Depth. Concentration. Complexity. These are the types of things that wine lovers crave — even demand — in the wines they drink. As a wine lover, I love these things, but I don’t need them to enjoy a particular wine. In fact, there are times when I don’t want to analyze or ponder what is in my glass. I want straightforward deliciousness that I can enjoy with or without food.
I think that’s why I like dry rosé so much. That’s not to say you can’t find layered, nuanced rosé. You can, but 99 out of 100 times, that’s not what I’m looking for in rosé. I want fresh; crisp acidity is a must. I want fruity, but I don’t want it to be too showy. I like my rosé on the focused, leaner side.
That said, after tasting through 20 or so bottles of Long Island rosé, I can definitively say there are plenty of local options that just barely fit in that category. Few wines really stood out, but few were flat-out awful. Most fit into the middle ground of “good enough, but not great.”
There are so many ways to make rosé, but there are three main ways you’ll find it made here.
The first is the saignée method. Saignée means “to bleed” and it involves draining off some of the red wine grape juice to increase the skin-to-juice ratio during the winemaking process, making the red wines more concentrated and flavorful. The juice that is “bled” off is then fermented, resulting in rosé.
A second method is used when rosé is the primary goal. Red wine grapes are picked just a bit earlier, when the natural acidities are higher, then crushed, and the juice is left on the skins for a short time to pick up some color and perhaps tannins. The grapes are then pressed and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation, as with red winemaking. Because the skins contain much of the flavor and color compounds, this leaves the wine tasting more like a white wine and looking pink rather than red.
You’ll also find blending of chardonnay, riesling and other white grapes into rosé using the previous two methods, usually to increase the acidity or bring some fresher flavors and aromas. Some of Long Island’s most well-known and popular rosés are made this way.
Dry rosé has never been more popular, so most every winery makes one. But it’s easy to tell who takes rosé seriously — and who treats it as an afterthought — when you taste so many wines side by side. The best wines are made with intention and thoughtfulness. The worst wines taste heavily manipulated with artificial-tasting acidity or come in shades of pink not found in nature.
Here are just a few of my favorites from local vineyards:
Macari Vineyards 2015 Rosé. Made from 42 percent merlot, 27 percent cabernet franc, 11 percent pinot noir, 10 percent pinot meunier and 10 percent chardonnay, it brings strawberry and citrus aromas and flavors with subtle watermelon and saline notes — all in a fresh, crisp wrapper. Drink it with grilled chicken salad or at the beach.
Kontokosta Winery 2015 Rosé. With a heavy dose of syrah, there is a sprinkling of spice to go along with plenty of red cherry and peach flavor here. A note of just-underripe peach on the palate brings a pleasant briskness to the finish. Sauce-slathered pork ribs want this wine.
Anthony Nappa Wines 2015 Anomaly White Pinot Noir. Made with — you guessed it — pinot noir, this wine is richer than you might expect, with bright red fruits and subtle earthy undertones. As with all of my favorites, there’s great acidity here, too.
Lieb Cellars Bridge Lane 2015 Rosé. Cabernet franc leads the way here. There are high-toned floral aromas laid over notes of strawberry and peach. A gentle herbal quality reminds you that it’s cab franc-based, while its juicy acidity — and the fact that it’s available in a three-liter box or in a keg — make it party-worthy.