Think PINK in October!

The weather has turned warm here  in the Bay Area, and we’re getting treated to our annual Indian Summer. This is one of my favorite times of year, when I can wear a t-shirt with no sweater, I can sit outside at lunch, and I can sip cool, crisp wines on the patio. It is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, time for us all to stop and reflect on how we can go pink in support of this cause, and raise awareness about this disease.

Several wine bloggers are joining together to raise awareness and encourage others to get routine mammograms and self-exam, as well as early detection.  What better way to support such a worthy cause than by drinking pink!  With over 40,000 women losing thier lives to this cancer in 2009 alone it’s time to do something about.  While you drink pink, remember to support your local organization.  There are even wineries that are joining the effort, including Cleavage Creek and Fleming-Jenkins, which is the brainchild of Peggy Fleming—a survivor—and her husband.

Since we’re thinking pink, is it true you can only drink white and rosé in the warmer months? Do you still subscribe to the adage that white wine goes with fish, red wine with steak, and rosé at a garden party?

I love a good dry rosé. There are so many to choose from now that we have grown up and expanded our palates from the youth of White Zinfandel and Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. These deep, dark, almost blood red rosés taste more like a red wine and behave as such. They are bold, and have good body and structure that hold up to many dishes, not just the delicate finger sandwiches of yesteryear. But with so many varietals now being made in to the pink elixir, how do you decide which ones you should try?

First, a little background on the noble-colored glasses of vino. The pink stuff is made from blood red to palest pink, depending on the grapes and the technique. In one method, red-skinned grapes, such as Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon, are crushed and the resulting juice is kept in contact with the red skins for short but crucial period of time. The longer the skins are left on the juice, the more intense and robust the resulting wine, which is the same method used for making red wine. Since red wine is produced when you leave the clear (or white) juice on contact with the grapeskins, leaving the skins in contact briefly produces a pink wine. By removing the skins before the wine becomes red, you are stopping the color from deepening and becoming red wine.

The second method is the traditional French “saignée” method. This practice differs from the above, since this is a actually a by-product from the process of making red wine. In much the way molasses (and therefore rum) is a by-product of the sugar-refining process, saignée rosé wines occur when red wine undergoing fermentation is “bled off.” Bleeding off the wine occurs when the winemaker reduces the red wine to achieve a more structured wine, more tannins, deeper color, or more intense flavors.  In the bleed, some of the lighter juice from the initial fermenting must is removed.  The removal of this juice intensifies the remaining wine. Think of this as skimming cream off of the whole milk, but in this case, the process is reversed.  In saignée, you are skimming milk (the rosé) off of the cream (the remaining red wine).  Instead of tossing out this extra juice (the skim milk), it is fermented separately. This style of rosé wine is typically darker and more intense than fermenting on skins, since you are already well in to the process of red wine fermentation, where the wine is turning red already.

Classic rosé from France was traditionally a dry, delicate and refined beverage. In the early 1970s, however, the American thirst for white wine exceed the production capacity, and so many winemakers here made white wine from red grapes—and before the White Zinfandel craze began in earnest, a flood of saignée style wines were in vogue. These wines were not sweet. These wines were the dry rosés and departed from the sugar-filled punch of White Zinfandel.

Now, we have come full circle. There are dozens of interesting rosés out there, the most common being made from Syrah in the classic Rhone way, but also from Sangiovese, Grenache and Cabernet.  Because it’s so versatile, a good dry rosé can go from a cool summer sipper, to the Thanksgiving table with roast turkey. Rosé isn’t just for hot weather anymore. A bold rose is a perfect companion for the spicy and creamy curry dishes from India, or maybe a Thai noodle dishes with some heat. The depth of a good dry rosé works well with the Thanksgiving table as well, going one step further than the classic Chardonnay.

Here are some of rosés from different grapes to go from Indian Summer to Thanksgiving easily, but don’t take my word for it. Go out and taste for yourself!

2008 Croze Vin D’ Une Nuit Rosé of Cabernet. An intensely dark rosé full of strawberries, pomegranate and blood orange flavors.  Croze gets its amazing color from Cabernet Sauvignon, which is an unusual variety to make rose’ with.  This wine is made in a traditional French style, and the name Vin d’une Nuit means “wine of the night” because the juice and skins are only soaked for a single day.  This is what gives the Croze the amazing color and undertones of a big Cab.

2008 Curran Grenache Gris. This beautiful dark salmon-colored rosé is made from Grenache Gris, one of the few grapes out there that actually has pink juice; whereas other rosés are made from red wine grapes, this one is not. This crisp rosé has notes of tropical fruit and melon, with a hint of roses.  It was a meaty rosé and would do well with spicy dishes as well as turkey.

2007 Ceja Bella Rosa Pinot Rosé. This example is a Pinot Noir rosé, and has a beautiful clear, deep hibiscus color.  Slightly sweeter than the first two examples, it is excellent with spicy dishes or fruit salad. The sweetness is balanced by tart cranberry and juicy ripe fruit, with a crisp finish touched by raspberries.

2007Mounts Two Creeks Rose of Syrah. Another dark one, rose red, with strawberries, limeaid, cranberry and a zesty lemon finish.

2003 Fleming Jenkins – Victories. Fleming is a survivor of 11 years, and specifically crafted this wine to raise funds for reseach.  The 2008 is the third vintage, and is garnering great reviews.  At $20 per bottle, everyone should go out and get some!

–Thea Dwelle is a software jockey by day. By night, she is a Wine Brat, who seeks to try new wines and expand her palate by drinking as much good wine as possible. Thea is the Wine Brat behind Luscious Lushes, a Wine Blog.