Expert Drinking: How to Choose a Rosé

Nothing pours the life back into you on a hot summer afternoon quite like a chilled glass of rosé. But picking the right rosé isn’t easy. A dry wine, in contrast to a sweet one, is your best bet for pleasing everyone’s palate and complementing whatever food that might be coming your way. But how can you tell if that bottle you just reached for has that refreshing, highly drinkable quality you crave?

Next time you’re tasked with picking up a bottle (or four) of the pink stuff for a friend’s dinner party or birthday brunch, follow Wölffer Estate Vinyard winemaker Roman Roth’s advice. You’ll look like an expert at choosing a sophisticated bottle. Even the most pink-averse among you will say #yeswayrosé.

Photo by Kate Kolenda

BTRtoday: Why do most people prefer a drier rosé wine, and how did Wölffer create theirs?
Roman Roth: Wölffer has always made dry rosé because it is more food-friendly and better cleanses your palate. We specifically select different vineyard lots to grow the fruit for the rosé. As a result, the wine is clean and fruit-driven and we can create a rosé that is dry and focused. We also use up to seven different grape varieties that help build a more complex and elegant rosé.

The maritime influence combined with our special microclimate that we have on the East End of Long Island is perfect to make vibrant and balanced wines with less alcohol but with ripe flavors.

What are some telltale characteristics of a dry rosé to look for?
RR: While it can be difficult to tell from a label if a wine is dry or off dry, I prefer the lighter-colored rosés as they will have less tannins and, usually, also less alcohol. This usually means they will be less bitter and a bit smoother to drink.

What regions— in the U.S. and abroad—are known for producing drier rosé?
RR: In the past, rosé from the U.S. was sweet and wines from Provence and other areas of France were dry, but over the last five years that has changed drastically. You can find now dry and off dry rosé in every country.

Are there terms should we use when speaking to a server or sommelier, or descriptions we should look for when buying one in a store that will help us find a dry rosé?
RR: Ask if the server has had the wine and listen for that keyword. Sometimes servers make the mistake and take a wine that has high acidity as dry, even if the wine has residual sugar so if the server does not know if the wine is dry, either ask for a small sample to taste or order a different wine that they know is dry.

What are some of your favorite dishes to make or order when enjoying dry rosé like Wölffer’s Grandioso?
Because of the 4.5-month barrel aging on the yeast (sur lees), the wine is very sophisticated with great depth and concentration but it’s also very vibrant and lively. It can be paired with a huge range of different dishes. In the summer, however, I love the wine with oysters, lobster, pork chops and seafood bisque.