Rose wines are hot, hot, hot. Within a relatively short time, roses have separated themselves from the stigmas created by white zinfandel and other inexpensive sweet pink wines.
The category of rose has experienced an annual growth rate 17 times greater than all other table wines by volume, reports Wines & Vines. These wines have always been there, but apparently they weren't widely appreciated until recently.
"Blush" wines have been associated with sugary-sweet bottlings the color of cotton candy. The white zinfandel craze proliferated in the early 1970s — the wine was actually born of from a winemaker's mistake — but it has faded as new generations of wine drinkers discovered European-style dry roses.
Quality rose wines have body, fruit character and tannins.
The southern French region of Provence has always been a leader in the creation of rose wines, and dry roses are the regional specialty. The appeal may begin with the wines' hues, but it's their versatility to pair with a wide variety of cuisines that makes them popular.
Exports of rose from Provence have increased dramatically, and Vins de Provence reported a 62 percent increase in rose exports to the U.S. in 2011. Other countries, including Spain, Italy, Austria, South Africa and Argentina, are exporting some excellent roses to our shores as well.
Rose is made from red grapes. Syrah, grenache, sangiovese and merlot are popular varietals because the grapes have intense fruit with bold flavors. Most important, however, the grape skins, which imbue wines with flavor, provide plenty of tannins and structure on which to build great wines. Because the grapes are picked earlier than for red wines and are not allowed to fully ripen, the roses are lower in alcohol.
Producing a good rose starts with the way red grapes are vinified. Before the process goes too far, the juice is separated from the skins after only a bit of the skin color has been imparted to the future wine. The juice is "bled" off and placed in a separate tank to complete fermentation. This is called "saignee." Since all of the sugars in the grapes are converted to alcohol, the result is a dry wine with no residual sugar.
Another process is used by wineries that produce higher volumes of wine. The vintner takes red wine not chosen for release in its current state and adds it to white wine. The result is a rose wine of lesser quality.
The finest roses are well-structured, quality wines that bring out distinct essences, such as soft minerals, light cherry, watermelon and strawberry flavors. These lighter aromas and flavors, coupled with the wine's tannic and acid structure, make them fine to drink by themselves, but they also are good matches for fish such as salmon and tuna, spicier fare like Thai cuisine and barbecue or picnic provisions. Roses also are refreshing during New Orleans' hot, humid summers.