Best Rosés for the summer boating season
By: Linda Kissam
Photos & research by Allan Kissam
Rosé wine and food pairings are a natural for the warm summer months – especially when served aboard a boat. Sail, power, or canoe … all offer a perfect setting for a refreshing glass of Rosé.
Rosé wine has made a stunning comeback in the past few years. And why shouldn’t it? Rosés are seductively fun, drinkable wines that are versatile enough to go with a light deck lunch to a knock-out main salon dinner combo. There are enough styles out there to please everyone.
Many Rosés possess excellent flavor profiles. The best ones are drier and crisper than one might expect – which allows for a full display of flavors and aromas. But there is a place for a wide range of flavors and style, all of which are explored in this article. Remember, in the end, if YOU like it, it is a winner.
The aromas and flavor of Rosés are primarily influenced by the particular grape varieties used to produce the wine but also the method of production also plays an important part. To make most Rosé wines, red grapes are lightly crushed and left to macerate with their red skins for a little while (anywhere from a few hours to a few days), after which the juice is strained out from the solid stuff (called “must”) and fermented in tanks. A true Rosé is made from red grapes, not a mix of red and white grapes, although there are Rosés offered that have been blended with white grapes to help “punch up” color and taste or present a new style into the market.
Drinking is believing. The world of Rosé wines is made up of flowers and fruits expressing natural freshness. Don’t expect a Rosé wine to present with the strength and the power of red wines, you’ll be disappointed. Do expect summer in a glass; red flowers and fruits. Think watermelon, roses, red currants, and raspberry. On occasion you may pick up lilac, Jolly-Rodger and bubble gum notes.
Do not pair Rosé wine with foods that will drown out its delicate flavor. So stay clear of: tomato sauces, red meat dishes, butter, heavy creams, eggs, and overpowering aromatic spices.
Light pasta dishes – like linguine with olive oil, garlic, and mussels – make a wonderful choice for roses. Some stuffed pastas work – like a vegetable-stuffed cannelloni, or a ricotta stuffed ravioli. The trick is that if cheese is used, is should be extremely light, mild and neutral in flavor, almost whipped in texture, or otherwise an easily paired, not-pungent cheese.
Seafood dishes that focus on the minimal preparation to let the seafood flavors shine – lobster tail, lightly grilled crab cakes, and shrimp cocktails will complement a well-structured Rosé.
Summer salads of course are also an excellent option – just steer clear of bitter greens like kale that will quickly smoother your Rosé glass with all the wrong flavors. Instead think of water-filled vegetables and fruit like iceberg lettuce, chard, bok choy, clementines, pomegranate kernels, watermelon slices, apple slices, and strawberries.
Summer foods, like tomato salads, olives, and vegetables right off the grill come to mind. Rosés love impetuous flavors: salty, a little spicy, summer herbs like basil and oregano, and, of course, garlic. Prosciutto and melon? Perfect. Toasts with tapenade? Even better. Pork sausages right off the grill are terrific with Rosés, grilled vegetables such as peppers, zucchini and eggplant, seasoned with handfuls of basil and sprinkled with good olive oil.
Lastly cheeses. Many cheeses can be challenging to wines, usually overwhelming their character, but rosés hold up very well to a number of cheeses, especially those of Spain. Try a tangy and earthy Roncal or Idiazabal, a Zamorano or Majorero sheep’s cheese, and finally try one of the many Cabrales blue cheeses now available in the US.
It is now up to you to learn what goes best with Rosés. Keep in mind that Rosés are enjoyed year around, especially by Mediterranean food enthusiasts. They are at their best when served chilled. However, when too cold they lose their delicate aromas and flavors. If served too warm, the residual sugar in many Rosés produce an unpleasant, cloying sensation and the overt fruitiness of the wine can create the sensation of drinking warm punch.
At a recent tasting aboard my Grand Banks boat, I found the following to be amongst the best Rosé wine picks for the summer boating season – for a variety of reasons. Each has its own place in my on-board bar. Enjoy!
Comparing domestic and international sparkling, still, blended, single varietal, lo-cal and can.
