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Rosé wine: How it gained popularity on Long Island and beyond

The boom in a wine with hues as varied as salmon, copper, ruby, orange, cranberry, rose petal, rose gold and barely-there pink is dramatic, locally and internationally. Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton and Croteaux Vineyards in Southold are among Long Island's major rosé producers. (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman)

Wine lovers are in the pink.

Actually, they’re downing a spectrum of rosé-colored glasses, from blushing slightly to near-tomato red, juicing up sales and production of the versatile, refreshing stuff, from the Hamptons to the Riviera.

“It’s very easy to drink . . . and affordable,” said Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, author of the just-published “Rosé Wine: The Guide to Drinking Pink” (Sterling Epicure). “And it has panache.”

That beyond-the-bottle appeal stems in part from the much-coveted, often-elusive celebrity-and-pop culture factor.

Stars either producing or promoting rosé include actors Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Drew Barrymore; directors Sofia Coppola and Francis Ford Coppola; and rappers Wiz Khalifa and Rick Ross.

“It’s pretty easy to sell,” said Jacqueline Malenda, owner of Madiran, the East Setauket wine bar. “The drier and lighter, the happier the people are.”

Who Makes Rosé

The boom in a wine with hues as varied as salmon, copper, ruby, orange, cranberry, rose petal, rose gold and barely-there pink is dramatic, locally and internationally.

Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack, Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton and Croteaux Vineyards in Southold are among Long Island’s major rosé producers. Croteaux may be the only American winery devoted exclusively to rosé.

“It’s 68 percent of our production,” said Roman Roth, winemaker and partner at Wölffer Estate. “In 1992, we made 81 or 82 cases. Now, it’s 43,000.”

He said that the late Christian Wölffer, who founded the winery, “took rosé very seriously.” Wölffer’s Summer in a Bottle Rosé is a mainstay that, in addition to being a poolside-and-party wine, also has become fashionable for its style and artful bottle design.

In addition to wine, “Rosé is a lifestyle, close to the beach, a seaside vacation, here, the Hamptons or in the South of France,” said Michael Croteau, co-owner of Croteaux Vineyards. “It’s becoming a year-round wine.”

Some East End rosés have been dubbed “Hamptons Gatorade,” for their ease of drinking. New York State, and specifically Long Island, is a leading market for rosé, as could be expected in a beach-oriented area where high-end vacationers and summer homes abound.

But it’s not just Hamptonian. “We were a little late to the party,” said Lynn Mione, owner of The Vine Wine Bar in Merrick. “For years, there was a stigma about pink wine, too sweet, white zinfandel.” With wine flights, where drinkers taste multiple wines, Mione said, “People feel free to experiment,” broadening the ongoing appeal of dry rosé.

Popularity

Rosé wines imported from Provence have a decadelong upward arc. Exports to the United States jumped 47 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the Wines of Provence Council, an organization of producers and trading companies. Chateau d’Esclans’ and Domaines Ott’s rosés are high-demand Provençal bottles.

In 2016, 11.5 million liters of rosé were imported from Provence, compared with 158,000 liters in 2001. That translates into a stunning rise of 7,165 percent.

But rosé is made in numerous styles. It’s defined by the region where the grapes grow, what grapes are used, what method of production is employed.

At Channing Daughters, where rosés account for about a third of the winery’s 16,000 cases, winemaker-partner James Christopher Tracy’s rosés have an Italian accent and suggest a palette of pinks and oranges.

“While they’re all dry wines,” Tracy said, “we love to celebrate the differences.”

Rosé wines are made with a single grape or, primarily, blends of grapes. The type of grape or the blend will determine color and aroma.

Tastes and Styles

Pale, lighter rosé may be made with grapes from thinner-skinned pinot gris to pinot noir; darker and richer ones, from thicker-skinned grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and syrah, according to Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan. Local factors from climate to vineyard soil also significantly define the result. If, for example, the temperature is higher, the fruit will be ripe; if it’s cooler, more acidic. Rosés generally may range from the “blush” variety, or off-dry to sweet; to the crisp and refreshing; the fruit-forward; and the more rich and complex.

Blush wines take in white zinfandel, such as the lower-alcohol, pale pink Sutter Home, popular in the mid-1970s through the late 1980s. White zinfandel is made with zinfandel, a red grape, and has minimal contact with the skins. Moscato and rosado rosés, and the first wave of postwar rosés, such as Mateus and Lancers from Portugal, are sweeter than Provençal rosé. Croft even has made a pink Port. On Long Island, Pindar Vineyards in Peconic has long had semi-dry Summer Blush in the repertoire.

They’ve sold well. But as more Provençal rosés entered the United States, tastes began to change. The drier Provençals are very adaptable, working as aperitif or sipper and with many cuisines. Palates often go from sweet to dry, too. Couple that with rosé’s unusual versatility and general likability. Rosé never makes the demands of, for example, a tannic red wine or a very oaky white. Moreover, while consumption of chilled rosés rises in spring and summer, dry rosés often are poured from January to December.

