These days, there are few kosher wine producers that do not produce rosé wine. Not surprisingly, some of this is simple pink plonk, some is complex and seriously well made, and much of it is aiming for a happy medium of being fun, fresh and tasty, with just enough complexity to also amuse wine geeks.
Much of this kosher rosé is also produced in the now-nearly international style of what used to be confined to Provence — dry, pale, uncomplicated and with high acidity to maintain freshness. This international style of rosé has a reputation for being less than serious, designed to be quaffed very cold and very quickly.
And many rosé wines of this style — and not just in the kosher world — suffer from being harvested slightly too early in an attempt to maximize acidity, so that the wines stay fresh. It can be done brilliantly right, of course, but just as often this is at the expense of the wine’s ultimate character and flavor.
According to Elizabeth Gabay, in her fascinating, compelling, exhaustive, and exhausting, book “Rosé : Understanding The Pink Wine Revolution,” this Provence-driven style is crowding out more genuine, terroir and tradition-based wines.
While one would be hard-pressed to find them in your average wine shop, there are actually many dozens of different styles and approaches to rosé.
If only consumers would consider some of these other styles, argues Gabay, and if only producers would return to some traditional aspects of regionality rather than aspiring to mimic the pale pink rosé wine of Provence, the rich variety of niche rosé would become more commercially viable.
In her book, Gabay also details the great history of rosés around the world, offering snapshots of recent regional developments. Her brief notes on Israel, for example, are informed, up-to-date and appreciative.
Ultimately Gabay argues for recognition, at times restoration, and for preservation of this rosé diversity. Her argument appeals to me, but doesn’t seem to have an answer for why she thinks there would be commercial viability in complicating something whose popularity is based, at least in part, on its being uncomplicated. For now, at least, Provencal style rosé is still the dominant style — especially when it comes to kosher rosé.
When this style is done right, however, such rosé can be outstanding. Indeed, well-crafted rosés of this sort are very food friendly, typically pairing well with spring and summer fare. Most rosés are light and easy drinking, and are best served while young and well chilled — adding, again, to their warm-weather associations.
I am a big fan of this sort of rosé — but I’m a bigger fan of regional character and differentiation. My own proclivities helped power me through the Gabay book in those instances where the narrative style became too ponderous or over-academic.
Reading about them is no substitute for drinking them, however. While there is a little kosher Bandol from Provence (the more serious version of Provencal rosé) in the American market, nobody imports kosher Tavel from the Rhône or kosher Cabernet d’Anjou from the Loire. Such a shame.
I recommend a glass of the Hagafen Cellars’ rosé: Don Ernesto, Beret Rosé, 2017 ($27; mevushal; available directly from the winery). Made from syrah and offering plush aromas and flavors of strawberry, red grapefruit, watermelon, honeysuckle and lemon zest, with a whisper of menthol-like greenness and some light herbal notes and solid acidity, this nicely balanced, medium-bodied wine both quenches and refreshes. L’chaim!
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].