VAIL — Often derided, rose is finally getting its day. Ranging in color from a pale blush to intense pink or even purple hues, rose wines started gaining popularity a few years ago, but it really hit its stride in 2012, with the 2013 vintages making a mark on wine lists around the country.
“There’s no shame in drinking pink,” said Josh Wesson, who led the rose tasting seminar during Taste of Vail.
The statement was the first point on his list of “8 Things You Need To Know About Rose,” a missive that greeted guests as they filed into the seminar.
It’s a telling statement. For many years, drinking pink meant subjecting yourself to slightly mocking smiles from fellow diners or having others assume that you were home from college, having learned about White Zinfandel. However, any winery that makes red wine can make a rose — and many are branching into this brave new world. From France to Spain to Colorado, roses are creating a new option for wine lovers.
“I wanted something different for our tasting room,” said Steven Felten, owner of Klinker Brick winery in Lodi, Calif., who brought his rose for the tasting. “Rose is crisp, refreshing and great for summer.”
Behind the wine
Contrary to some beliefs, rose is not made from mixing white and red wine together. Instead, it’s made in exactly the same way as red wine: by exposing the juice of the grapes to the red grape skins. However, instead of allowing the juice and skins to have extended contact, the skins are removed more quickly, resulting in a lighter color of wine.
Many of the types of grape that are traditionally associated with red wine can be used to make roses: grenache, merlot, cabernet, sangiovese, pinot noir and often a blend of several grapes. And, as red wines can vary in taste from dry to sweet and in body from light to heavy, so can roses. Sparkling styles of wine, such as cava (Spain’s version of sparkling wine), can also produce a refreshing rose.
Roses can vary in style, moving on a sliding scale from more closely resembling white wines to falling closer to the red wine side. As a result, when tasting a rose, it’s helpful to mentally classify it as more of a white wine or more of a red wine.
Look at the color first. Roses can vary in color from a barely-there-blush to salmon to deep pink. Then take a taste: Is it dry, off-dry or sweet? What is the body? Is it light? Medium-bodied or more heavy? Roses can vary as much as red wines, and the only way to decide what hits the right note is to taste a wide variety.
Fortunately, it’s not necessary to spend a fortune to find a rose to suit your palate.
“You can never spend a lot of money on a rose,” said Wesson, a fact that was substantiated by the 10 different wines that were offered at the tasting. Of the options, no bottle retailed for more than $35; many were in the $15 to $25 range. “It’s a tremendous value.”
Perhaps some of the rationale behind the affordability is yet another of Wesson’s points: “Freshest is bestest.” Enjoy roses early — the 2013 vintage is ideal for 2014’s summer. An issue with the distributor resulted in a 2011 Ken Forrester “petite” rose being poured at the tasting (instead of the 2013); the difference was noticeable. As roses age, the color changes — this was almost a copper color — and the taste changes as well. Almost bitter, the 2011 was lighter in body and tasted as if it had lost its bloom. While some of the audience liked it, most agreed that it was not their favorite.
For some attendees, having the opportunity to taste a variety of roses made all the difference.
“I came to this seminar because I’m not a rose drinker,” said Maureen Herlihey, who lives in northern Illinois but spends several months of the year in Vail. “What turned me off initially was the color: It’s so pink! But it was a good chance to learn something from people who know it.”
While not a complete convert, Herlihey said that she enjoyed the experience and even found a rose that she liked.
“I never thought of a sparkling rose,” she said. “That was a surprise.”
As the weather warms up and summer approaches, expect to see roses on wine menus and in stores around the valley. Often lower in alcohol, roses can be enjoyed in a variety of situations. They also pair well with just about any type of food.
“When you can’t decide between white and red wine for dinner, reach for a rose,” Felten suggested. “Rose goes with everything.”
Wesson agreed. Point No. 8 on his “8 Things to Know” — there’s never a bad time for rose.
For upcoming Easter dinners, try switching out your go-to red and white wines for roses. Traditional dishes such as lamb will shine even more brightly when paired with a full-bodied rose. Even appetizers can get a boost with a rose. Transform those dyed eggs into deviled eggs and enjoy with a dry, crisp and floral rose that will cut through the creaminess of the filling.
Here are two recipes to help celebrate spring during your Sunday supper from Vail favorites Sweet Basil and Restaurant Kelly Liken.
Roasted Colorado rack of lamb with a spring pea Saute and pea emulsion
Recipe from Restaurant Kelly Liken.
Pair with: Muga Rioja Rosado; Moulin de Gassac “Guilhem” Vin du Languedoc Rose; or Chateau Bonnet, Bordeaux Rose.
One 8-bone rack of Colorado lamb, frenched
For the rub:
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/4 cup thyme, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
For the saute:
1 1/2 cups fava beans, blanched and shocked
2 cups English peas, blanched and shocked
2 cups pea tendrils, picked
3 tablespoon mint, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup green onions, chopped
For the sauce:
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
4 cups veal stock
1/2 cup red wine
1 tomato, chopped
1 bouquet garni
2 ounces lamb scrap
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 small piece of cooking foil
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cups whole milk
Sauce: Brown lamb scrap, onions, carrots and celery in a pot on medium-high heat. Once browned, add tomato, half the chopped garlic, bouquet garni and red wine to the pot. Add the veal stock, reduce by half or until flavor desired. Strain and reserve for later.
Herb rubbed lamb: Mix parsley, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper together and rub the lamb. Wrap the bones of the lamb with foil. Grill on medium heat, fat side down for about six to eight minutes. Then finish to desired temperature, let rest for at least three minutes before cutting.
Pea saute: In a saute pan on medium heat combine fava beans, 11/2 cups English peas, green onions and butter. Saute for about two minutes or until thoroughly hot and finish with half of the mint.
Mint scented froth: Heat milk to a boil and add remainder of English peas and mint. Process in blender until smooth.
Plating: Lightly coat pea tendrils with olive oil, salt and pepper. On four plates, first place seasoned pea tendrils on each plate. Then top with warm fava bean mixture. Next pour a 2 ounces veal stock reduction around plate. Remove foil from Colorado lamb and cut into four portions and plate. Finally, buzz the English pea, milk mixture with an immersion blender to incorporate air creating froth. Garnish the lamb and plate with froth and enjoy.
Truffle Deviled eggs
Recipe from Sweet Basil.
Pair with: AIX Rose.
20 hardboiled eggs
1 cup mayonnaise
1 ounce chopped truffle pieces
4 tablespoons truffle oil
3 tablespoons truffle juice
1/2 lemon, juice
Salt and pepper
Cut the hard boiled eggs in half. Separate the yolks from the whites. Tamis or puree the eggs yolks, and then combine all of the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish with a couple of sprigs of fresh dill and top with pickled mustard seeds.