Repeat after me: Rosé is not a vegetable, rosé is not a vegetable. Yet, people still refer to rosé season. There is no rosé season any more than there is a season for white, red, sparkling or sweet. Remember when umami was finally recognized as an official fifth taste along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter? It’s high time we added rosé as an official fifth category to the canon of wine.
Thus, autumn isn’t the end of rosé, it’s just the end of summer rosé. To better understand this concept, I caught up with self-proclaimed wine nerd Chauncey Jenkins. GM and Wine Director of the AAA Four Diamond-rated Lemaire Restaurant at Richmond, Virginia’s famed The Jefferson Hotel. Jenkins recently hosted a tasting event featuring ‘Rosé for late summer and fall’.
‘Summer is when everyone makes bad decisions,’ said Jenkins. ‘The sun is out for a long time, so you feel that you have more time to correct those decisions.’ For him, pink past Labor Day (first Monday in September) is never a bad decision. ‘Really great rosé isn’t even coming out until the fall, I would argue.’ We caught up over a bottle of 2016 Château Simone Rosé, Palette AC, Provençe, France. ‘Summer-only rosés are one-note quaffers,’ Jenkins said. ‘Bottles like this stand up outside the category. It’s not just great rosé, it’s great wine.’ Come autumn, not only are the wines more serious – so the thinking goes – we’re more serious. ‘I’m not at the pool, I’m at the table,’ he explained. ‘I’m paying attention. I’m thinking about a meal and something with more complexity and maturity.’
In autumn, look for rosés that offer an intriguing layer beneath the primary fruits. ‘I want more than just strawberries and acid,’ he said. His ideal choices are not merely light and quaffable. ‘I want deeper savoury notes, dried herbs, dried flowers and bitter cherries, but still great drinkability.’ Colour is the easiest marker to consider when scanning retail shelves. There are clues in the hues. Does the colour suggest barrel ageing? Is the bottle itself something other than clear – like Clos Cibonne Cuvée des Vignettes – so as to promote ageability? ‘Look for these copper tones,’ Jenkins said, pointing to his glass.’ Fitting that this oenophile with an alter-ego prefers something bronzy. Jenkins doubles as rapper Chance Fischer, whose track Black Gold pairs splendidly with the Ch Simone’s star-bright hues.
While rosés range from Provençe-pale to Abruzzo-dark, the differing effects of maceration, saignée and pressing go well beyond colour. Besides giving the wine its hue, skin contact also informs flavour, aroma and structure. On the summery end of the spectrum, cold fermentation, brief skin contact and stainless steel result in freshness and delicacy. On the autumnal side, winemakers add richness and roundness by utilizing a different set of tools: longer maceration, lees-ageing and time in barrels. You’ll know these wines because they’re not ready for release by the following March. ‘I didn’t get my allocation of Calabretta Rosato until late August,’ said Jenkins.
Now that you know the reason why there’s no rosé season, consider yourself an ambassador for autumn pink, pull corks on coppery wines and lean into to the dependable big guns:
‘I think of Bandol and Tavel as my go-tos for what a fall rosé should be: Ch Simone, Domaine Tempier, Domaine de la Mordorée. These could just as easily go with Brussels sprouts and bacon. ‘Bandol is the Rick Astley of wine,’ smiled Jenkins. ‘It’s never gonna let you down or desert you.’
Based in Richmond, Virginia, Jason Tesauro is a writer, sommelier, and photojournalist with three books, four cameras, and five children. Look for his work in Esquire, Decanter, Travel+Leisure, and Food & Wine.