salad for dinner. A hankering thirst for something cold, wet, fruity, yet dry and crisp to complement your meal becomes almost tangible. That yearning should include a wine which would cool the heat, slake the thirst and offer complexity. Enjoy one of the many ros/s available in the marketplace. The actual grapes are listed where available.
Monmousseau ros/ d’ Anjou: 50 percent grolleau and 50 percent cabernet franc. $9.
Mas de la Dame: 50 percent grenache, 30 percent syrah, 20 percent cinsault. $12.