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July 10, 2012

Rosé Rules

A guide to our favorite summertime beverage courtesy of our go-to wine expert, Grapefriend.

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It's summertime and that means one amazing thing: Rosé drinking! Most rosé is sold during summer, and I do love drinking it when it's hot out. But I also have it throughout the rest of the year either because it pairs well with something I'm eating or just because I'm in the mood.

That said, I started out drinking rosé in the summer when I wanted something cold and refreshing but weightier than white wine. Then I fell in love. And in the past few years, it feels like everyone's now drinking it. The stats back this up: Rosé sales in the U.S. are actually growing at triple the rate of total table wine sales. Most of this is imported rosé (sales of those were up 26% last year alone), although tons of domestic wineries are now rocking it, too.

For some people it's because it has a certain chi-chi appeal, like you're in the south of France having a long, lazy lunch on the beach. But for others, they know it's equally yummy and refreshing on a city sidewalk, a patio or just their couch.

So here are a few crucial things you need to know about rosé, other than that it's your new best friend in summer (and possibly beyond).

1. How It's Made: All of a wine's color comes from the skin of grapes. Think about it: if you slice open a grape the fleshy stuff inside is all a light gold color; it's just the skin that has pigment.

So when they're making rosé, red grapes are crushed and the skins usually stay in contact with the juice just for one to three days, turning the juice pink. Red wines, by contrast, stay in contact with the juice for a longer amount of time, making the wine a darker red.

Another way to make rosé is called saignée, or bleeding. If they’re making red wine, rose is just a by-product of red wine where some of the freshly-pressed juice is siphoned off and then fermented on its own.

And the last way you can make rosé is just by blending red and white wine together, but this actually isn't allowed in most wine growing regions now.

2. The Grapes: The other day someone told me they thought rosé was the kind of grape used to make the wine. Nope. Rosé is made from red grapes, and many different kinds! It basically depends on the country, but popular ones are Grenache, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo.

3. Where It's From: France is the largest producer of rosé wines in the world (almost a third of the total production). Provence is the big player, since more than half of the wine they produce is rosé. But definitely, definitely try out ones from the U.S. and Spain (my new obsession) which you can easily find in the store and on wine lists. Big bargains are the ruby-hued rosados from Spain, which are often cheaper than French or American rosés but still delicious.

4. Call Me Rosé Maybe: In France and America it's called rosé. In Spain it's rosado and in Italy rosato. Just don't call it blush, which refers to semi-sweet wine like White Zinfandel. A world of difference between sweet blush wines and the awesome dry rosés we’re talking about here.

5. It's Not Just For Girls: Rosé gets sort of a rap as a "girly" wine, and really I have no idea why. As if wine could be masculine or feminine anyway! I think we're coming around on this, and Charles & Charles winery even goes so far as to make a bumper sticker letting everyone know, “Yes, you can drink rosé and still be a badass.” Love it!

6. It Goes Amazingly With All Kinds of Food: Hot BBQ, sushi, spicy Indian, and tons of stuff in between. And of course, sometimes the best pairing is just with a friend and a beach.

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