Pale, perky and pretty, it’s as easy to love ros as it is to pass it by. Whether you call it ros, rosato or just simply “pink,” these wines bridge the colour gap bet-ween white and red wines, and their versatility at the table is nearly unsurpassed.
While ros wines have a history that is surely almost as long as wine itself, they’ve long been at home in the hotter, drier regions in Europe such as Spain or the south of France. But blush wines really became fashionable in North America in the 1980s with the rise of white zinfandel. Once it finally hit the mainstream, consumers couldn’t quite get enough of this pale, sweet, vinous nectar.
The staggering enthusiasm white zinfandel achieved with North American consumers eventually created a backlash where you almost couldn’t give away a glass of pink wine. Consumers were tired of candy-like sweetness and had come to equate pink with cloying. However, perhaps contrary to many wine drinker’s perceptions, most ross are actually quite dry, rather than sweet.
These days, the younger you are the more likely you are to drink pink wines. This goes beyond the millennials’ penchant for the colour pink. Younger wine drinkers are looking for wines that are ready to drink, fun and affordable, without sacrificing quality. This dovetails nicely with restaurants less likely to work with extensive inventories in their cellars, but who also focus on by-the-glass offerings and rapidly evolving wine lists.
There are a few ways to make ros. One way is by blending white and red wines together to get something in the middle, though this is generally not done for premium wines. Most wine grapes have clear, or colourless flesh, meaning that all of the colour and most of the flavour comes from the grape skins. The Saigne method only allows the juice to spend a short time with the skins after pressing before being run off or transferred – the amount of time generally correlates to the depth of colour in the finished product.
A few grapes have coloured flesh and, once pressed, produce a naturally pink wine even without skin contact. A few white grapes, such as pinot gris, can also make a wine with a pinkish hue when left on the skins long enough. These wines need to have balance – no wine should taste syrupy or flabby – so a little acidity is needed to make a good ros.
Ros wines should generally be served at least slightly chilled, though too cold and the wine might become a bit unbalanced. For the most part, the sweeter the ros, the more chilled it should be. Personally, I like to keep them in the fridge and have them in a chiller resting on some ice when serving.
These wines are pairing all-stars – not only do they work well with seafoods and salads, but also cured meats, salty appetizers and chicken or lamb dishes. On their own is just fine, too.
Six wines you should try
Emiliana 2017 Adobe Reserva Ros, Rapel Valley, Chile
Organic and very well priced, look for softer, summer berry fruits, a touch of spice and a long, dry finish. I’d serve this warmer rather than cooler. It’s beckoning for grilled seafoods, salty appetizers, or lightly dressed salads. $15
Gabriel Meffre 2016 “GM” Ros, Ctes de Provence, France
Another well-made, delicate (and well-priced) ros to sip on the deck or patio. Very pale with softer cranberry and strawberry fruits, and a crisp, dry palate blessed with a mild spiciness and tart finish. Bring out the appetizers. $20
Roubine 2016 La Vie en Rose, Ctes de Provence, France
Very pale, almost coppery in the glass, the standout characteristics are of dried flowers and herb with softer, cherry-like fruits. With a bare touch of sweetness, this is a very easy-to-quaff ros – no food required, but try lighter seafood dishes, if you must. $21
Planeta 2016 Ros, Sicily, Italy
A slightly unusual ros of nero d’Avola and syrah grapes. Pale, almost ethereal in the glass with the barest hint of colour, look for leaner summer fruits, a touch of rock-candy and wildflower aromas. Soft but very ripe fruits and some spiciness on the palate. Perfect for calamari or sushi. $23
Culmina 2016 Saigne, Golden Mile Bench, British Columbia
Based around merlot with cabernet franc and malbec, this pale ros shows a restrained softness to the fruits, yet some very pleasurable herb and citric flavours. Don’t serve it too cold. Try it paired with cured meats or salmon. $38
Taittinger Ros, Champagne, France
Perhaps it’s something for more of a special occasion, but Taittinger’s ros is rife with pure and generous fruits, a fine balance of toastiness and tartness leading into a sweet-leaning finish. Before you know it, that bottle is gone. $94
Try these food and wine pairings at local restaurants
Cassis – Provenal ros and lunch
Every time I’ve had lunch at Cassis, I’ve enjoyed a glass of ros. Try matching up the very reasonably priced (and delicious) L’Opaline ros ($10 by the glass, $50 for the bottle) with the flavours of the salade Lyonnaise.
Bridgette Bar – Languedoc ros and fish
Domaine Montrose, a medium-bodied dry ros ($11.50 for the glass, $49 for the bottle) is a versatile wine that can stand up to big flavours, like wood-roasted ling cod with Dungeness crab, green chili and white-bean ragu.
One18 Empire – Loire ros and buttermilk-fried-chicken sandwich
Chateau de la Targe ($13 by the glass) is a stunning, sparkling ros from the Loire made from cabernet franc. Super versatile, it’s divine with fried chicken, especially One18’s buttermilk-fried-chicken sandwich. Maybe get two glasses.