Wine Wednesdays – Rosé Edition

With the weather (finally!) starting to warm up around the country, we’re moving full steam ahead into picnic and patio season. I thought this would be the perfect time for a Wine Wednesday post devoted to summer’s favorite wine: rosé!

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Rosé is a category of wine (like red or white) that can be made from an assortment of red-skinned grapes. Note that the grapes must have red skins, which is where the pink hue comes from. There are two ways to make rosé: bleeding or direct pressing.

Bleeding, the most widely used method, involves allowing the juice to macerate (soak) with the skins. This process is similar to how red wine is made, but the juice and the skins macerate for a much shorter time before being separated, which is why the color of rosé is pink rather than red. Depending on the color the winemaker is looking for, the maceration time can be anywhere from eight to 48 hours (as opposed to red wine which is generally macerated from between two to three weeks).

Direct pressing is a much less common method and is similar to how white wine is made. With the direct-pressing method, the grapes are pressed right away. However, unlike with white wine, when the pressing is performed quickly so that the skins don’t discolor the juice, the pressing for rosé wine is done slowly, to allow the skins to slightly tint the wine. Wines made with this method are sometimes referred to as vin gris (“gray wine”) for their light color.

Although technically it is possible to make rosé by simply blending white wine and red wine together, this practice is highly frowned upon, and in the European Union, it’s actually illegal (except in the Champagne region).

The most famous rosé wines come from France, specifically, Provence and the Loire Valley, with the region of Provence alone producing the majority of the country’s rosé. Provence was also the first place in the world to made rosé, although now the U.S. (Washington and California), as well as Italy, Spain, and Germany also make delicious bottles.

Because rosés can be made from several different grapes, their styles can vary considerably. But normally, rosés are light and fruity with notes of strawberry, raspberry, and roses. They’re tart, refreshing, and drinkable, perfect for a picnic or an afternoon on a sun-dappled patio. Common grapes used in rosés include Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. Rosés from Provence are usually a blend (in varying proportions) of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.

My personal favorite is rosés made from Grenache grapes, as I find that these rosés have a bit more “character” and “oomph” (<—– highly technical wine terms). Grenache rosés tend to have a medium body (compared with Cab Franc, Gamay, and Pinot Noir rosés, which are usually light-bodied) and have more savory notes. Grenache rosés also pair deliciously with food, making it a great happy hour or dinnertime option.

No matter what grape it’s made from, I think we can all agree that rosé is the official wine of summer. I hope you have some warm weather headed your way so you can enjoy a bottle or two!

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Wine Wednesdays – Gamay Edition

Welcome to the second installment of Wine Wednesdays, a series where I pick a type of wine, grape, region, or country and give an overview as it pertains to wine. When you’re visiting Europe, wine is generally a major part of the culture, and knowing a little bit about it before you go can help make your trip more fulfilling, not to mention delicious! Today, I’m going to tell you all about one of my favorite grapes, the Gamay grape.vineyards-885290_1920

The Gamay grape has been cultivated in France since the 1300s, but is not as widely known as (I think) it should be, although you may have had Gamay without even knowing it. The Gamay grape grows in Beaujolais, which is a French wine appellation. As is often the case in France, the wine takes the name of the appellation (Beaujolais), rather than the name of the grape (Gamay). So if you’ve ever had a Beaujolais or a Beaujolais Nouveau (especially popular around Thanksgiving), you’ve had Gamay!

 

As I mentioned above, Beaujolais is an appellation and geographical area located in the far south of the famous Burgundy (Bourgone in French) wine region. The majority of wine from the Burgundy region is made with the Pinot Noir grape. In fact, according to French wine rules set by the Appellation d’Origine Contrôllée, all red Burgundies must be made from the Pinot Noir grape, except for Beaujolais wines, which are made from the Gamay grape. This might explain why Gamay has flown under the radar for so long, as Beaujolais is such a small part of the famous Burgundy region.

