June 8 is National Rosé Day, one of those silly national this-or-that days celebrated on the second Saturday in June for the past, well, five years. Registered by nationaldaycalendar.com in 2014 at the request of — you guessed it — a winery that specializes in rosé, the timing of this particular marketing gimmick coincides roughly with the explosion in popularity of pink wine.
The idea of a National Rosé Day has me perplexed, because every day is rosé day at my house. I have the same reaction to National Drink Wine Day (Feb. 18), National Bubbly Day (the first Saturday in June), National Orange Wine Day (Oct. 6), and various other such “holidays” dedicated to advertising various wine grapes or styles.
But this is the season for rosé, so if you find yourself scratching your head at the proliferation of pink on your retailer’s shelf, here are five things to keep in mind as you choose your springtime tipple. Just don’t limit yourself to June 8.
Most rosé is made by separating the juice of red grapes from the skins before it takes on color. (Some rosés, most notably champagnes, are blends of red and white wines, but most are made exclusively from red grapes.) Many winemakers use the French term saignée, from the verb to bleed, for this process.
While saignée refers to the process of making a pink wine from red grapes, the word is more commonly used to refer to what I call an “unintentional” rosé, in which the juice is bled off the skins not to produce a delicate pink wine but to concentrate the color, extraction and intensity of a red wine. That saignée juice used to be discarded or blended into other wines, until thrifty winemakers realized it could be profitable as rosé.
Saignée rosé can be delicious, but it is essentially an afterthought. A winemaker who intends to make a rosé will harvest the grapes early, preserving the acidity that makes the wine so refreshing. This is wine with minimal intervention: The winemaker’s main choices are when to pick the grapes and when to separate the juice from the skins.
A winemaker who seeks a concentrated red wine will leave those grapes on the vine for a few more weeks, until the acid level falls and the sugars rise during the final stage of ripening. The saignée juice may need to be corrected with an addition of acid before fermentation to improve its quality as a rosé.
The palest pink rosés are all the rage, and many consumers frown on the more-red-than-pink wines of the Tavel region in southern France, for example. You may prefer one over the other, but you’re making a style choice.
The color is a reflection of how long the juice stayed on the skins after pressing, before being bled off. Lighter pink means lighter style and body. Darker rosés may have more extraction and body, even a hint of tannin. They can also match heftier foods better than some of their more delicate cousins.
The rosé revolution has producers rushing their wines to market almost as fast as they ferment them. I saw 2018s from Provence as early as February, and I’ve been recommending a steady diet of pinks for several weeks.
The previous vintage typically gets tossed into the discount bin, so look for a few of your favorites at favorable prices. A well-crafted rosé can gain an extra dimension with a little age.
Pink is the perfect drink to slake our summer thirst, but there’s no rule that says it disappears after the autumnal equinox. It may disappear from retail shelves, or at least shrink to a token presence, but we should keep it in mind even for some of the heartier cold-weather meals. Its versatility with food makes it a good candidate to have on the table at Thanksgiving, for instance.
If you love the hot-and-numbing spice of Sichuan cuisine but believe only beer can stand up to all those chiles, try a rosé. The heat amplifies the wine’s fruitiness. Rosé is also good with paprika-spiked dishes of Spain and the eastern Mediterranean, and dishes with pungent accents of olives or capers.
So explore rosés — not just on June 8, but throughout the summer, and beyond.