I just cannot imagine going through a hot, humid New Orleans summer without something pink. (That has nothing to do with the festivities that take place here each year over Labor Day.)


I am referencing a whole classification of wines that are literally running off the shelves because they have gained tons of well-deserved new popularity. Yet there are still significant barriers in many minds (mostly male) about drinking them. 


Rosés are so damn hot in the market that it’s a wonder there is even a discussion. They are perfect for us here in this northernmost Caribbean outpost because they can be deeply chilled and they go well with so many foods, particularly those sauces and spices of which we are so fond.


I realize that many of you out there love your big, tannic, alcoholic red wines, and that you drink them year-round. But honestly, do they really taste good when both the temperature and the humidity upwards of 90? Just holding a stem of big cabernet sauvignon makes the wine warm and nothing is worse than hot red wine in hot, humid weather. Okay, a few things may be worse, like simultaneous book signings and promotional tours by Ray Nagin and Michael Brown, but that’s it.


To be fair, I appreciate that some of you may have had rosés in the past and found them to be sweet, flabby, without character and, in general, pretty awful. Yes, I had them too, but at the time I did not think they were that bad. Then I learned what wine was supposed to taste like and discovered that those tasted nothing like the wines I enjoy today. Ah, youth!


Those wines went out of style a long time ago, as did the brands, like Lancers, Mateus and Italian Swiss Colony. We are all grateful for their demise. The popular exception is white zinfandel. By the way, those of you who are asking your server for red zinfandel: Stop it.


Zinfandel is red and, while here in New Orleans we love redundancy, this is one trend that has to end. We can all agree that hot water heater, hose pipe, and triple-repeats, like “red, red, red" or “fast, fast, fast,” are okay, but the term “red zinfandel” is not. 


White zinfandel was actually a vintner’s mistake, a stuck fermentation (see below for explanation), and rather than throw out an entire batch of wine, it was made into a sweeter product and then bottled. The rest is wine history and Trinchero winery in Napa Valley has gone on to greater things, while still producing their cash cow. It’s nice to have a great sense of style, which many of Trinchero’s other wines do, but it’s even greater to have wads of cash, even when it comes from white zinfandel.


Rosés, to be clear, are wines made from red grapes. And rosés come from a variety of red grapes so they exhibit the diverse qualities of those grapes, although not in the degree you would receive from the grape were it treated in the “normal” fashion. There are, to be sure, a wide range of colors for the category “rosé,” from a pretty copper all the way to almost-red. The bouquets and tastes will usually mirror that light to heavy profile as presented in the color of the wine.


Just for the sake of discussion, there are a few things you should know before we proceed. Many of the qualities of a wine, namely its color, tannins and acid, come from the skins of the grape. The more the vinification process keeps the juice in contact with the skin, the stronger those aspects of the grape will become when the juice becomes wine.


Also, all grapes are white on the inside. Even the darkest grapes, such as the Petit Syrah, have white meat inside. And during the growing process, the skins do impart their color to the grape meat, at least around the place where the meat meets the skin.  


Okay, now that you have that information, this next part about rosés will make a bit more sense. Rosé wines can be made in a couple of ways, and really, no one method is better than the others (from a manufacturing viewpoint). Again, you are the arbiter of all things you taste, and how the wine came to be may not be of as much interest to you as how it tastes. I applaud you on this if that is your belief.


The first and least desirable choice a winemaker can make in creating a rosé is to simply add some red juice to the must after the grapes are crushed. Must is the first liquid stage of vinification and contains the skins,


Let’s say you have some juice from red grapes just crushed and immediately after that step you remove the skins from the continuing process. What you have is pretty much white wine (keep in mind that all grape meat is white). Then you add in some wine made in the more traditional sense with more juice and skin contact where the skins were allowed to impart color, etc. Now you have a wine comprised entirely of that grape’s juice, but not as red as the wines made in the more traditional fashion.   


Another way you can do this rosé thing is not to do the second process, adding in red juice, as noted above. Simply separate the skins from the juice during fermentation very quickly, usually after a couple of days.


Another thing that sorta, kinda, maybe complicates matters is that in order to ferment, grapes need yeast, which is naturally carried on the skins of grapes and all fruit. When you pull the skins away from the fermentation process, you are depriving the mix of a certain amount of yeast. Many winemakers today are committed to staying natural, which means using only the yeasts that are contained on grape skins. Removing the skins very early from the fermentation process puts yeast, a key element in making wine, in sort of a difficult position and winemakers may need to add some to keep the fermentation going. See above, in the white zinfandel explanation and the term “stuck fermentation.” Natural yeast from the skins of the grapes themselves is preferred, but winemakers will suck it up and go to the yeast store and buy some off the shelf if they need to.


Anyway, the last method is sort of the way most great rosés are made, and the method is called saignée, which is literally translated “to bleed.” When a winemaker wishes to make a more intense red wine with greater depth, he or she, while the wine is in the vat, will release some of the must, which is the fermenting grape juice, leaving the remaining juice in the vat for more skin contact, resulting in more intensity and more grape character in the resulting wine. But the juice that is taken away usually also has the stuff required to make a fine rosé.


Rosés are great summertime wines. They present fruit, usually strawberry and raspberry styles; they can be chilled way cold and not lose their character; and they pair well with lighter fare or even no food fare at all. Rosés are excellent with salmon, seafood from our area, and even desserts, like fresh berry shortcake. Not the kind with that gloppy corn syrup topping. That goes with nothing but sweet drinks that come from envelopes.  


As for the color, man-up, guys. From many parts of the world, like Provence in France, the rosé wines are prized as special creations, maintaining the essence of big, red grapes but toned-down and tempered, without huge alcohol contents or tannins that get stuck in your teeth. You are left with a clean, bright feeling on the palate.


Just as in all things, before you reach a conclusion, it might be a good idea to try the product first. Liking rosé is only a reflection of your good taste. Nothing more can be assumed or implied by anyone.


A few suggested rosés:


Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigue, France. From the Languedoc region in the south and west of France, this bracing and full-structured wine is comprised of Cinsault, Syrah and Grenache.


Vin Gris de Cigare, Central Coast, California, Bonny Doon. Vin gris literally means “gray wine,” but this one is salmon colored. Such styles of wines are popular in the Rhone Valley and Burgundy regions of France. Fully 25 percent of this wine is comprised of white grapes from the Rhone, like roussanne and white grenache with the rest being grenache and mourvedre.


Christalino Sparkling Rosé Brut, Penedés, Spain – bit of a change of styles here, bubbles. This cava can really refresh on a budget, usually under $10. Chill this stuff down as far as you dare and then sit back and ponder the meaning of summer.


Marques de Caceres Rosé, Rioja, Spain. A stylish rosé from a place where you would not expect it. Excellent with barbecue and smoked meats, as well as Mediterranean cuisine, of course.


Niebaum Coppola Sofia Rosé. Named for Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter, this excellently packaged wine is a refreshing treat with or without food. Flavors of strawberries and cherries blend harmoniously with acid and a refreshing lingering finish.