In general, wine made with Gamay grapes is light and fruity, with medium-high acidity and low tannins. It tastes of tart red berries and black currants, with subtle floral notes of violet. The wine is meant to be consumed young (from between one and three years), and may even be served chilled, making this a great summertime wine. It’s also a good budget-friendly wine, since most bottles of good Beaujolais sell for around $15 in the U.S. (expect prices in France to be even cheaper!). Beaujolais pairs well with most foods, especially lighter meals such as veal, fish, or chicken, and goes especially well with Roquefort cheese.

If your only experience with Gamay has been Beaujolais Nouveau, I strongly urge you to seek out a bottle of traditional Beaujolais, as the experience will be completely different. The Gamay grapes for Beaujolais Nouveau are picked, fermented, bottled, and on the shelf in your local wine store within a matter of weeks, so Beaujolais Nouveau is even lighter and fruitier than basic Beaujolais and should be consumed within six months.

Especially as the weather starts to warm up, I’ll be reaching for Gamay wines more and more often. I hope this post has encouraged you to try a bottle as well!

Santé!

 

Wine Wednesdays – Italy Edition

Welcome to Wine Wednesdays, a new series where I’ll select a type of wine, grape, region, or country and give an overview as it pertains to wine! When you’re visiting Europe, wine is generally a major part of the culture, and knowing a little bit about it before you go can help make your trip more fulfilling, not to mention delicious! You don’t have to be a fully qualified sommelier to appreciate wine in Europe, as their approach to wine is generally super casual, but having some background knowledge is always helpful.

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Today’s Wine Wednesday post will cover the country of Italy. Italy has 20 regions and 96 provinces, and you could spend a lifetime learning about all them all. But don’t worry – you don’t need to break out your flashcards to be able to enjoy wine in this country. Here are a few general guidelines to help you navigate grocery stores, restaurant menus, and markets when you’re picking out a bottle of wine in Italy.

When you look at an Italian wine label, you’ll likely notice it has one of three designations: IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), or DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). To have one of these designations, the wine is required to adhere to certain standards set by Italy’s DOC, a governing body that regulates things like which grape varieties can be used, how long the wine must be aged, the minimum alcohol content, and more. While Italian producers are not all required to adhere to DOC standards, and there are definitely some good wines out there that don’t, selecting a DOC-approved wine is an excellent starting point.

The IGT designation is the least stringent of the three classifications. To earn an IGT stamp, the wine must be produced using at least 80% of grapes grown in that region. The other 20% can be made up of non-native (i.e., from outside Italy) grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. This category allows winemakers to be more experimental, while still meeting DOC approval.

The DOC designation is the next step up from IGT, and wines stamped with this label are produced in specific regions, according to the strict rules established by that region. The goal of the DOC is to protect the traditional winemaking methods of that region and to ensure that all wines meet minimum quality levels.

The DOCG category is only given to the top Italian wines that adhere to the highest standards and strictest regulations. In addition to following the exacting rules set for DOC wines, to earn a DOCG label, a wine must pass a blind taste-test. The DOC governing body also sets limits on grape production yields, which further restricts the amount of wines that earn a DOCG stamp. Two of the most famous DOCG wines are Chianti and Barolo.

Another Italian label you might see is Vino da Tavola (VdT), which literally means “table wine”. Usually, wines with this category are affordable, everyday drinking wines. There are both very good wines and less good wines in this category, making it more of a gamble – but at the right price point, it’s a gamble I don’t mind taking.

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Image source: Wine Folly

Here’s a handy map I found showing the various regions of Italy and the types of grapes grown in that region. On a wine bottle, Italian wines can either be labeled by the grape and region/subregion (Barbera d’Asti), by the type of wine (Chianti), or by just the region (Toscana). Or there’s the non uncommon “rosso di” or “vino di” ________, in which case it’s probably a Sangiovese, which is far and away the most common grape grown in Italy.

I first learned to drink wine during my semester abroad in Florence, so I may be (read: I am) biased, but I think Italian wines are the best in the world. No matter which bottle of Italian wine you choose, you can’t really go wrong, but I hope this post will help you understand the different DOC labels and feel more confident when you’re selecting a bottle of wine to drink in Italy.

Are you a wine drinker? What’s your favorite country, grape, or wine? Do you have any requests for future Wine Wednesdays posts?