FROM OUR FIRST ISSUE: Summer Sipper: A Crash Course in Rosé

Despite its affluent associations (it’s so ubiquitous on the East End, it’s been referred to as “the Kool-Aid of the Hamptons”), rosé is about as easy-to-drink and affordable a wine as you can get. Read up and drink up!

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“Everyone thinks rosé is this ritzy thing and that drinking it makes you worldly and fashionable,” says Alyssa Vitrano, wine expert and founder of the popular grapefriend.com. “But it’s not a fancy wine, it’s just a great option for a hot day because it’s light and refreshing and so good.” Vitrano, who’s mildly obsessed with the pink-hued wine, started drinking rosé years ago. “I’m a red-wine drinker but I wasn’t going to pour myself a glass of cabernet on a hot summer day,” she says. “So rosé was my gateway to lighter wines.” Now she’s hooked and sharing her vast knowledge with her thirsty readers (she declared last week “rosé week”). What she wants you to know:

The backstory: It may seem like rosé has suddenly burst onto the scene, but it’s certainly not new. Made popular by winemakers in Provence (“it’s prolific there,” says Vitrano, “in fact, rosé outsells whites in France!”), it evokes a glamorous, South-of-France vibe. The Hamptons got on board, and between the two sun-soaked destinations, it’s no wonder rosé has become synonymous with summer and luxury. But, says Vitrano, it doesn’t need to only be drunk in the warm months. “People associate it with this idea of being beachy and indulgent, and that’s fine with me if that’s what it takes to get people to try it out.”

How it’s made: There’s one respected way to make rosé: Using red grapes and allowing them to begin fermenting with the skins on (the juice gets the tint from the skin) and then removing the skins for the rest of the process. “You wind up with less tannin and color than you’d have with a red wine,” says Vitrano, “but still quite a bit of body.” The wine is made from all different grapes and often a blend—in Provence they often use grenache. In the Willamette Valley of Oregon, they use pinot noir. On Long Island, merlot and cab franc. The color—ranging from pale pink to ruby—comes from the skin of the grape and the time spent on those skins during the winemaking process. “The wine is usually aged in steel tanks, and it’s meant to be drunk very young,” says Vitrano.

What it pairs best with (other than a hot summer day): “Anything you’re eating outside!” says Vitrano. “When it’s really warm out, you’re going to want something light and refreshing, and rosé is perfect for that.” Vitrano recommends reaching for the pales with a light shellfish lunch but when you’ve got heavier food, like a tuna Nicoise or steak salad or a charcuterie plate, a ruby (like an Italian rosato or a Spanish rosado) is perfect. With anything spicy (a perfect pairing for rosé), go for a wine somewhere in the middle. “Because it’s made with red grapes, you get a little more body, so rosé will stand up to more substantive foods,” says Vitrano.

Where to drink it on Long Island: Vitrano grew up in Rockville Centre and has spent many a summer day sipping Long Island’s wines. Her recommendations for local rosés:

  • • Wölffer’s Grandioso Rosé
  • • Bedell’s Taste Rosé
  • • Anything from Croteaux—“this place is the hidden gem of rosés,” says Vitrano of the Southold vineyard. “They’re the only winery in the entire U.S. that only makes rosé (their motto is: “Rosé on Purpose”).

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