Rosé is having a bit of a "moment" right now. On al fresco tables around town, you'll spy bottles of pink wine sweating in the late summer heat; there is no more perfect companion for a picnic. Ranging in color from light onion-skin pink to a deep strawberry, rosé is now as must-do for restaurants as a good cocktail program or a selection of craft beers.
It's everywhere. Pasadena's Monopole Wine held a burger and rosé tasting this summer. Joan's on Third held a tasting last week (and recommends rosé as a wine option in its picnic baskets). An ongoing Monday night special at Sirena offers a spicy seafood cioppino for two, garlic bread and a bottle of rosé for $60.
California wine producers are finally catching up to their French brethren - no longer are we just the home of white zinfandel. Dry pinks are emerging from Napa and Santa Ynez that can rival those of France's Bandol region. We sat down with Jeremy Fraye, the wine buyer for the Oaks Gourmet Market and Franklin & Company Tavern, for his thoughts on what makes a great rosé, what you should try, and why we're seeing so much pink lately.
Squid Ink: How long have you been into wine?
Jeremy Fraye: I moved back home for a little bit after college and lived up in Santa Ynez. That was the one job you could get just out of school: You could either work in a winery or you go work with horses or farming. I worked mostly in a tasting room at first, and when you're 21 it was just an easy job ... pouring wine, making jokes. I knew nothing about wine ... and then just by osmosis and the area and the people, I started learning things by accident. It became a passion before I even knew it; it just crawled inside me.
My family is half-French, and every Christmas and every summer we'd go to France. And the region they live in -- a tiny region called Bandol -- that area is credited with inventing rosé. It's kind of the birthplace of rosé, mostly because the Romans brought it in there with them, and the French have been touting Bandol rosés for centuries.
SI: So rosé is in your blood, then.
JF: Well yeah!
SI: I've been trying to put my finger on why it's so popular. It's not like on Homeland, Claire Danes is chugging rosé before going manic; there isn't a pop culture reference that I've seen -- I don't know what's driving the trend.
JF: I think if you look at the common theme amongst rosés and where they're produced, it's all Mediterranean. So I don't think you'll see so many people drinking rosés in the D.C. area. Or in Canada. Or in Texas. You're going to see them with this style of cuisine, the proximity to the ocean, all of this is why it's popular in L.A., it's popular in Santa Barbara, it's popular in these areas. Because it goes with our food, it goes with our lifestyle, it goes with our environment.
This time of year I can't keep rosés on my shelf. I carry a wide selection of California, Spanish and mostly French, and they just fly. It's too hot for red wine, but I want something for dinner, and white wine is often too fruity: this goes down so damn easy. It's so approachable and so perfect.
SI: How does one make a rosé?
JF: Maceration: When they do the pressing, it's how long the skin sits with the juice. Everything you know about wine comes from the skin. Whether it's red wine or white wine, the longer the juice sits with the skin, the more it's going to extract color, the more it's going to extract tannins (that's the acid level that you'll find in wine), the more it's going to extract in flavor.
When the Romans were making and bringing wine all over Europe, the systems they had for making wine -- crushing grapes with their feet, crushing with cranks and barrels and their hands -- they didn't have the tools we have now to really macerate the skins and extract a lot of stuff, so wine to the Romans? This was it [gestures to the bottle of rosé in front of him]. This was as dark as it got. This was wine.
SI: Light pink.
JF: Right, there was no alternative. In fact, rosé is the oldest wine style. This is how they would have done it; there was no other option to extract more.