I know what kind of wine drinker I am. I’m a drinker of manly reds, a collector of offbeat appellations and seeker of value. My secret fantasy is that someone would look at my basement filled with wine and describe my collection as “smart.” I am, at the same time, the kind of wine drinker who does not scorn the tastes of others. If you want to drink, for example, nothing but buttery California Chardonnay, then drink it and godspeed. To each his own, I say.
The one exception to my live-and-let-live tolerance is rosé. I’ve never met a rosé that didn’t strike me as featureless even in comparison to mass produced whites. I thus never understood the attraction of rosé, which is cheerfully colored but weak in the glass. God created red grapes and white grapes. He did not create pink grapes.
As a result, I scorn rosé. To be honest, I scorn people who drink rosé. To make my scorn more emphatic, I group it with white Zinfandel even though most people treat white Zinfandel as being in a class by itself. I do this as a slander on the rosé, since I’m magnanimous about white Zin itself, which I consider to be an entry-level wine and thus a baby step along the way to more serious wine drinking. When I see someone drinking white Zin, I remember my own Liebfraumilch period and think: you’ll get over it soon enough.
But rosé is something different, and as if to underline my entirely justifiable condescension the European Union announced that it would lower the production standards for rosé, making it even worse. The EU announced it would allow the blending of red and white wine to create a pale imitation of what already struck me as a pale imitation. I thought, “Well, that’s about right. Put two indistinct wines together and get a third, even less distinct wine.” The cheapening of the rosé-making process confirmed my contempt, and I was at peace with the universe.
Even an orderly universe is not without its aberrations, of course, and one of those aberrations was a Celestina Pinot Grigio by Peter Cargasacchi which, my regular reader will remember, took me by complete surprise at a tasting a couple of months ago. Shocking though that was, it didn’t really rattle my foundation. I remained a disdainer of rosé, and the 200-case-a-year eccentricity of the Celestina enabled me to file it away as a freak occurrence, like a regrettable sexual experimentation in college.
It was just that once, I told myself. I’m not really a rosé lover.
So it is with a certain horror that I report that I’ve found another rosé that I actually like, Bieler Père et Fils “Sabine” Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, which can be had for around $10 at Whole Foods. Sabine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is perhaps the inclusion of the unusual Cab that makes it different. While most rosés are somehow slightly less than either whites or reds, the Sabine is somehow more than a white. The nose is fruity and it has actual flavor, something rosés routinely lack. It is, I fear to admit, a fantastic wine.
I find myself pre-occupied, my thoughts drifting to my dalliance with Sabine and hoping it will happen again. I consider, even, buying a few bottles, sneaking them down into the cool privacy of my basement. It wouldn’t be right, of course, to drink rosé only below ground. Rosé calls out for sunshine, and I wonder if there is a private corner of a park somewhere where secret consumers of rosé gather anonymously to satisfy their cravings, in the open but still beyond the sight of family and friends.
On top of all of that, this: the EU has rescinded its dispensation allowing the mixing of red and white to make rosé. Rosé will have to continue being made (except in Champagne, which is a whole different thing) by allowing the juice of red gapes a little time on the skins before it’s drained off for fermentation. Rosé, in other words, is lurching back toward respectability.
Somehow, rosé made more sense to me when it was still my dirty little secret.