So, you’re a winemaker and you have a quandary. What should you do if:
1. You see that your red grapes may not fully ripen because bad weather is coming?
2. You have planted more red grapes than you can sell as red wine, or need to make a wine that you can sell sooner after fermentation than you could a red wine?
3. You want to intensify the color of a red wine before fermentation?
4. You have a few batches of sub-par white wines in a tank and need to get them out of inventory?
5. You have consumer demand for sweeter wines than you had intended to make?
If you have your wits about you, you will:
1. Pick the red grapes early and press them lightly to make rosé.
2. Make rosé out of any red grapes that can be pressed lightly to yield barely pink must.
3. Bleed out 10 percent of the crushed juice from the grapes whose color you want to intensify, leaving a higher skin-to-juice ratio for the red wine, with a bonus fraction of rosé.
4. Fine the sub-par white wines with carbon, isinglass or polyvinylpolypyrrolidone, then sweeten and blend with just enough red wine to make the blend pink.
5. Do any of the above and sweeten the resulting rosé with sugar or reserved grape juice.
In all these cases, the answer to the winemaker’s dilemma is: Rosé! And because rosé used to be more of an answer to a problem than a wine made on purpose, it had a bad rap. But today, rosé wines are no longer soda pop substitutes (though many can still be found in that category).
Thanks in part to the efforts of the Rosé Avengers, a well-organized association of serious rosé producers who began touting their dry pink wines in 2005, rosés have risen to the top of many wine lists, even in the most sophisticated settings. The Avengers succeeded so well that they have changed their identity to the “Rosé Consortia” — no longer an angry mob, avenging the wrongs done to pink wine, but a cheery bunch of sybarites pouring pink to San Francisco foodies. Now that’s progress!
Here on Long Island, vengeance also achieved, vintners have embraced pink wine at every level, be it dry or sweet, still or sparkling.
At Croteaux Vineyards in Southold, “Rosé on purpose” is the mantra. With over 10 acres of merlot, cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc vines planted in 2003, owners Paula and Michael Croteau had the foresight to see the growing demand for dry rosé. They initially tailored a series of distinctive rosé wines according to the characteristics of their three merlot clones, then added variations on the pink theme, including a barely tinted sauvignon blanc and a lightly sparkling Cuvée blend. Part of the charm of these wines comes in sipping them at the enchanting Croteaux tasting barn and garden, where French music makes a mellow mood. I’ve heard that certain parents have taken to dropping their children off at the Southold beach for swimming or sailing lessons, then stealing an hour of pleasure there. This summer, Paula will serve “Cuvées du Glace” — rosé with fresh garden herbs (mint, thyme and rosemary) over ice.
Channing Daughters’ winemaker, Christopher Tracy, has also made a virtue of rosé in Bridgehampton, sourcing a wide variety of grapes from three different vineyards. Taking a northern Italian approach with his “rosati,” Tracy makes seven distinctive rosati from hand-harvested fruit, whole-cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel tanks.
Focusing on fizz, at Sparkling Pointe in Southold winemaker Gilles Martin explains, “Sparkling rosés are very delicate wines, based on fruit-forward aroma profile, smooth balance and a crispy finish.” He uses pinot noir, gently pressed, “to bring the salmony color and to enhance the strawberry aroma,” while avoiding harsh tannins.
Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack has probably enjoyed the most prominence among Long Island’s dry rosés. What was initially a wine made for many of the reasons cited above has become Wölffer’s most sought-after wine. Roman Roth, Wölffer’s winemaker, has honed his skill yielding a mostly merlot-based, pale pink wine that is seamlessly silken, bracingly fresh, with no trace of candy or pop.
Rosé has become an ambassador for fine Long Island wine. I’ve seen it on wine lists in more far-flung locations that usually offer our region’s products. Most recently, I delighted in a bottle at Lucy’s Café, a laid-back restaurant in Saugerties, N.Y. The server suggested it, saying, “This is my favorite wine.”
Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.