You know spring is just around the corner when you see rosé wines starting to show up on the shelves at your favorite local wine store. Rosés, pink and refreshing, are generally released just a few months after harvest, hence its ubiquitous presence at spring time. If you ever wondered how rosés get its light hue, the answer is quite simple. Red wine gets its color from the skin of the grapes, as just about all wine grape juice is clear. After pressing, the grape juice from red wine grapes stays mixed in with the skin - and often seeds and stems - for an interlude to extract pigments from the skin. The longer the skin is in contact with the juice, the darker the juice will become.
This process is called maceration. Besides color, tannins and other flavor compounds are transferred to the juice as well. Without maceration, there would be no red wines. Maceration for red wines could occur for a period from just a few days to months. While the process is usually measured in days, longer maceration periods, called extended maceration, is sometimes used for thin-skinned grapes such as Pinot Noir to attain more stuffing in the wine. Extended maceration is often accomplished with something called cold-soaking, using refrigeration to lower the maceration temperature so fermentation would not happen too soon.
For rosés, the maceration period is measured in just hours, allowing the process to impart just a little color to the juice, while retaining as much acidity as possible. A rosé is like a white wine made from red wine grapes. One doesn’t look for great complexity in a rosé, but rather refreshing crispness. Most rosés should be drunk within a year of their release.
2018 was a challenging year for winegrowers in the Finger Lakes, with some calling it one of the most difficult years ever. The vintage started with promise, with sunny and dry weather in the spring to early summer. But the skies opened on August 14. The town of Lodi watched as more than nine inches of rain fell in one day, resulting in flash floods all over the region. The governor declared a state of emergency for 14 counties. Rain continued to fall with regularity in the region through harvest time in October. With all that moisture, rot (especially the dreaded sour rot) became prevalent. The vintage was widely regarded as less than stellar.
Having said that, better vineyard management and winemaking techniques learned over the years helped wineries in making competent wines despite the difficult circumstances. Overall, the 2018 FLX rosés are lighter in color than the 2017s. They tend to be less intense. But rosés are a giving breed, as they don’t require the level of ripeness needed to make regular wines. The better samples are delightful and perfect for a warm summer day.
Here are recommendations for some of the currently released Finger Lakes rosés:
2018 Dr. Konstanin Frank Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir
Pale salmon color; pure and aromatic nose; light in structure, cleansing mouthfeel, good acidity; a light and pleasant summer sipper. 84.
2018 Hermann Wiemer Dry Rosé (Pinot Noir)
Light coppery red; nice scented nose; vigor in the mouth, nice intensity of extract; full of energy; the class of the vintage. 90.
2018 Osmote Rose of Cabernet Franc
Light medium copper color with an orange tint; clean, off-dry and cleansing finish; well-made. 88.
2018 Anthony Road Cabernet Franc Rosé
Light coppery pink; hint of sulfur in the floral nose; lively mouthfeel and energy. 87.
2018 Fox Run Rose (Pinot Noir & Lemberger)
Light rosy color; scents of ripe berries and a hint of white pepper; lush in the mouth, good intensity. 87.
2018 Sheldrake Point Rose (Cabernet Franc)
Pale copper; clean fresh perfumed nose; fuller in the mouth than the pale color has indicated; not quite as great as the 2017, but well-made and delightful. 87.
2018 Billsboro Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sawmill Vineyard
Light pinkish; cherry nose; surprisingly intense, good acidity, a bit awkward but nice tension. 87.
2018 Randolph C. O’Neill Dry Rosé (Cabernet Franc)
Pretty medium ruby color, darkish for a rosé; lovely floral nose; moderate entry followed by a jolt of lively lemony acidity; finishes with a bit of green peppers; distinctive and assertive. 88.
2018 Keuka Spring Dry Rosé (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Lemberger)
You can trust August Deimel to come up with this unusual blend; light copper color; very clean entry, light-bodied but with notable complexity. 87.
Worldwide, the popularity of rosés is red hot. In the U.S. alone, sales jumped by 40% last year. One of the reasons for the phenomenal growth is because people are coming to realize that it is not just a summer sipper. Rosés are versatile wines which go well with many different food dishes. Since production was on the low side for 2018 Finger Lakes wines, stock up on a few bottles before they disappear from the shelves.