Winter gives way to spring and spring gives way to summer. In the wine world, a similar progression takes place. Big, robust red wines — the kind of thing you use to wash down stews while sitting in front of the fireplace in wool sweaters — give way to lighter reds and then...well, when the weather warms up, it's time to break out the pink wine.
Officially, we call these wines rosés (less frequently, blush). You probably remember the day when an Americanized version, white Zinfandel (nothing like big, hearty red Zinfandel) was derided.
That was a bad patch for pink wine. But we know better now. In fact, we know enough to welcome the arrival of the pinks when the temperature climbs and the days get longer. We've evolved.
Rosé really and truly matters in France, specifically in Provence, where the wine is a rite of summer. They've been drinking the pink in Provence forever. In the U.S., rosé drinking caught on in the 1980s. Luckily, we can now obtain a wide range of rosés, from the U.S., from France, and from many other winemaking nations.
The wines are never particularly complex. But that's not their purpose. Their role in the life is to accompany picnics and breezy summertime lunches on the patio, as the bossa nova trickles from the speakers and small children turn cartwheels across the green, green grass while adults offload the stresses of the weekly grind and consider a future unburdened by workaday fears.
My ideal companion for rosé (or — Eek! — even white Zinfandel) is a simple mozzarella salad, with tomatoes and basil, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and white pepper.
Rosé is produced in two main ways: the pink color comes from contact with red-wine grape skins during the maceration, or soaking, process prior to fermentation; or some red wine juice is extracted from the process of red-wine making and later fermented separately.
A typical rosé has a light, flowery aroma and flavors of strawberry or raspberry. Some have a bit of sweet edge to them, and most lack much tannin or bold acidity, although when drunk well chilled they come off as nice and crisp, like biting into a freshly picked apple.
If wine is "bottled poetry," then rosé is bottled happiness. This is not a drink of depression.
Rosés will be all over the place for the next few months. Here's a recommendation: Hartley Ostini's Hitching Post Pinks (pictured above, at Whole Foods), from the Santa Barbara area.