The Biggest Mistake People Make When Ordering Rosé

The Biggest Mistake People Make When Ordering Rosé photo

I don’t know why people are constantly looking for the “new” rosé when the original rosé is right there for the drinking. It’s still good! It still tastes like fruity water mixed with the stale taste of gum in your mouth, and hell yeah I want to drink that! But the problem is, there’s a huge misunderstanding about the pink stuff, and that’s exactly it: We see the color and assume that light, ballerina slipper pink means it’ll be “dry” and that deep magenta “I’d wear that as a lipstick” is sweet like Kool-Aid. But these are LIES. Lies, I tell you.

I asked Grant Reynolds, the wine director at Charlie Bird, who has been subject to my deep and introspective rosé questions before, to explain why we’re misreading the color of rosé.

Why It’s Pink

Duh, the skin of the grapes. You (sort of?) knew that already. What happens is: the grapes are pressed (I like to imagine Lucy stomping on them), and then either the slimy grape skins are left in the barrel, or they’re taken out. Left in= red, red wine. Taken out= white wine. Reynolds added, “The reason rosé is not as ‘red’ is because the skins and juice don’t spend as much time together as they normally would.” Rosé= somewhere in the middle.

What *Actually* Makes Wine Sweet

The skin-left-on-thing “has absolutely no correlation with any leftover sugar”—what people assume about darker rosés—”that comes after the fact.” Sweetness in wine can happen two ways, added Reynolds, “The worst is when people add actual sugar back in to make the wine taste like candy. The simple version to make a sweet wine is stopping the fermentation prematurely, leaving some sugar in exchange for less alcohol.”

What a Darker Rosé Means for You, Rosé Drinker

I’m into them right now because they often have more flavor than the “super, super dry” rosés, which slowly start to taste like water to me. And the last time I drank that danger water I bought custom cat furniture on Etsy, and I’m not returning it. Reynolds said that darker rosés tend to be fuller-bodied, but that doesn’t mean sweet, okay? It means fruity, or savory—all those fun wine words—and in general, more interesting flavors, more going on.

frose-frozen-roseAnd you know what to do with darker, more full-bodied rosés? Make frosé, people! Photo: Alex Lau

Flavor-wise, light-colored, super dry roses are for nothing but “the pleasure of drinking something super cold and that gets you drunk,” said Reynolds wisely, “They’re crisp, tall, boozy glasses of water that should go down only in the summer—and fast.”

Now go put this lesson into practice by ordering a Pantone-spectrum of rosé and tasting them for yourself.

Reynolds’s Recommendations

sancerre-rose-charlie-birdPhoto: Courtesy of Charlie Bird

If you want the OG style of rosé, what you think of when you hear ‘rosé,’ just say you want Provençal style rosé. This means you want the classic. Simple, dry, crisp, fruity (but not sweet). Try:

— Triennes rosé from Provence itself
— Chacra Pinot Noir rosé from Patagonia. Awesome stuff.
— Vacheron Sancerre rosé from further north in France

If you want something totally out there, ask for something Italian. This is new territory for Italians and they are experimenting with a variety of grapes and styles. The wines tend to be more savory, have sharper acidity, can be really great. Almost every major red wine region in Italy now has examples of rosé. This is also the land for darker rosé.

Here are a few examples of darker in color but still totally dry and totally authentic wines:

— Burlotto makes a great rosé from Barolo.
— I Custodi delle vigne del Etna makes an incredible wine from the volcano in Sicily. It’s smoky, textured, savory stuff. I’d drink this all the time if I could.

If you want something SUPER weird, ask for ‘oxidative’ rosé, which means the wine is exposed to oxygen, something that rosé winemakers typically avoid because it ages the wine. There are a few people who take the winemaking for their rosé very seriously: It may spend a longer time in oak barrels or it may be exposed to different types of yeast making these less about how fresh and fruity they are but rather about how nutty, salty, and savory they can be. However, these aren’t about sitting on the porch in the sun pounding wine. They’re more about drinking wines that are served like reds. A couple examples of these are:

— De Fermo Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
— Clos Cibonne Tibouren

Related: It’s the Summer of Frosé

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