By Marty Ramsburg
After this warmest — and snowless — winter of 2015-16, we are now waiting somewhat impatiently for spring and summer to arrive. We have markers for its imminent arrival: Town Meeting Day, sugaring, mud season, and, from a wine merchant’s perspective, new vintage whites and rosés.
When we first opened our shop nearly 10 years ago, offering rosé was perceived as both novel and retro. To our age cohort, rosé meant Lancer’s, Mateus, or white Zinfandel. Any self-respecting baby-boomer-era wine drinker had long eschewed “blush” wines for more serious wine.
In the late spring-early summer of 2007, as we eagerly stocked the few dry rosés that were then available to us in Vermont, we were repeatedly rebuffed when we recommended them to our customers. “Jamais!” most exclaimed. “We don’t like sweet wine.”
Our well-traveled and wine curious customers knew differently. Rosé is the signature wine of Provence, and is the premier summer sipper along the Mediterranean coast. Every summer, outdoor tables at bistros and osterias from Carcassonne to Genoa are festooned with carafes of dry, refreshing pink wine. In the past five years, the trend has spread inland, with rosé a popular warm weather addition from Paris to Siena and beyond.
Windham Wines has continued to champion rosé in the years since we opened. We have offered rosés from throughout France, but especially from the South of France and the Loire; from Argentina, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United States. As you might surmise given that range, rosé can be made from just about any grape that is red or even “gris” or grey, like Pinot Gris or Grenache Gris, as it is contact with the skins that gives the wine its hue.
Over the years, our customers have expressed a preference for rosés from France. And within that domain, no category eclipses the South of France in customer satisfaction.Our most popular rosés year after year come from Provence and Languedoc.
What makes these wines such customer favorites? I think perhaps most consistently, they set the mood, evoking a sense of leisure and relaxation. Long summer evenings, whether in the South of France or Southern Vermont, give us the time to savor the good life.
It helps that South of France rosés can be delicious. Our tasting team does its job to help select the best value rosés of those available to us. That always means tasting four to five times as many wines as we bring in. The ones that our customers prefer are classically dry, with aromas and flavors of redcurrant, orange or melon; lightly floral, medium-bodied and always finishing with a crisp minerality.
These rosés are beautiful in the glass, usually light pink to salmon, and can be enjoyed as an apéritif or at the table with the fresh foods of summer: salads made from tender greens, tossed with a garlic vinaigrette or, if using something peppery like arugula or endive, then a more aggressively garlic vinaigrette with the salty addition of anchovies; faux niçoise salads of greens, potatoes, eggs, olives and, bien sur, garlic vinaigrette; Caprese salad; grilled vegetables (zucchini, red peppers, cremini mushrooms, fennel, onions) with aioli; grilled salmon or chicken.
The possibilities are endless, so long as they include fresh spring and summer vegetables, garlic, and something salty, such as anchovies or feta.
We hope that you, too, look forward to a season of time with friends, sharing the fresh foods of our gardens, and, of course, wine. Rosé, whether from the South of France or from the United States, adds to the occasion of bringing together families and friends around the summer table. For us, and perhaps for you too, it is associated with our close relationships and the memories that give those meaning.