Rosé wines are not just for women

Posted: May 24, 2012

Buzz: Hey, Marnie, what’s the deal with all those pink wines stacked up at the wine store? The guy tried to sell me one last week. I guess no one told him pink is for girls.

Marnie: Rosé wines are more popular than ever, Buzz, and not just with the ladies. Fans of sweet, light-bodied wines like white zinfandel may still skew female, but those demographics are shifting now that we’re seeing more dry options in stores.

Buzz: Yeah, right. I’m sure the guys are all over wines that look like they’re made for a princess.

Marnie: Unless you think men should skip pink foods too, like ham or salmon, that’s hardly a rational attitude. Try thinking of these wines as “almost reds,” Buzz, if the thought of drinking pink freaks you out. Red wine lovers are discovering that dry rosé wines can be the best of both worlds in summertime — combining the chillable refreshment of whites with the greater flavor intensity of red wines.

Buzz: So they’re blends? I thought they were made from pink grapes?

Marnie: No, no. Rosés are made from the same red grapes as red wines. The difference is in the winemaking process. First, vintners start off as if for red winemaking — crushing purple grapes and letting the clear juice start to pick up color from the dark skins. But where reds complete fermentation on their skins, rosés get only a day or two of skin contact before they’re pressed off. The pink juice is then fermented by itself as if it were a white wine to retain more “fresh” fruit character. Whether or not to ferment them all the way to full dryness or to stop short and retain some sweetness is up to each winemaker.

Buzz: So these pink wines aren’t always sweet?

Marnie: That’s right. As a rule of thumb, the sweetest rosés tend to be cheap and made in the U.S. Imported rosés are generally drier, premium wines that often feature deeper color and more red-wine-like flavors. When in doubt, check the alcohol level; the lower it is below 12.5 percent, the more sugar the wine is likely to have.

Buzz: OK, I’ll drink a bottle. But I better not end up seeing pink elephants.

Marnie Old is Philadelphia’s highest-profile sommelier. She has designed wine lists for restaurants like Parc and Bar Ferdinand. Her latest book, “Wine Secrets,” is a collection of wine advice shared by top wine professionals. Marnie consults for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and is an adviser to the beverage trade. Check out her blog at sauceblog.marnieold.com. Buzz’s musings are interpreted by Daily News City Editor Gar Joseph.

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