The Crisp, Food-Friendly Wine You Should be Drinking Right Now | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

The Crisp, Food-Friendly Wine You Should be Drinking Right Now

Seven Kosher Options to Fuel Your Rosé Habit

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Just in the last few years, rosé wines have become increasingly popular in the kosher wine world. In this, the kosher wine market is simply catching up, albeit very slowly, to trends in the non-kosher market. I’m thinking of all this again now both because it is rosé season, and because of a new book all about rosé.

These days, there are very few kosher wine producers who do not produce rosé wine. Not surprisingly, some of this is simple pink plonk, some is complex and seriously well made, and much of it is aiming for a happy medium of being fun, fresh, and tasty, with just enough complexity to also amuse us wine geeks.

Much of this kosher rosé is also, it seems, being produced in the now nearly international style of what used to be confined to Provence—dry, pale, uncomplicated, and with high acidity to maintain freshness. This international style of rosé has a reputation, however, for being less than serious, designed to be quaffed very cold, very quickly. Further, of late, many rosé wines of this style—and certainly not just in the kosher world—suffer from being harvested slightly too early in an attempt to maximize acidity. This is done so that the wines stay fresh. It can be done brilliantly right, but just as often this too-early-picking is at the expense of the wine’s ultimate character and flavor.

According to Elizabeth Gabay, in her fascinating, compelling, exhaustive, though at times slightly exhausting, book, Rosè: Understanding The Pink Wine Revolution (The Infinite Ideas Classic Wine Library, January 2018; $39.95), this Provence-driven style is crowding out more genuine terroir and tradition-based wines. While one would be hard-pressed to find them in your average wine shop, there are actually many dozens of different styles and approaches to rosé. If only consumers would consider some of these other styles, argues Gabay, and if only producers would return to some traditional aspects of regionality rather than aspiring to mimic the pale pink rosé wine of Provence, the rich variety of niche rosé would become more commercially viable.

In her book, Gabay also details the great history of rosés around the world, offering snapshots of recent regional developments. Her brief notes on Israel, for example, are informed, up-to-date, and appreciative. Ultimately, Gabay argues for recognition, at times restoration, and for preservation of this rosé diversity. Her argument greatly appeals, though doesn’t seem to have an answer for why she thinks there would be commercial viability in complicating something whose popularity is based, at least in part, on its being uncomplicated. For now, at least, Provencal style rosé is still the dominant style—especially when it comes to kosher rosé.

When this style is done right, such rosé can be outstanding. Indeed, well-crafted rosés of this sort are very food-friendly, typically pairing well with spring and summer fare. Most rosés are light and easy drinking, and are best served while young and well chilled—adding to their warm-weather associations.

Good Provencal-style rosé tends to highlight and compliment the fresh flavors of spring and summer foods because of its relatively high, (hopefully) well-balanced, acidity. The acidity itself tends to mirror the tangy and pungent ingredients often found in spring and summer. Good rosé wines of this sort also tend to be comparatively lower in alcohol, so they will typically not overpower food—higher alcoholic strength wines tend, by contrast, to intensify both spice and salt.

I am a big fan of this sort of rosé—but I’m a bigger fan of regional character and differentiation. My own proclivities helped power me through the Gabay book in those instances where the narrative style became too ponderous or over-academic. Reading about rosé is no substitute for drinking it.

Rosés are most often created by allowing the pressed juice to have only minimal contact with the skins. The longer the contact between the juice and the skins, the deeper the color—so less contact, gives less color; hence pink instead of red. Another method is known as “saignée” (French for bleeding). Saignée is the term used for when a winemaker, in his endeavor to produce greater intensity in his red wines, bleeds off a portion of the red grape juice from the crushed grape skins, while the remaining juice stays in contact with the skins. By bleeding off some of this juice from the vat, there will be a greater surface area ratio of skins to juice in the vat, so that more color, character, and flavor can be extracted from the skins into their future red wine. The lighter juice that was bled off, can then be turned into rosé.

Regardless of the methodology, the modern winemaker’s goal is to create wine that maintains elements of the varietal’s character in a lighter fashion than a full-blown red. Nearly every red grape has been made into a rosé wine, and many rosés are made by blending various grape varieties, and sometimes—though not often these days—rosés are also made by blending red and white wines together.

There are dozens of different kosher rosés on the market now. Here are some great options to explore:

Adir, Kerem Ben Zimra, Barbera Rosé, 2017 ($30): This Barbera is a tasty, zingy, and refreshing Israeli rosé with balanced acidity and fruity aromas and flavors of red cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and pleasing hints of under-ripe plum. Admittedly, this one tastes slightly better in Israel than the imported bottles I’ve tasted here, but remains yummy all the same.

Carmel, Appellation, Rosé, 2017 ($20): A blend of Judean Hills-grown Grenache and Tempranillo, this is fun, rich, fruity, and lively with slightly tart cherry, stone fruits, raspberry, a little flinty minerality, and lovely citrus notes. Medium-bodied and slightly sweet, but well-balanced.

Château Roubine, La Vie en Rosé, Cotes du Provence, 2017 ($24): This is sweeter than typical for a Cotes du Provence, but is delicious all the same. A well-balanced blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah, this charming wine offers notes of both tart and slightly sweet strawberries and raspberries, citrus (Meyer Lemons, clementines, and perhaps a little grapefruit), with some nice spice notes and good minerality. The finish is long, tart, and refreshing.

Don Ernesto, Beret Rosé, 2017 ($27; mevushal; this is the rosé of Hagafen Cellars; available directly from the winery). Made from Syrah via the saignée method, this lovely Napa rosé offers plush aromas and flavors of strawberry, red grapefruit, watermelon, honeysuckle, and lemon zest, with a whisper of menthol-like greenness and some light herbal notes, and solid acidity, this nicely balanced, medium-bodied wine both quenches and refreshes—though is thankfully meant more for food than for quaffing pool-side.

Elvi, Viña Encina, Rosado (D.O. La Mancha, Spain), 2017 ($12; mevushal): This 100% Tempranillo Rosé is fresh, fun, and fruity with notes of strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon, a little green peppercorn, and a hint of savory meaty notes (more chicken than beef). It is mighty tasty on its own, or with fruit salad, soft cheeses, or even lighter meaty meals.

Flam Rosé 2017 ($33): This hugely pleasurable, aromatic, fresh, fruity yet subtle and elegant Israeli rosé (a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah) has enough lively acidity, spice, and minerality to keep it sunny, dry, crisp, and refreshing.

Or HaGanuz, Amuka, Rosé, 2017 ($20): Blended from equal parts Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, and Mourvedré, this Israeli rosé is salmon pink in color, and has a nose of autumnal flowers and stone fruits, and a dry palate that also has strawberries and a little honeysuckle. There is a subtle minerality in the finish that is not altogether in sync when drunk on its own, but lends itself happily to mealtime.

L’Chaim!

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