When’s the last time you sipped a beautiful pink wine? If you’ve looked at them longingly but passed them because they seem like lightweights, you’re missing out. Sure, some self-proclaimed wine aficionados look down their noses at rosés and don’t consider them refined enough for their “educated palates,” but there’s really no reason for snobbery. A great Ontario rosé can provide a good dose of tasting pleasure and pairs well with a variety of meals.
What Exactly is a Rosé, Anyway?
If you’re wondering just how a rosé gets its signature tint, you’re not alone. Lots of people think a rosé is a blend of red and white wines, but that’s not how it’s done (in fact, the blending technique is actually so reviled in France that it’s illegal). It’s not made from a magical variety of pink grapes, either.
To make a rosé, winemakers use a special process called the skin contact method. If you’ve ever peeled a purple grape, you may have been surprised to find that the fruit is actually green. In fact, the color of the grape comes from the skin. To make a rosé, these colorful skins are left in contact with the crushed grapes for only a few hours. This is long enough to let some of the color and flavor compounds like tannin leach into the must (the winemaking term for grape juice and crushed pulp). After a short period of skin contact, the skins are pressed off and the wine ferments without them.
On the other hand, to make a red wine the coloured skins are left in contact with the must for weeks, to allow skins to color and flavor the wine during fermentation. This provides the deep color and flavors you are accustomed to with Merlots and Cabernets. A rosé, on the other hand, has far less tannin and generally tastes lighter and more crisp. It is also best drunk as a young wine, to enjoy the crisp, refreshing taste, rather than a wine one would cellar for years.
A Rosé for Every Taste
Since rosé is made from a specific process, rather than a particular grape variety, there is a wide range of flavors available. Rosés range from casual fruity affairs to upscale sparkling wines, and sugar levels vary from medium sweet to decidedly dry. In general, a rosé has a lighter body than a red wine and provides a distinct fruit flavor. Typical fruit notes include red berries, cherries and perhaps a hint of watermelon or citrus, though these vary considerably depending on the type of grape used.
« Rosé has a really bright future here in Ontario », says Shiraz Mottiar, of Malivoire Wines on the Beamsville Bench of the Niagara Peninsula, who produces multiple rosés including; Ladybug Rosé, and Bisous Sparkling Rosé, « The cool nights and warm days provide the wine with a lingering acidity that gives them a alot of freshness », he says. « Ontario rosés are extremely pleasant to drink. »
Pairing Rosé with Food
Though rosé has traditionally been considered a summer superstar, you can drink it all year long. Rosés are best served chilled, making it a refreshing drink to pair with a variety of foods. Sweet rosés are easy to serve with appetizers, like prosciutto-wrapped melon, olive tapenade on crisps or garlic aioli for dipping veggies. For main dishes, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with a dry rosé. Its more delicate flavors make it great with lighter meats like fish and chicken, and vegetarians will love it with egg dishes like quiche and meals in which grilled vegetables are the star of the show.
There are over 30 Ontario rosé wines that take advantage of the unique climate and viniculture of the region. Many are readily available at your local LCBO and, of course, directly at the wineries. What are you waiting for?