The French Were Right: Rosé Wine Is Cold, Refreshing and Elegant

Rosés have shed their bad reputation and, in a new, far-superior incarnation, are replacing white wines as the antidote to the Israeli summer.

Itay Gleitman
Israelis are still a bit suspicious about flamingo-colored bottles - but production and quality are rising.
Israelis are still a bit suspicious about flamingo-colored bottles - but production and quality are rising.Credit: Dreamstime
Itay Gleitman

If in the not-too-distant past the start of summer was a signal for sipping white wine beneath the burning sun, in the past two years rosé has been the ticket.

Rosé is produced from red grapes in a manner similar to that used for white wine. Vintners choose from two main techniques: immersion and bleeding.

In immersion, the grapes remain with the skins for a spell until the desired color is achieved; then the grape juice is separated from the skins and continues in a method similar to that used for white wine. This requires grapes designated in advance for rosé.

The bleeding method, meanwhile, is a by-product of making red wine. A small quantity of wine left with the skins is separated for rosé. This technique enables a belated decision to make rosé even if the vintner didn’t originally intend to do so. Wines produced this way are usually darker.

In general, the color of rosé is determined by the amount of time the grape juice is in contact with the skins. This can be manipulated by the vintner so that the color doesn’t necessarily attest to the nature or quality of the wine.

The present pink trend stems from changes in the wine-consumption habits in the United States. The American consumer, who was used to sweet California wines that lacked refinement, has discovered what the French have always known: Pink wine can provide an entirely different drinking experience: cold, refreshing and elegant.

According to a Nielsen survey, the American market makes up about 13 percent of the global market. In 2013 sales of premium rosé wines surged nearly 40 percent, while the sale of cheap blush wines eased. The fact that Americans have learned to drink smart has gotten California winemakers to provide dry wines with a low alcohol content. In this way, they can compete with the light wines from Provence.

Although Israelis are still a bit suspicious about flamingo-colored bottles, production of quality rosé wines is beginning in this country, too. These wines, which in the past were produced only at large wineries, are now produced at dozens of small locales and are creating a new category of Israeli rosé.

There is some justification to the claim that Israel isn’t the ideal place to make a perfect rosé. The hot Middle Eastern climate causes the grapes to reach maturity with a relatively high sugar content liable to lead to a heavy rosé. The product could prove too mature with a high percentage of alcohol, ruining it as a refreshing and spiritually uplifting drink. Still, a batch of Israeli vintners are inventing rosé wines with body and structure along with surprising lightness and lots of drinkability.

1. Ecker, Rosé 2013

Even before tasting the rosé of the Austrian Ecker winery, made of 100-percent Zweigelt grapes, Ecker was clearly the rosé with the most beautiful color. And unlike others that have a promising but deceptive hue, Ecker’s rosé keeps its promise. Rich fragrances of citrus and red berries, elegance and a light fruit sweetness that’s replaced toward the end with refreshing acidity make it an ideal summer drink. 89 shekels ($26) (Boutique de Champagne)

2. Domaine Saint Antonin, Les Jardins Rosé 2012

A combination of grenache and cinsault grapes creates this enjoyable rosé from the Languedoc region in southern France. This is a dry rosé with a soft fruity character and a mineral finish. It provides all the required components — lightness, freshness and high drinkability. 70 shekels (Isprovinum)

3. Flam, Rosé 2013

The Flam winery continues to impress, this time with a 2013 rosé. Cabernet franc, syrah and cabernet sauvignon grapes provide a pinkish and sexy nector that conveys seriousness despite the light drinking experience. Like Flam’s white wine, this rosé has excellent acidity that provides solid structure and a refreshing sting. 95 shekels

4. Chateau Cavalier 2012

The Provence region, from which the Chateau Cavalier rosé comes, is famous for these wines. This Provencal rosé, a blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah grapes with a light salmon color, is a sharp and focused wine, low in alcohol and with a long and enjoyable finish that makes it a worthy option despite the hefty price tag. 119 shekels (Importer: Israco)

5. Castel, Rosé du Castel 2013

Although this is one of the youngest rosés in Israel, it’s also one of the best. A good body, an excellent structure, sharpness and dryness that leaves room for clean citrus flavors. A technical, hedonistic and properly made rosé. 110 shekels

6. Emek Haela, Rosé 2013

I tasted this wine, which will soon be on the market, in the presence of the vintner Lin Gold, who told about her intention to make as “masculine” a rosé as possible. Although I’m not certified to identify gender in wine, the result is certainly worthy. This is a very dry drink with good flavors of raspberry and pink grapefruit, and a crisp lightness that makes it easy to finish the bottle. 50 shekels.

7. Kishor, Kishor Winery Rosé 2013

Another worthy Israeli rosé comes from the Kishorit village for special-needs adults in the western Galilee. Made from 100-percent merlot grapes that fermented for about six months in oak casks, it provides a dry, serious experience without sweetness. It’s impressive thanks to its delicate acidity. A good choice for any summer meal. 75 shekels.

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