Rosé in 2021

Exploring VA Wine

By Doug Fabbioli

Rosé in 2021

When I was a kid growing up in Upstate New York in the early 70’s, my parents didn’t really drink much wine. There was always a Gallo Hearty Burgundy in the cabinet for the spaghetti sauce, but they would buy a bottle of Mateus when guests were coming over. It was a pale pink wine in a uniquely shaped bottle, and everybody knew it. The wine had a little sweetness and it certainly was easy drinking (or so I’m told…).

In the early 80s a new wine product from Sutter Home was becoming popular: White Zinfandel was on the market and people were drinking it like it was going out of style. It was sweet, pretty pink in color and a little bubbly, and all the wineries got on the band wagon. At the time, the red Zinfandel wine was out of fashion and the price for the fruit reflected that. White Zinfandel was born out of an attempt at making something saleable out of grapes that weren’t selling. Pressing the grapes prior to fermentation gave the wine its unique pink color and left the tannins behind. The result was more of an entry level wine for the beer and sweet flavored wine crowd, and it was all the rage for a while.

Unfortunately for rosé producers in that timeframe, there was no market for their wines—those drier styles of pink wine with a solid acid structure that are so food-friendly. Somewhere in the early 2000s, fortunately, the trends started to shift again and the old school dry and off-dry rosés began their resurgence. The foodie movement helped move this forward, and rosé wine has now gained a widespread following. Virginia wineries have ridden this wave too, creating many lovely wines that are perfect for our summers and outdoor activities as well as for our cuisine.

Most rosés are made from red grapes, and there are several ways to make rosé wine. The grapes are usually crushed and then lightly pressed to extract the flavor and a touch of color. The longer the juices sit on the skin the bolder the flavor and darker the color, in general. Another way to make rosé is to add a touch of red wine to a white wine for color. A third way of making rosé happens in the process of making a red wine when a portion of the juice is drained from the fermenter to increase the skin to juice ratio in the red wine. The juice that is drained out is already fermented and, instead of throwing it out, it’s bottled as a rosé wine. Although some rosés are made from a single grape varietal, sometimes several varietals are combined, and it may be adjusted for acidity or sweetness before bottling to make the best wine possible. With a shorter fermentation and aging process, rosés are usually ready to bottle and drink just a few months after harvest, so we see a lot of rosés coming out in the spring and early summer.

Springtime is always a great time as we enjoy those new rosés released at this time of year. The timing is perfect, too—asparagus wrapped with prosciutto, spring salads, and lots of Mother’s Day sunshine all pair fabulously with a good rosé. Seek out rosé wines from your favorite Virginia wineries and enjoy the flavors and colors of springtime with this classic—and reborn—style of wine!

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