May is for Pink Words: Clive Pursehouse

The month of May brings spring flowers for sure but, more importantly for cycling fans, it also brings us the Giro d’Italia. Cycling trendsetters have always had an affinity for pink, from the accents on our Rapha wear to those bright pink Lampre-Merida kits, to the Giro’s absolutely iconic maglia rosa. Pink reaches its pinnacle in Italy.

While Le Tour retains its prestige, the Giro is a firm fan favorite, always pushing the envelope—a race steeped in tradition and history, but one that is also responsive and innovative. The Giro has often been called the toughest of the three grand tours and over the last few years has included cobbled stages, gravel and some of the steepest climbs in all of cycling.

Just as Europeans respect the history of their grand tours, so their sense of tradition extends to pink wine. But due to the California concept of white zinfandel—a sickly sweet pink swill that has created decades’ worth of misconceptions—rosé has a checkered past in the States. Over the last few decades, American wine drinkers saw pink wine as a subpar wine, having not experienced the bone-dry brilliance of rosé and rosato from the Old World. American winemakers though have now started to ride a pink wave, and rosé is on the rise on this side of the Atlantic.

There are three common ways that quality rosé is produced. The skin-contact method, when pink wine is the chief aim, is the process whereby the grapes are pressed and the wine is left in contact with the grape skins for what is typically a period of 12 to 24 hours. After the desired color is achieved, the juice is transferred to a tank to begin fermentation. (For comparison, the Nebbiolo-based wines of the famous Barolo wines from Italy’s Piedmont region undergo a 60-day maceration.) The brief maceration period used in rosé production makes for a pale wine but also one that, typically, should be drunk within the year.

Wines designated as vin gris are a much paler pink, because they are the result of an immediate pressing of lighter-skinned grapes such as Cinsault or Gamay. A decent rosé can also be made via a process called saignée, when some of the juice is “bled off” early in the production as a way to intensify the coloring of the red wine. In this case, the rosé is a byproduct, though it can sometimes be of a very high quality.

In all cases, quality rosé represents the first look at any given vintage and while very little can be gleaned from a wine designed to drink so young, it gives us a look at the vintage to come. Rosé gives us an excuse to drink a chilled wine with a steak, and an opportunity to match our Rapha kit with our beverage. The best rosés in the world can be had for under a Jackson. Above all, rosé gives us a way to celebrate pink and toast the summer’s greatest bike race and its maglia rosa.

2016 Planeta It’s always sunny in Sicily and while the island favors the richness of the native Nero d’Avola grape, it makes for a crisp rosé. The Planeta rosé is a product of only a few hours of skin contact with the grapes until this pale pink is achieved. Nero d’Avola blended with Syrah offers rounded red fruit aromatics, and glimpses of the dark wine’s character, but on the lighter side. It has bright cherry and tropical flavors and a zesty finish. $15

2016 Bertani Bertarose Rosé The rosé revolution is fairly new in America but Italy’s Bertani family, perhaps Veneto’s most influential wine producers, have been making this pink-hued wine since the 1930s, right around when the maglia rosa first came to grace the race leader’s back. The wine is a blend of molinara and merlot, highly unusual as a blend for rosé but also highly delicious. It has a long finish and bright fruit and even notes of turned earth and chestnuts. $15

2016 M de Minuty Rosé Provence is synonymous with rosé. Who knows if it’s the weather or the attitude, the fresh seafood or the seemingly endless summer, but Mediterranean France makes the pink stuff reliably better than anyone. The most sought-after rosé in the world comes from the Bandol region. The M de Minuty is sourced from the Côtes de Provence and epitomizes the pale-pink hue of Provence rosé. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, fresh-cut strawberries and white flower aromas make for forward, candied citrus flavors and notes of ripe peach. $19

2016 Domaine de Bila-Haut Rosé, M. Chapoutier A very pale orange-to-salmon color marks this French rosé from Rhône superstar M. Chapoutier. While his Hermitage wines represent some of the long-sought-after red wines, his Bila Haut releases are an opportunity to see how his winemaking interprets a less-heralded region with tons of potential in the Côtes du Roussillon. This wine offers a level of depth that you don’t expect from a rosé. Aromas of wet stone, and hints of sun-kissed herbs the region is so well known for. Juicy blood orange and lychee and tons of vibrancy. $11

2016 Balletto Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir Domestically, it may be tough to top Pinot Noir as your rosé base wine. This offering is from the Russian River Valley’s Balletto. The aromatics are of orange zest and flowers in full bloom. The wine is a paler hue than you might expect from California; it’s also richer than some of the Old World rosés in flavor, with dollops of ripe-red berries and a still prominent acidity striking a balance. You definitely get the sense that the warmer vintage has filled this wine out, but it’s still got great zip. $19

2016 Mulderbosch Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon Mulderbosch has been making a rosé since 1999, which by South African wine standards is quite a long time. Given its tannin and structure, Cabernet is not often seen as a candidate for rosé. But the Cabernet vineyards at Mulderbosch are managed and harvested specifically for the production of rosé; grapes are picked earlier so that the acidity is preserved and before the tannin is too developed. The wine is made the same way Mulderbosch makes its white wines, with a concentration on the preservation of freshness and zesty acidity. This Cabernet rosé is fresh and loaded with liveliness. Aromas are reminiscent of fresh-cut strawberries and watermelon. The palate is all kinds of lively citrus with notes of grapefruit and blood orange and zesty acid that hits all the high notes. $16

Rosé Colored Glasses The first name in stemware, Riedel, offers glasses for individual wines. Created and tested with rosé winemakers, the Rosé Glass was designed to precisely complement the aromas and flavors of rosé. This shapely glass elevates the earthy minerality and juicy, rich fruit aromas and flavors of any traditional Provençal-style rosé wine, and its diamond-shape bowl is designed specifically for enhancing younger wines—as most rosés uniformly are. This design shape creates a wide surface area in the glass to enhance alcohol evaporation, removing the astringency and intensifying the wine’s aromas. $60 a pair