Somewhere between a white and a red wine in terms of colour and body, rosé is incredibly versatile and great to pair with almost all foods. It’s also great to drink by itself, always chilled, preferably on a glorious sunny day.
However, only a few years ago rosé wine was horribly unfashionable in Argentina, and with just cause – until recently the country hardly made a gluggable rosado. Today it is one of the fastest-growing segments of the premium wine market, as evinced by the multitude of labels in any supermarket or wine store.
What is behind this dramatic transformation? First and foremost, improved methodology. In the past, rosé wine was typically made through simply blending white and red grape juice, with distinctly indifferent results. Rosés these days are generally made by either bleeding grape juice from a red wine in the early stages of vinification (a method known as saignée), or through gently macerating the grape skins with the juice until the desired colour is achieved. In both cases, the pink juice is then fermented as if it were a white wine.
Today in Argentina, to achieve extra concentration and body in their reserve wines, wineries often bleed off juice that becomes a rosé. This originates in the most exclusive, low-yielding, high-quality vines from regions such as Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley in Mendoza. For wines made through the maceration method, grapes are often harvested earlier than the grapes destined for red wine, conserving some of the freshness and acidity that are crucial to ensure the rosé is not weak and insipid.
Argentine rosé runs the gamut of styles, based on vinification, grape variety, and terroir. From the sweet and somewhat sickly style of yesteryear, it has morphed into something drier, crisper and generally appetising. More often than not it’s made with the ever-popular malbec variety, produced mainly in Mendoza and carrying notes of cherry and dark fruits to the fore. It´s also made with syrah, notably in San Juan province, as well as cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. The style is distinct to that of classic French rosé, which is generally made with Mediterranean varieties such as grenache, and has a lighter colour and more stone-fruit aromas.
Certain rosés are darker in colour and more like a conventional red wine, and can even be paired with grilled meats and heavier dishes such as stews. Others are lighter, more floral, and similar to an aromatic white wine, pairing ideally with shellfish, salads and Asian food and also making a great aperitif. Note that rosé wine isn´t meant to be aged for prolonged periods, drink it within a couple of years at the most.
If you’re not yet convinced, here are some great options to try this summer:
Colomé Amalaya Rosado 2012 – $45. A new release from Donald Hess’ Amalaya winery in Cafayate, Salta. Brilliant salmon-pink colour, medium-bodied with intense malbec cherry and strawberry fruit, floral notes from the blending in of 5% torrontés, and a minimal hint of residual sweetness.
Melipal Rosé 2012 – $52. Brilliant pink colour and incredibly fresh aromas and flavours of cherries and raspberries, made from the finest grapes of Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo. Incredibly clean and more-ish at a bargain price.
Weinert Montfleury 2011 – $50. More of a ruby colour, made from an unusual combination of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and the Beaujolais variety gamay, almost unheard of in Argentina. Plenty of body and more mature fruit and spice notes than most Argentine rosés, would pair well with a Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas lunch. Very old-school, like most of Weinert´s wines.
Cruzat Larrain Sparkling Rosé NV – $105. When it comes to pink bubbly (and all bubbly for that matter), nobody in Argentina does it better than Pedro “Mr Bubbles” Rosell at Bodega Cruzat. Made with the traditional Champagne method from principally pinot noir with a touch of Chardonnay, it´s a sexy mix of citric, cherry and strawberry aromas, with plenty of nutty, toasty notes from two years ageing on its lees and elegant, persistent, creamy bubbles.
Nigel Tollerman is a renowned sommelier based in Buenos Aires and founder of 0800-VINO, offering wine tastings, expert advice, and a delivery service.