Regan Lehman Pillar hears the complaints and sees the eyes roll. Rosés, for many, are passé.
“Rosés kind of went through a phase where they didn’t have a good reputation,” says Lehman Pillar, owner of the Culinaria catering company. “White zinfandel is sort of considered a less sophisticated wine. Rosés have a reputation of being less complex and don’t have the same kind of respect other wines have, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good ones out there.”
And, in fact, these last hot days of summer — when wine-lovers might be tiring of their chilled white options — rosés might just be a perfect option for social sipping or pairing with summertime fare.
“Rosés are served chilled,” says Mike Hathaway, wine manager at Cork & Barrel, 2000 W. 23rd St. “They’re crisp and refreshing, and they have red fruit flavors that come out more than in white wines.”
Rosés are undergoing a bit of a renaissance, beginning to overcome the sweet-and- cheap reputation of white zinfandels.
Rosé wines come in a spectrum of colors, from salmon to cerise (the term comes from the French word for cherry), and generally are made in one of two ways.
The first method, “saignee,” or bleeding, derives from a procedure used to concentrate red wine. Some of the pink juice from a tank of macerating red wine grapes is drained off. That juice then is turned into rose.
Another method is to crush red wine grapes and leave the juice in contact with the skin for just a short time. (Red wine grape juice starts out white; the color comes from contact with the skins during fermentation.)
For those only familiar with white zinfandel, Hathaway suggests trying a dry rosé, such as the Chateau Routas, which comes from the Provence region of France. He also likes rosés made from the malbec variety of grape.
“It’s kind of a good compromise for red-wine drinkers” looking for a chilled option, Hathaway says.
He says rosés pair well with a variety of summertime food, including salmon, sushi, pork and chicken. He even likes them with spicy Indian or other Asian cuisine.
“They’re not too heavy,” he says. “The flavors are not pronounced. The subtlety is the key.”
Steve Wilson, co-manager of City Wine Market, 4821 W. Sixth St., agrees that wine lovers probably aren’t going to gush over a rosé. But he says the pink wines are a nice change of pace, especially in the summer.
“They’re light and refreshing, and they have just a bit of fruit,” he says.
And there’s quite a bit of variety with them, he says, with rosés coming from many different types of grapes. He especially likes rosés from pinot noir grapes, which he says have flavors of strawberries and tangerines. Rosés made from shiraz grapes, meanwhile, contain flavors of berries, cherries, citrus and watermelon rind.
His favorite pairing? A good rosé with a ham salad sandwich.
And Wilson suggests letting your rosé sit out of the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes before pouring it. The slightly warmer temperature will allow the flavors to come through more.
“It definitely changes the profile of the wine,” he says.
Hathaway says anyone wanting to expand their wine horizons should forget their preconceived notions about pink wines.
“The problem with white zin is it ruined the reputation of rosés,” Hathaway says. “Everybody looks at a glass of pink stuff and says, ‘Look at that guy drinking white zin.’ But white zin has given rosés a bad name. People will be pleasantly surprised.”