OK, I’ve had it. There is no sadder state of affairs, no more urgent education requirement in the U.S. wine scene than to get Americans to understand serious dry rosé. What is wrong with people?
My answer to Chris Bunting’s desert island challenge, (i.e. what beverage would you choose as your only quaff, but of unlimited supply, if abandoned on a desert island?) was instantly apparent to me. Serious dry rosé (not, please, to be confused with the pink sodapop embarrassment so aptly termed “blush”) is the cornerstone of French culture because it’s cheap and goes deliciously with everything. You know that aisle at Safeway with the Cap’n Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, etc.? The French fill it with hundreds of vins gris, almost all under four euros.
This is a boon to winemakers and red wine fans alike. The surest way to ensure a reliable supply of high quality affordable reds is seigné. When the proclivities of nature give them weak vintages, winemakers in Provence and the Languedoc need to bleed their reds to increase the skins-to-juice ratio and maintain the high standard of value for which they are, quite unjustly, not at all famous.
We have certainly emerged from the quarter century of darkness caused by Bob Trinchero’s 1972 stuck fermentation turned Godzilla, and the era of White Zinfandel no longer blots out the sun. Today, any genuine winelover is aware of the joys of dry rosé, and any decent shop stocks at least a couple. And California winemakers have learned that the juice bled from red musts of high alcohol potential will not carry the same alcohol level as their corresponding reds, so alcohol adjustment, usually below 13%, is a boon to quality. Our wines are really good these days, and knowledgeable retailers appreciate and love them.
But every autumn a shadow falls once again upon the land, and while Thanksgiving sales of Sutter Home soar, throughout the country I see enlightened, passionate retailers choking on the beautiful dry pinks they’ve bought which their lunkhead clientele thinks are suddenly undrinkable now that September is upon us.
Are they nuts? Do they stop drinking white wine, too? Not at all, though reds do pick up as Christmas comes into view.
The disaster this creates for winemakers is that instead of the twelve month sales season all other wines (except maybe Nouveau Beaujolais) enjoy, rosé must be placed in the single month of May. Miss that precious shelf allocation and you might as well haul it to the dump, because retailers know they must vacate the shelves by Labor Day.
The situation is all the more tragic because the best rosés, those made from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, are not worth a damn in their first year. My 2005 SkinFlint is at its absolute best right now, but has a snowball’s chance in Baghdad of selling through now despite a Rachael Ray recipe writeup. The 2006 gets all the attention but will not show at its best ‘til next year, when noone will want it.
Since it is mainly read by industry insiders, my tiny voice will not suffice to the task. I’m sorry, fellow scribes, but we are all just going to have to drop everything else until we expound, entice, seduce, cajole, or blog some sense into our readers.