Jennifer suggested I write a blog about our Rosé wine. Specifically, she thought it might be a good idea to write about how our pink wine is so very different from a glass of white Zinfandel from years past. As so often is the case, when my wife suggests that I do something, my first response was to doubt her suggestion and start thinking about something else to write about. After giving it some thought, I decided that she might be right, so here goes….
Many have seen an increase in pink or Rosé wines in stores, restaurants and bars. And I don’t believe this has anything to do with global warming. I think the reason we see more pink wine around is two-fold. First, and I probably shouldn’t be writing this, but white and pink wines are able to be brought to market much faster than red wine. Because white and pink wines are normally un-aged or not aged for very long, they can be bottled and sold much sooner than most red wines. Typically, a red wine is aged for between 6 and 24 months. This is a long time to have one’s investment stoppered inside of a barrel in a warehouse somewhere.
The other reason we see more pink wine around is because people are starting to realize that pink wine, much like sparkling wines are often more diverse than red wines. While there will always be a place for a big, booming Cabernet Sauvignon, its place is with a meal involving something hearty such as a steak or chops. But pink wines, on the other hand, are great for starting the party. Served chilled but not too cold, pink wines are great to sip on while cooking. They are great with light fair such as nuts, bread and cheeses, and even tapas. As dinner starts up, particularly in warmer climates…..like winter in Southern California….we may choose to forgo the big reds for the light pinks altogether. I use my grill several nights a week for anything from fish to filet and everything in between. Many Rosés go beautifully with lighter grilled items. And, you often don’t have to spend the kind of money on a good pink wine like you would spend on a good Cab or Pinot.
How is it that it’s possible for one wine to be so diverse?
Great question, I’m glad you asked😊 Pink wines are not normally aged in oak. Rather, pink wines are made in stainless steel tanks. This helps keep a fresh and lively taste and mouth feel. Unlike white wine, during the processing, the grapes that make up Rosés have some contact with their red colored skins. That contact is limited so that the “must” or juice only gets a little bit of color. That small amount of skin contact is enough to elevate the wine from a beautiful shade of straw or gold to somewhere on the Rosé color palette which ranges from very light, almost orange in color, to very deep pink, nearing a typical red. With the skin contact, the juice picks up the slightest bit of tannin or astringency that help these pink wines stand up to foods that white wines simply cannot.
Now to address the differences between Sutter Homes White Zinfandel and Freedom Wine Company’s Rosé or Sangiovese from Lucas and Lewellen Ranch in Los Alamos, California. Simply put, it comes down to what is called residual sugar in the wine. To explain this, I will go through a quick winemaking lesson.
When wine is made, the grapes are picked and sent to the processing facility. For white wine, the grapes get crushed and destemmed and then sent to the press immediately. For red wine, the pressing usually is put off for several days so that the color and tannins can be extracted from the skins. For the Rosé wines, the juice is kept in contact with the skin between 6 and 12 hours to obtain the beautiful light pink color. Then the juice must be “inoculated”. This means that yeast must be added to turn the grape juice into wine. The yeast eats the sugar in the wine and the result is alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is released into the air and the alcohol remains in the grape juice and, voila….we have wine!
If the yeast does their job, they will eat all the sugar in the juice and then they will die. This will produce a completely “dry” wine. In some cases, yeast die early, or the fermentation can be stopped by some other means which would produce a wine which is “sweeter”. This is the case with ports and other fortified wines where the fermentation is stopped with the addition of some distilled spirit, i.e. hard alcohol. The result produced is a stable but sweeter dessert wine.
In the case of White Zinfandel, it is believed the folks at Sutter Home experienced what we call “stuck fermentation” or technical winemaking failure where the yeast die in fermentation before all the sugar has been consumed. This resulted in the winery ending up with a boatload of sweet pink wine on their hands. Then came the marketing genius who was able to turn a lab failure into a successful product in the wine market.
To this day, many wine makers look down at White Zinfandel. They (we) view it for the failure that it really is. This being said, there certainly is a place in the wine spectrum for sweet or semi-sweet wine. That place involves wines that are not pink in color. Such wines would often involve German and Austrian wines like Gewürztraminer and Rieslings, to name only two.
As for Freedom’s new pink wine, it has zero residual sugar. It would certainly be considered a “dry” wine. This is not to say the wine is too tart or too astringent. In fact, it has very bright, fresh fruit flavors. Its color is tending toward the darker end of the pink wine spectrum, almost to what was known decades ago as a “picnic wine”. I love the term “picnic wine” and think we should start using it again. In fact, I’m looking forward to taking my first bottle of Freedom Sangiovese Rosé on a picnic. After my wife sees this blog, maybe she will consider coming with me?
Bottling of the Rosé is scheduled for the first week in April and release should come around the first week in May. We will keep you posted.
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Call Jeff at (818) 674-2005 or Jennifer at (818) 674-2006