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Stew Cues: Rosé revolution shatters wine’s sweet summer rap

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Stew Cues: by Alene Keenan

Standing in line at the supermarket the other day, I overheard a conversation about rosé wine. I had to bite my tongue to keep from jumping in, but it made me realize there are many misconceptions about rosé, and people are missing out on a wonderful wine experience.

When I offer my students a taste of rosé, some of them immediately say, “I don’t like sweet wine.” (Rosé is not always sweet.) However, if they have spent a summer In the Med, they are usually pretty enthusiastic. Rosé brings back memories of dreamy time off spent at the beach with friends or enjoying great little cafes from Barcelona to Croatia. Here in the States, rosé is immensely popular with the “it” crowd in the Hamptons and Miami, but its overall popularity is gaining ground. Celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Angelina Jolie are getting in on the trend producing great rosés wines.

Rosés are showing up on wine lists everywhere, and it is no longer just a summer drink. The rosé revolution here in the States may have been started by females, but confident men who enjoy the pink passion are making up a large part of the pack. Rosé has been popular in Europe for many centuries and at one time was a luxury item reserved for kings, czars and even popes.

Rosé can be produced as sweet or dry wine, depending on the amount of residual sugar remaining in the wine after the fermentation process. Fermentation occurs when yeast and sugar combine, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. When fermentation is stopped before all the sugar is turned into alcohol, a sweeter wine results. Wines range from 5 percent to 23 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), but most wines are between 11 percent to 16 percent. Sweeter wines have a lower alcohol content, so when I am choosing a wine I look at the ABV percentage to see how sweet it will be.

Rosé champagnes and other sparkling wines have always had a special allure and are usually more expensive. They too can be sweet or dry. Most vintners can produce both still and sparkling wines. Champagne must come from the Champagne region of France. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine and Cava is from Spain. The driest are labeled as Brut, mid-level as Extra Dry, and the sweetest as Demi-sec.

The body and finish of rosé table wines are usually very light. The “body” refers to how the wine feels in the mouth. A light body is said to feel like skim milk, medium body feels like regular milk, and full body feels like cream in your mouth. The “finish” refers to the length of time the sensation of the wine remains after swallowing. When we are tasting and choosing wine, these are important components to help us determine if we will like it and what foods to pair with it.

Old World (Europe) wines will tend to be very dry, while New World (every place else) may be less dry. France is the motherland of Rosé, but Spain, Italy, the United States, South America, Germany and Australia are big producers as well. The first place stews are likely to enjoy rosé is in Provence. These wines tend to be a light salmon color. Bandol and Côtes de Provence are familiar regions within Provence. Rosés from the Loire Valley and the Rhône region are also popular. Most yachts are well-stocked with French rosés when they return from the Med.

Rosés get their color from the skins of the grapes used in production, just like red wines. Both red and white grapes have almost colorless juice. You can make a white, rosé or red wine from red grapes. The amount of color depends on the grape varietal and the length of time the skins stay in contact with the juice. According to my favorite wine website, winefolly.com, the grapes most commonly used to produce rosé are blends of Grenache, Sangiovese, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Cinsault and Pinot Noir. You can find good bargains, with prices from $10 to $30. French rosés are currently undervalued, but expect to see prices rising as popularity increases.

Rosé is meant to be drunk young, when it is fresh with good acidity.  A fruity dry rosé with hints of minerality is perfect to serve icy cold with appetizers at cocktail hour since it goes well with many different flavors and textures of food. The structure is more like a red wine, but the body and fruitiness make it food-friendly with many cuisines.

Rosé is a great wine for a barbecue because it goes well with meat, chicken, fish and grilled veggies. It’s good with Thai food and Indian food, and it is good with cheeses and charcuterie. I have enjoyed it at beach parties, while fishing and while watching television. It is good with Cape Cod potato chips and chocolate chip cookies. It is a wine that is here to stay, and I hate to say this, but everything is coming up rosé.

Alene Keenan is lead instructor of yacht interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale. She shares her experience from more than 20 years as a stew in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht”, available at www.yachtstewsolutions.com. Comments are welcome below.

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