- Syltbar Concerto Sparkling Rosé. $23. Friuli, Italy: Elegant and complex. 100% Merlot. Shows well with a delicate aroma of citrus and red summer fruits. Well balanced with a light pink color. Syltbar is Vegan. Very low in carbs and sulfites, only 63 calories per 6oz glass, no added sugar. No impurities that can potentially cause headaches. Great wine to welcome guests on board. Number one pick of the tasting.
- 90C Livernano Rosé Tuscany, 2013. $20. Italy: Light cherry undertones, 100% Sangiovese Rosé. This is a new addition to the trendy Lo-Cal line of wines flooding the US market. The bright pink color sets the stage. On the palate, the wine presents whisper light notes of raspberry, pomegranate and strawberry. Those who like the Lo-Cal wine style are likely to enjoy this wine, but if you like a more robust style, it will not live up to expectations.
- The Drop Cali Rosé. $20 per 4 pack.: Canned (yes, canned) in California this a fresh blend of Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel, and Syrah. I sense a rolling of the eyes. Canned wines have come a long way from humble roots. If you didn’t see the can, this would just be another fun summer wine by the glass. Expect a fruit-forward crispness and minerality that pairs perfectly with boat life. A whisper of effervescence adds to its summer cool-down charm. The 250 ML. size has many advantages. Fits perfectly in small-boat fridges or coolers. Non-breakable. Cools down quickly. Easy to hang on to climbing up and down ladders and in bumpy seas. This wine deserves your attention. Pairs with most any BBQ foods but especially nice with grilled salmon or spicy shrimp/chicken tacos.
- Mt Beautiful Rosé 2016. $20. New Zealand: I am a big fan of this winery. This wine is traditionally made from Pinot Noir juice pressed off after light contact and fermented in barrel and tank. Summer floral notes, a hint of herbaceousness and penetrating red berry aromas on the nose. Dry on the palate with good acidity. Juicy watermelon and pink grapefruit notes make this medium bodied wine a winner. Ranked second in the tasting, but a case could easily be made for first place.
- Wagner Rosé of Cabernet Franc 2016. $15. Finger Lakes: Fruity nose but pleasingly dry, with a tasty minerality, delicate berries, citrus undertones and a hint of melon on the finish. Pair with grilled prawns. The Finger Lakes wine district seems to have found its groove for wines of good flavor. I think you’ll enjoy this medium bodied, very dry effort showcasing a tart acidity that somehow just works. Enjoy the sinewy flavors of lemon, raspberry, herbs and chalky mineral. See how a lean wine with good intensity and focus can make a fine summer Rosé worthy of any boat in the harbor.
- Galer Estate The Huntress 2016. $21. Pennsylvania. About 83% of wine from the United States is made from grapes grown in California. This Rosé wine helps showcase wines made in the other 17% of the US. The blend is collected, blended together from multiple varieties and fermented as if a white wine. So if you like Sauvignon Blanc or a semi sweet style of white wine, this would be a good place to move up from an all-white palate. It presents with a copper hue in bottle and glass. Light floral on the nose with dainty mingled flavors of strawberry, raspberries and cherry. It will not appeal to the serious Rosé drinker, but is a good choice for the beginner palate.
- Montes Cherub Rosé of Syrah 2016. $14. Chile: Stylish label. Subtle crystalline pink in color. This is a blending of two varieties. The Syrah delivers a concentrated and fruity nose with aromas of fresh red fruits, and the Grenache contributes a very fresh palate with a smooth and pleasing finish. Raspberry and plum aromas are present. This Rosé is medium bodied. Mild, generic plum, raspberry and cherry flavors finish nicely.
- Presqu’ile Pinot Noir Rosé 2016. $22. Santa Maria Valley: 100% Pinot Noir from Presqu’ile Vineyard. Fruity on the nose and palate presenting with strawberries, peaches, cranberries and a citrus undercurrent, all somehow complimented with pleasant chalky and mineral styling. Fermented by native yeasts. Aged for 6 months in stainless steel.