Every April, the wine-sellers come around with the new vintage of pink-hued wine. They are full of life and vitality at the advent of spring, which is after all about birth, life, twittering birds, bud-break and patios. The obvious lifestyle accompaniment is a fresh pink wine, right?
I’m not sure. Each spring I get excited too, and since the overall category of neither-white-nor-red wine needs a bit more of a promotional push than, generally, whites and reds, I eagerly join the campaign to spread the news.
But more often than not, when I first taste rose-colored wine each year, I’m a little happy but also sort of semi-consciously aware of a hole at each wine’s (and my?) center.
There’s a sense of absence, of something that could be a bit more than what it is. This, come to think of it, is probably what most of us fear we will conclude as we near our own corporeal end: “Wait a minute,” we’ll say, finally hearing the still, quiet voice inside, “that’s it? That’s the whole thing? Was I even there for this life I lived?”
I like fresh, vital wines well enough, wines that affirm life. These are the pink wines whose full flavor palate spans the realm of lemons and limes, strawberries and watermelon; whose textural proposition is clean, lip-smacking and spritzy; whose aim is to please rather than transform; whose seasons are the hot ones.
I do like those wines. But in the midst of life we are in death, and the wines I love recognize that incontrovertible fact. Gravitas wines. And so autumn, the season of preparation for death, is my favorite time for rose-colored wine.
This is when the good ones come into their own, revealing layers of complexity unavailable to young beings; communicating integrity and maturity impossible without experience.
The seasonal progression isn’t the only time frame that helps these wines. They do need more time in bottle than they usually receive, but also more time out of bottle: I often find more development and transformation in a rose-colored wine from first pour to last, over a few hours, than with reds of similar price and complexity.
And an opened bottle stored in the fridge overnight is, when allowed to warm slightly at the table, usually better the second day.
One additional time arc to consider: years. One of the three best rose-colored wines I tasted this year was from 2011 (the Chateau Ksara Sunset from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, probably no longer available in Maine), rather than 2012. Many well-made pink wines have enough tannins to provide sufficient structure for developing those beautiful “secondary” qualities – earthy, spicy, soupy – beyond the fruit, but this often takes more than a few months.
For consumers who might be open to making rose-colored wine a part of their colder-season drinking, there’s an additional bonus: Distributors and retailers get nervous when there’s too much of this stuff hanging around in October, so they discount it.
Check the sale buckets, snoop for deals. It’s not too hard to find $15 or $25 bottles selling for half their original price. And just in time for Thanksgiving, when many of these wines will so movingly accompany our celebrations of an inward turn amidst the bounty of life.
Cantele Negroamaro Rosato 2012, $11 (Pine State). From Sicily with the indigenous and underrated negroamaro grape, this has straight-up deep red and black fruit, but the intense, direct, weighty punch of it is what’s special. Acidity? We don’t need no stinkin’ acidity.
Adelsheim Pinot Noir Rose 2012, $17 (National). Wait, maybe sometimes we do need acidity. But only when it plays backup to this much elegance, structure and drive. This wine, from the stellar Adelsheim vineyards of Willamette Valley in Oregon, is in introduction about apples: green ones on the nose, the best red Macoun of your life as you taste. Then come flavors of fresh bread and crackers, hay. You’re not quite underground yet, but you’re in the fields.
Mas des Dames ‘La Dame’ Rose 2012, $22 (Crush). This Languedoc wine took three hours open to come into its own, but when it did, whoo-boy, lookout. Extraordinary. From organically grown and hand-harvested old-vine Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah, it’s funky and wild in flavor, flush with herbal, savory notes, but calm, satiny and large in mouthfeel. It’s a mature, warm-hearted wine, and I’m going to hold onto a bottle to try next year.
Argiolas Serra Lori 2011, $13 (National). I fell for this wine in the spring of 2012, when it showed the oomph and focus necessary to hold my attention more than five seconds. Here it still is a year-plus later, from Sardinia, a “blue zone” where everyone attributes their 150-year life spans to drinking lots of wine from the indigenous cannonau grape, and I’m mad for it.
This 2011 cannonau is for all practical purposes a red wine, and it’s heading toward death – the best time to encounter it. Ripe and plummy, a bit sweaty, with the strawberries you left out on the counter too long, sugars concentrated and bacteria taking over.
Gravitas alert: If you say, “pink wine should taste like Provence,” you’ll be disappointed. If you want the delight of a valpolicella with the ache of good French grenache noir (cannonau is grenache), you’ll be thrilled.
Coming soon to a discount bin near you?
Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog is soulofwine.com, and he can be reached at email@example.com. Not all the wines mentioned in this column are necessarily sold at Rosemont, but distributor information listed in parentheses permits special orders through any Maine retailer.