There is nothing more seasonal than rosé wine – it comes out with the first day of spring and then everyone puts it away with the autumnal equinox. Of course, in Florida where we only have two seasons, summer and almost summer, it should be out all the time, but I still get quizzical looks when I ask for a glass of rosé in the middle of December. I’d like to correct that, and in the meantime, in the middle of summer, I’d like to celebrate the joy of rosé.
Rosé comes in many guises these days and, as with anything trendy, there are examples both good and bad. That said, there is no reason for rosé to be a seasonal wine – good rosé is a terrific food wine (I have it year-round with Chinese dumplings from Trader Joe’s) and now that it is summer time officially, I think we should be drinking it with every meal. Okay, not with cereal perhaps, agreed.
The great thing about rosé is that you can find wonderful examples of it at every price point. You also find every style from delicate to robust and all points in between. Of course, Provence is the classic source of great rosé, and St. Tropez on the Côte d’Azur is the source of one of my favorites, Château St. Maur, which I’ve enjoyed with the paella at El Carajo, among other places. Not long after, on the Fourth of July, I discovered another of my favorite rosés at Michael Schwartz’s wonderful restaurant on the water, Amara at Paraiso.
The paucity of good restaurants on the water in Miami is a rant for another time, but Amara is a triumph both for its view, its food quality and a wonderfully inventive wine list curated by head sommelier Amanda Fraga. Amanda managed to get the terrific Patelin de Tablas Rosé from Paso Robles’ Tablas Creek Vineyards; she not only got an allocation of the wine, she got it in barrel, so they are offering it on tap at Amara. Of course, this means the wine is served in a carafe, not a bottle with a label. At Amara, they use a clear wine bottle as a carafe, so at my table that night a few people warily eyed the bottle wondering just what I was drinking, and a few seemed a bit mistrustful of a wine without a label.
There are some real advantages to a wine on tap, not the least being a certain degree of freshness. Oxygen is the enemy of wine – it’s why a bottle you have one evening may taste much less fresh the next day: air got in the bottle and it diminishes the fruitiness of the wine. With a wine on tap, whether you are ordering a single glass or a bottle-sized carafe, the wine is being pushed out of the keg with an inert gas (usually nitrogen) rather than oxygen, so there is no loss of freshness at any point in the process.
This is a perfect approach to take with a rosé where crisp fruit and vibrant acidity are significant assets. To me, Patelin de Tablas Rosé (they make a red and a white as well) is everything a year-round rosé should be: it is flavorful, it has enough body to be versatile in pairing with a variety of foods and it’s not terribly expensive. It has a beautiful copper-pink color, a lovely aroma of tangerine and strawberry, crisp acidity for pairing with food and just a hint of spice on the finish.
Whether you find a rosé you love on tap or in a bottle, celebrate with it – try it with a variety of friends and try it with a variety of foods (I had mine at Amara with a flavorful grilled octopus). And I’d suggest actively seeking out new rosés to try. I have found several immensely appealing rosé wines at one of my favorite restaurants, No Name Chinese in South Miami. Here, owner Heath Porter and sommelier Daniel Rosenstrauch make a point of always having an interesting rosé on the list. For some time it was a vibrant rosé from Turkey and more recently it has been a very appealing malbec rosé from France (the home of malbec before Argentina took center stage!). A few years ago when we started the VeritageMiami Best In Glass Wine Challenge, an early winner was a rosé from Romania, and not long after that, we were all captivated by the stunning rosé from Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori called Scalabrone, still one of my favorite wines.
It’s time to think about rosé as a real wine and not a summertime diversion – a great match for foods, and especially items like grilled fish where a red wine might be overwhelming but you long for a red wine’s flavor. Let rosé come to the rescue any time of year, and of course, now that the dog days of summer are here in South Florida, you have rosé to lift you from your heat-induced malaise as well.