What is it that makes Americans so squeamish about French roses? I think it's because a majority of them grew up looking at pink bottles of sweet white zinfandel from California!
French Roses are dry wines which are not truly red, but have enough of a reddish tinge to make them assuredly not white. The actual color varies depending on the grapes involved, and often may seem to be more orange than pink or purple. Rose wines may be produced in a number of different ways, depending on the desired results. Most Rose wines are the result of crushing the red grapes used rather early on, so that they are not able to impart their color – or much tannin – to the final wine. These wines are in most respects white in character and flavor, with only the tinge of red and some subtle taste differences belying the difference.
Rose wines are not "serious" wines, they are just delightful wines meant primarily for Summer consumption due to their crispness and lightness. They are very refreshing in hot weather. Styles vary widely, but in general, a Rose wine is much simpler than a true heavyweight white or red wine – even if made from the same grapes. European Rose wines are generally dry, while Rose wines from the United States are generally sweet. Sometimes, this distinction is highlighted by referring to sweet Rose wines as Blush.
If you go to the South of France in the summer, or anywhere in France for that matter, you will see most every bucket in the restaurants filled with a bottle of rose, especially at lunch. The last time I had lunch at the fabled Hotel du Cap in Antibes, 10 out of 10 ice buckets were filled with a different bottle of rose!
Hotel du Cap, Cap 'Antibes
The wonderful thing about them is how refreshing they are and how they go with everything you like to eat when it's hot, from salads to grilled fish to pastas and panini. They are economical too, at about half the price of the white Burgundies we all enjoy so much.
French roses, make an alfresco lunch rather elegant and sophisticated and they will greatly complement any cold menu. They are wonderful also with hot rice dishes like paella and risotto, especially if you serve them on a hot day. If you are having a bouillabaisse, don't even think twice! So, take the lead and serve them this summer. You will be pleasantly surprised and so will your guests.
My favorite roses:
Domaines Ott, Chateau Romassan
Chateau d'Esclans, Cotes de Provence
Chateau d'Aqueria, Tavel Rose
Mas de Gourgonniere, Les Baux de Provence
Mas de la Louviere, Bandol
$49 for a magnum
I have drank all of these throughout the years (and then some) and highly recommend them. Probably the most available is Houchart. La Colonie is a favorite of Sherry Lehman's, but my least favorite. If money were no object, Chateau Romassan or Chateau de Selles, both produced by Domaines Ott would be it for me, but after the first glass they all taste great.
All these wines can be found at Sherry-Lehman in NYC. A good wine store should have at least a couple of the one I've recommended..
Photos Google and Sherry Lehman