Uncorked - May-Aug 2008

By Dan Taggart - Draeger's Wine Consultant

Uncorked

Draeger’s wine department customers vote with their wallets when it comes to wine color. Red and white are the two primary choices, but the trend is changing. We sell more rose every year, and that’s a result of ever more savvy wine buying on the public’s part. That public is increasingly discovering what those in other parts of the world— especially Europe— have known for hundreds of years: that lightly colored wines are not only refreshing in warmer weather, but often make very good dinner companions even in the dead of winter!

uncorkedBlush, pink, rose, rosado, rosato— all are terms for wines made in such a way that color is slight, drying tannins are minimized, and natural fruit flavors are in the forefront. Certain wines can be a little on the sweet side, such as California’s “white Zinfandel”, Portugal’s Mateus or Lancer’s roses, but for the most part, the world’s best examples are usually quite dry and often offer some mineral flavors that provide complexity.

Rose wines are made in several ways. A short maceration after crushing (soaking with the skins and other solids) releases slight color and skin-based flavor compounds into the juice before pressing, after which the tinted juice is fermented. A variation on the maceration theme is saignee, when a little free-run juice is bled off a tank of what will become a (therefore more concentrated) red wine. That bleed juice is often fermented separately and bottled as rose. Occasionally some finished red wine is added to a white to produce a blush color with slightly different flavor characteristics; most pink Champagne is a result of this method. Vin Gris wines are made by crushing red-skinned grapes, pressing immediately without maceration, and fermenting the resulting very lightly colored juice. Color is no firm indicator of flavor intensity or quality, but darker color does sometimes predict slightly more mouth feel that results from more tannin extraction during maceration.

We are here to serve all kinds of people at Draeger’s. If a customer insists on drinking only red wines (“Show me your big California reds, please”) we’ve got lots of them. On the other hand, when the weather is warm, or the meal includes herbaceous or spicy ingredients (such as last night’s ahi tacos with guacamole and salsa roja at our house), or when neither a red or white seems just right for the moment—think rose. We’re around to recommend a variety of them from nearly every major wine growing region on earth. They often make a lot of sense, much in the same way that a Miata or similar car delivers more fun than a V-8 SUV on a curvy mountain road.