“Pink” wines may be called “Rosé” (pronounced ‘rose-ǡ) or “blush” or just “pink or rose – grape variety something” and are among the hottest sellers on retail shelves. According to Neilson, they have been a leading table wine category for over three years now.
What are these wines, and why do they work with late spring-early summer fare?
Many “pink” wines in this market are made from Catawba, the ubiquitous native grape variety that for generations has produced lovely, aromatic, often somewhat sweet sipping wines. It’s easy to enjoy, fun-filled flavors are a great complement to burgers and beans, the first of the spring greens and even strawberry shortcake in June.
Others are made from hybrid and even some from “noble” viniferas like Chambourcins, Cabernet Francs or Cabernet Sauvignons. Frequently these are produced when the growing season is shorter and the big red characteristics cannot fully develop on the vines. However, given the popularity of the category, some wineries are intentionally producing “pinks” from grapes that might otherwise go into the red wine categories. These are generally single varieties and often in bottles notes as “Some-Variety Rosé.”
Internationally some great, exceptional quality wines are on store shelves and on restaurant wine lists. That was not always the case. In the ‘60s the term was used to describe rather insipid blends wines — often from Portugal bottled in interesting crocks and unique shaped containers. Those were never considered by the connoisseur classes.
Some fabulous wines are now produced around the world using red grapes whose skins have less color intensity than big Napa floor Cabernets. My personal favorites from outside our region come from Provence using the Grenache grape, which we cannot grow here. Locally, our region offers some wonderful Rosé wines. Those from Ohio grown Cab Franc and Chambourcin are soft, easy to enjoy and especially interesting.
Blush wines are usually made in one of two ways. Either the winemaker blends a combination of red and white finished wines to obtain colors and flavor profiles he believes will “work,” or, less frequently, at harvest time he quickly separates the juice from freshly crushed red grapes to retain just a hint of color in the liquid before it heads to the fermentation tanks. Popular “blushes” may be made from several wine varieties — these usually have proprietary names concocted by the winemaker — or might be from a single varietal; White Zinfandel is the best known.
If you are looking for some new wines to explore as the days of summer will soon be here, consider something pink the next time you are cruising the grocery store aisles or visiting a nearby tasting room.
DONNIELLA WINCHELL is the executive director of the Ohio Wine Association. She can be reached at dwinchell@OhioWines.org.