Today marks the first of what I hope will be an annual event — Virginia Rosé Day, also known as #VARosé Day on Twitter. Allan Liska, author of CellarBlog, introduced the idea of #VARosé Day several months ago as a way to bring more attention to Virginia’s pink wines.
We’re not talking about all those White Zins and candy-sweet blush wines that our parents drank back in the stone ages (ok, the 80′s) mind you. Though there is no shortage of the syrupy sweet pink juice, more vintners throughout the U.S. and here in Virginia are focusing on producing serious rosé wines. Rosé today is all grown up — serious, dryer than their predecessors, compelling, and great with a range of foods.
Jon Bonné, The San Francisco Chronicle’s wine editor, proclaimed in a recent article, “rosé is the hottest thing in wine right now.” This is a big statement from one of the leading wine voices in the U.S. to be sure.
Considering that only about 80 out of Virginia’s roughly 225 farm wineries produce a rosé, and red blends are the subject of the most buzz at wine competitions, I’m not ready to concede that rosé is the hottest thing in Virginia wine despite the nationwide rosé trend. However, thanks to Allan, the pink stuff will be on the receiving end of much deserved buzz here in Virginia.
Both red and white grape varieties are used to make Rosé wines and can be produced in a number of ways — most notably via pressing (also known as the ‘maceration method’) and the saignée method (also called the bleed off method).
With the pressing, or maceration method, grapes are usually picked a bit early and are then pressed and the juice then sits on the skins, normally less than 48-hours (sometimes much less), before being separated.
Rosé wines made via the Saignée method — French for ‘bleed‘ — are a byproduct of the red winemaking process and are typically darker and more robust than rosés made via the maceration method. During the fermentation of the red wine, a certain amount (or %) of the juice is bled off and then fermented resulting in the rosé wine.
There is also Vin Gris — French for ‘gray wine’ — that is made by separating the juice immediately after pressing before much (or any) color can be picked up from the skins. Vin Gris wines are commonly made from Pinot Noir and are generally the palest of the pink wines (if they are pink at all).
I was not able to determine the predominant Virginia rosé style with an exact count of how many Virginia wineries used the direct press vice saignée method, but an informal poll of about 20 Virginia vintners found that just over half use the Saignée method, with a couple of vintners using a combination of direct pressing and saignée depending on crop yield and production needs.
Regardless of method, I enjoy all styles of rosés but personally prefer the higher acid, lighter style rosé wines that tend to be made via the maceration method.
As an equal opportunity year-round Rosé consumer I tend to drink rosé in all seasons, but do increase consumption in the summer months. A few summer sippers that are on my racks:
Always consistent and one of my favorite Virginia rosés is the Boxwood (on Twitter: @BoxwoodWinery) Topiary Rosé. This 2010 blend of 75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Malbec brims with strawberry and watermelon along with notes of cherry and mineral. A beautiful, lighter styled rosé. The notable acidity makes this a perfect partner to a spinach citrus salad, or as an aperitif. 13.5% abv. ~ $15.
For a heavier rosé, I like the Annefield Vineyards 2011 (on Twitter: @AnnefieldWine), made from 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Vidal Blanc. This tasty rosé offers raspberry, dried strawberries along with an herbal component and signature Cab Franc pepper notes. This rosé should be part of your rosé rotation for sure. 12.1% abv. $17. Just 91 cases made so get it while you can.
If you didn’t get enough Virginia Rosé today, join several Virginia vintners and the Marketing Office of the Virginia Wine Board for Rosé Virginia Wine Chat (#VAWineChat on Twitter) tomorrow at 7pm.