You probably don’t need me—or anyone else for that matter—to tell you that rosé is still having its moment in the wine world. Rosé is everywhere. There has never been more of it made—internationally or locally—both in terms of style and volume.
Wineries that didn’t make rosé at all even a decade ago now are. Some wineries that made one version now make two, three, up to nine different rosé wines every year. We even have a winery on the North Fork that focuses exclusively on the style, Croteaux Vineyards.
Some of these wines are very good—even great—but many are also mediocre afterthoughts in a winery’s portfolio, perhaps made only to capitalize on the style’s current popularity. That popularity started as American wineries moved beyond our country’s most popular rosé—white zinfandel—and began making drier, better-made, better-tasting wines from a variety of grapes in a variety of different ways.
To many, rosé is a seasonal libation, reserved for spring and summer sipping at the beach, by the pool or at bustling outdoor cafes, but it needn’t be limited to just that. Well-made rosé combines the complexity and structure of red wine with the refreshing, thirst-quenching qualities of white wine. And it’s incredibly versatile on the lunch or dinner table.
Read more from writer Lenn Thompson in our archives here.
Serving fresh fish from our local waters? Rosé will work. Serving smoky-sweet barbecued chicken and burgers? It works there, too. You can even serve some rosés with a steak. It’s difficult to find a wine style that offers so many iterations and so much flexibility. Dry rosé is as at home on a checkered picnic blanket as it is on a white linen tablecloth. It can be casual and serious at the same time. More than anything, it’s fun and just plain delicious.
Locally, you’ll find rosé made in three main ways. The first is the saignée method. Saignée means “to bleed” and it involves draining off some of the red wine juice to increase the skin-to-juice ratio during the winemaking process—making the red wines more concentrated and flavorful. The juice that is “bled” off is used to make rosé. These wines are basically a by-product of red wine production and this used to be the de facto style on Long Island.
The second method is used when rosé wine is the primary goal, on purpose. Red wine grapes are picked just a bit earlier when the natural acidities are higher, then crushed, and the juice is left on the skins for a short time to pick up some color and perhaps tannins. The grapes are then pressed and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation, as with red winemaking. Because the skins contain much of the flavor and color compounds, this leaves the wine tasting more like a white wine and looking pink rather than red.
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Some wineries also make some of Long Island’s most popular rosés by blending white wine or grapes—often steel-fermented chardonnay—with red wine or grapes.
I haven’t tasted every local rosé from the 2018 vintage, but I’ve tasted quite a few of them. Here are some of my early-summer favorites.
McCall Wines 2018 Pinot Noir Rosé ($24)
Recently released in the winery’s Cutchogue tasting room, this all-pinot noir rose shows ripe strawberry and cherry fruit qualities with notes of white flowers and the faintest earthy edge—all with wonderful balancing acidity and an elegant dry finish.
Paumanok Vineyards 2018 Dry Rosé ($19)
A small percentage of petit verdot make this rose uniquely delicious. The flavors here lean toward cranberry and pomegranate with a savory, spicy edge and food-friendly structure. This is one of the best roses I’ve ever tasted from this top Long Island winery.
Wolffer Estate 2018 “Summer in a Bottle” Rosé ($25)
This wine might be popular in part because of its beautiful packaging, but this blend of merlot, chardonnay, gewurztraminer, riesling and cabernet franc is beautiful inside the bottle too. It’s floral with notes of orange melon, fuji apple, strawberries and white cherries.
Pellegrini Vineyards 2018 Rosé ($20)
A blend of cabernet franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, this wine jumped out during my blind tasting for its distinct notes of rhubarb, just-ripe strawberries and red grapefruit. Super fresh, it’s what I like to reach for on those really hot, humid Long Island summer days. Bottled refreshment.
Anthony Nappa Wines 2018 White Pinot Noir ($20)
Made with pinot noir grapes grown in Sheldrake Point Vineyard on Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes, the perennial favorite has a strong core of red fruits—mostly cherry and raspberry—with a squirt of lime and lemongrass and is perfectly balanced. This was the first bottle emptied after my tasting was finished.