It's not surprising that rosé is associated with summer. For one thing, late spring and early summer is when the fresh new rosé vintage is ready for bottling, in the northern hemisphere at least. I know I'm not the only one who gets a little thrill when she sees the first of the new vintage arriving in shops. Rosé also pairs beautifully with traditionally warm-weather foods like salade niçoise and barbeque. And there is undeniably something uniquely refreshing about pink wine on a hot day.
So it figures that when the temperature outside starts to drop, rosés start disappearing from store shelves and home wine racks. But before you turn your back on rosé this fall and winter, consider this: pink wine is made from red grapes. And just as there is a vast variety of styles, weights, and provenances of red wine, there is an equal range of pink. And while your pale pink Provence rosé certainly needn't be shunned like a pair of white pants after Labor Day, the richer, heartier foods of autumn and winter might just call for something with a little more oomph.
Happily, there is an abundance of rosé available with the backbone, the depth and the complexity of flavor to elevate your cool weather fare to the next level. Personally, I find a heartier rosé the perfect companion for Thanksgiving Dinner. Elegant enough not to overpower the turkey, with enough acidity to weather the cranberries, and enough fruit to stand up to sweet potatoes (provided you keep the marshmallows to a minimum).
So how does one know what rosé to choose for such an occasion? While depth of color can sometimes be misleading, if you have two rosés side by side, and one is pale as onion skin, and the other rich as a maraschino cherry, you can usually assume the latter will be more full-flavored. Another clue is the grape; just as a red Malbec tends to be bigger-bodied than a red Grenache, the same is likely true of rosés made from these grapes. So look for rosés made from grapes like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Malbec, and Mourvèdre. Here are a few examples.
2016 Terre di Talamo Piano Piano Toscana ($15/750ml bottle), an Italian offering comprising 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 50 percent Sangiovese, is redolent of raspberries, rose petals, roasted peach, and cream, balanced by crushed gravel minerality. For something even richer, try 2016 Henri de Lanzac Tavel Château de Ségriès ($20).
Tavel, by law, can only produce rosé wines, and is often regarded as one of the premier rosé-making regions in France. Its location in the warm Southern Rhône valley means the grapes can become quite ripe, passing along their lush fruitiness (and alcoholic content) to the wines. While up to 60 percent of the blend can be Grenache, Tavel wines often contain a fair proportion of Syrah, which lends intensity of both flavor and color to the wine.
The Château de Ségriès is a vibrant cherry red hue in the glass, and perhaps for that reason, the nose seems to speak volumes in cherries as well. On the palate, the fruit lightens a bit, tasting of rhubarb, strawberry and orange blossom.
I find Malbec to be a particularly fun grape, as it affords one the opportunity to compare the same grape grown well in two wildly different places -- its native France and colonized Argentina -- and makes a wonderful variety of rosé wines as well. The 2017 Phebus Malbec Mendoza Rosé ($9) is quite pale in the glass, belying its surprisingly complex aromas and flavors of creamy peach, candied grapefruit, spun sugar, strawberry and cantaloupe. At the opposite end of the flavor profile, 2016 George Vigouroux Malbec Côtes du Lot Rosé Pigmentum ($10), has some cherry and grapefruit aromas as well, but the nose is overwhelmingly minerally and savory, with gravel dust and lanolin. The palate is earthy as well, with some woolly notes that remind me almost of a Chenin Blanc.
In addition to their food-friendliness, rosé wines also come with the added benefit of looking uniquely festive on your holiday table. And while your turkey dinner will be just as delightful with a fruity Zinfandel, a gamey Syrah or an elegant white Burgundy, I, for one, will be thinking pink this year.