Vino Veritas: It’s Spring, Time to Make a Seasonal Wine Shift From Red to …

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rose-wine glasses

As a new mom, I am without a regular nine-to-five job or school to keep me on track. I rely heavily on my surroundings to keep me up on the systematic parts of life. The mood of my child tells me time of day. Phone calls keep me on top of what day of the week it is, and the weather is my seasonal gauge. My seasons thus far in 2014 have been Winter, Narnia, Always Winter Never Christmas, Wet, Cold-and-Wet, Mid-May, Almost Spring, and Wet Again. I talk a lot about the weather. It determines my clothing choice, my activities, often my mood, and my beverage choice.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it at least twice, and I know that because I’ve said it that many times in this column: the seasonal wine shift from drinking red wine in the winter to white wine in the warmer months is a real thing. Sure, you can like Cabernet Sauvignon, but when it’s 105 degrees, it’s the worst thing ever. I don’t care how many steaks you’re eating. Finding the right warm weather wine is one of my favorite annual challenges and this year, I’m not pregnant so I can drink all the rosé.

Rosé! Remember that? It’s been a year! It’s time again! Soon enough, the shelves of your favorite wine shop will be glowing with shade upon shade of beautiful blush, bottles from France, Italy, Spain, California, bitingly crisp and refreshingly dry. I cannot wait. But here’s my confession: I didn’t wait.

Something I learned this winter was that I cannot wait an entire seven months for rosé to come back in season. There are too many times I want that combination of light red fruit, good acidity, rich but refreshing palate. The dilemma, of course, is that rosé wines are generally designed to be enjoyed for the season they are released and that’s it. Old rosé tastes tired: the fruit fades, the acidity flattens, what makes it desirable in the first place dissipates and you’re left with a disappointing recollection of what you once had.

There are a few rosés, however that will stand the test of time, a few very noble ones designed to last years, like Bandol from southern France and Champagnes, and a few that take a year to become even more themselves. The same material that holds up red wines as they age, acid and tannin, lends a hand here: if a rosé has some tannin from grape skins or seeds or stems and excellent acidity, chances are it’ll hang on for a year without becoming flabby or tired. In fact, it may even improve. There’s one from Calabria in southern Italy I like a lot made from the Gaglioppo grape that has enough body and substance to linger through the winter months, but really, the star of the year-old rosé show is Pinot Noir. Sancerre, known more famously for its Sauvignon Blanc, produces a few red and pink wines from Pinot Noir and almost without fail, Sancerre Rosé is better the year after it is released. I found a Pinot rosé from Oregon this year that was aromatic, unctuous, and utterly beautiful well into January. And also last week when I drank it.

But if you can’t find one of those, just wait. Or drink pink bubbles.

Last night, my husband brought home one of the very first whispers of spring: fiddlehead ferns. I’d never had them before, but there is something undeniably spring-like about them. The very brief forerunners of asparagus and spring onions, fiddlehead ferns are these tight little coils of vibrant, crunchy, fresh green vegetal flavor, sort of like young asparagus but without any fibrous texture. We had them served atop buffalo mozzarella and dressed simply with olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper, the fresh crunch and acid countering the creamy rich cheese. It was awesome. And you know what it made me think of? White wine, rosé, all the spring things. I’m excited. There isn’t nearly enough produce coming out of the ground yet for the farmers’ market to be open, but there are enough subtle reminders of the seasons changing to taste what’s coming. But for right now, the baby is crying, which means it’s time to eat that half of an apple I started cutting up this morning, or brush my hair, or something. Whatever. Happy spring.

Katie Callahan is a wine educator and former manager of  Bin 201 Wine Sellers in Annapolis.



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