The drier style includes the Wölffer Estate rosés. And there are the fruitier Italian rosatos and Spanish rosados; crisp gamay, pinot gris, and pinot noir wine, which deliver more acidity and floral qualities; and the lusher rosés, among them Tavel rosé from the Rhone Valley, Bandol from Provence, and some rosés from the United States and Latin America.

Sparkling rosés are increasingly popular, too. Rosé Champagne is made by great houses such as Krug, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, and Moet & Chandon, producer of Dom Pérignon rosé. Sparkling rosé wine is produced successfully on the West Coast by Roederer Estate, Domaine Carneros and Schramsberg; locally by Wölffer Estate, Channing Daughters, Croteaux and, of course, Sparkling Pointe in Southold. For a sweeter sparkling rosé, consider brachetto, such as Banfi Rosa Regale.

How it’s made

Different methods yield rosé. Typically, red grapes are either pressed or crushed, destemmed, and go into the fermentation tank and macerate. The skins have comparatively brief contact with the juice, so that wine will be pale. The longer the skin steeps in the grape juice, the deeper the hue. And the flavors will be fruitier, the wine weightier. “Saignee,” or “bled,” refers to a method in which liquid is taken from the tank, increasing the alcohol content and thereby extracting more color and taste from the skins. It yields concentrated, rich wines. Tavel rosé and saignee rosés are at one end of the spectrum, pink moscato and white zinfandel at the other.

Sniff a few different rosés, and note that they may not smell alike and won’t taste the same, either. Aromas and flavors may range from fruity to floral, herbaceous to earthy. The fruitiness is in the aroma. The nose senses more than the tongue can taste. Higher alcohol wines may deliver more bitterness and some heat; less alcohol, the opposite. Rosés may have less alcohol than many reds or whites. So, they’re generally easy to drink. Whether you drink sweet or dry wines isn’t the issue. It’s what you enjoy that counts.

Rosé and food

Regardless of process and grape, country of origin or type of wine, rosé is all-purpose and adaptable. For some imbibers, it’s strictly a sipper, an aperitif. But rosé is a many-sided wine with food.

Try one at a picnic, a lobster boil, with barbecue, turkey and trimmings, countless salads; Indian, Mexican, spicy Thai cuisine. They’re all fine with rosé, which may either contrast or complement the fare. Not surprisingly, a Provençal rosé goes with fish soups such as bourride and bouillabaisse, a Niçoise salad, and grilled fish; and an Italian rosato pairs well with prosciutto, Parmesan cheese and tomato-based dishes and sauces.

But uncork a chardonnay with fettuccine Alfredo.

Rosé wines come in many colors and flavors, from many countries and have many price points. A blind tasting of assorted rosés yielded this 21-bottle salute, fired alphabetically.

2016 Channing Daughters Rosato di Refosco Home Farm Vineyard ($22): full, rich, distinctive, Italianate delight.

2016 Croteaux Merlot 314 Rosé ($19): citrusy, medium-bodied, with a hint of melon.

2016 Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé ($18): a creamy, tangy, Provençal, with a tip of tropical fruit.

2016 Domaines Ott Chateau de Selle Rosé ($50): rich, full-bodied, with mineral notes and verve.

2016 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé ($18): stirring year-rounder from the outstanding Rhone Valley producer.

2016 Louis Jadot Rosé ($14): a Burgundian bargain, floral and fruity, from the respected house.

2016 Josh Cellars Rosé ($15): crisp, racy, easily enjoyed California refresher.

2016 “M” de Minuty Rosé ($15): aromatic, bright, smooth, light Provençal.

2016 Maison Saleya Rosé ($15): summery and citrusy, fittingly referring to Old Nice’s flower market.

2016 Masi Rosa dei Masi Rosato Delle Venezie ($15): fruity refosco that includes lightly dried grapes.

2016 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Rosé Belleruche ($18): a ripe, round, fruity choice.

2016 McCall Corchaug Estate Marjorie’s Rosé ($18): refreshing, pink, with raspberry and floral notes.

2016 Meiomi Rosé ($18): dry, easygoing, with traces of peach, melon, orange.

2015 Chateau Miraval Rosé ($22): the Brangelina rosé, a Provençal star on its own, fragrant and fruity.

2015 Paumanok Vineyards Dry Rosé ($20): elegant, fruity, focused, and vibrant.

2016 Il Poggione Brancato Rosato ($19): sangiovese with suggestions of strawberry and raspberry.

2012 Presqu’ile Vineyard Sparkling Rosé ($65): from Santa Maria Valley, bright, slightly floral, driven by red fruit.

2016 Sanford Rosé of Pinot Noir ($23): strawberry and orange notes highlight a bright, light sipper and food wine.

2016 Vitiano Rosato ($12): medium-bodied Umbrian, with suggestions of strawberry and plum.

2016 Wölffer Estate Grandioso ($30): an elegant, minerally, concentrated, balanced beauty, with potential to age.

2016 Wölffer Estate Summer in a Bottle Rosé ($24): copper-hued, bright, festive, aptly named.

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