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Malcolm Jolley: What is rosé anyway?

Commentary

A woman serves a glass of rose wine during a wine-tasting in Pamplona,Spain, May 19, 2018. Alvaro Barrientos/AP Photo.

Rosé is a term of art, not science. It refers more to a style of making wine than a thing. A working definition might be that rosé is red wine made like white wine. Or, a more basic one could be that it’s any wine that’s closer to being pink than red in colour, however it’s been made.

There’s no crucible that distinguishes, for instance, a very light red wine from a particularly dark rosé. Nor is there a particular technique that makes rosé. Counter-intuitively, rosé is almost never made from blending white and red wines. (Champagne and other pink sparkling wines being the exception to this rule.)

Colour in wine comes from the skins, and so can much flavour. This is especially true of red wines. Thick-skinned grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon, make darker wines, while thinner-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir, make lighter reds. Most rosé production involves limiting the amount of time the juice of pressed grapes keeps in contact with the skins out of which it was squeezed.

Before global warming, where even the South of France could have a cool summer, winemakers used the saignée method to concentrate red wines made from fruit that was not fully ripe. Saignée means to bleed, and the share of the “must” or juice from crushed grapes was bled out of whatever was being used to ferment the the wine. What was left was a higher ratio of skins to juice resulting in a darker, more concentrated wine.

The byproduct—the juice that was bled—wouldn’t go to waste and a simple pink wine, meant to be drunk young without much ceremony, would be made from it. When exactly rosé wine began to be made entirely for its own sake is a matter of conjecture, and goes back to the question of what exactly is rosé.

There are lots of historical records of red wines being praised for their light and refreshing character. Assuming the wines were made like this on purpose, their makers would have limited skin contact with the must as it was set to ferment. Picked in the fall these lighter wines would be ready to drink by the arrival of warm weather in the new year.

Rosé didn’t become a distinctive consumer product until the age of commercialism in the 19th century. The appellation of Tavel in the South of France, which only makes rosé, was not formally established until 1936. And the process of recategorizing traditional light reds into modern rosé continues today wherever wine is made to meet consumer demand.

Maybe the definition is more metaphysical and lies in intent. It’s rosé if you want it to be.

I want it to be rosé in the summertime. Yes, there’s no law that says rosé can’t be drunk après ski. I spent a few fun days of January in and around the town of Tavel happily drinking only rosé at lunch and dinner. But the pleasure of a cool glass of refreshing and fruity pink wine at the beginning of a warm July evening is rosé’s true natural habitat.

Since it is generally an uncomplicated drink, rosé in summertime pairs well with a bounty of fresh vegetables that come to the table. It gets out of the way in a way that a powerful and tannic red or a highly acidic white wine often can’t. It also makes a terrific aperitif that can stand on its own, or as a party wine that doesn’t distract from conversation.

Lately, the trend is for rosé made with minimal skin contact, which results in a wine that has the colour of what the French call œil-de-perdrix: eye of the partridge. This “pink eye” wine might also be described as lightly salmon coloured. Sometimes, I find these wines come closer to whites, which is fine (I like white wine) but I think somewhat defeats the purpose.

The character of a rosé that has been left on the skins long enough to acquire rosy character are the notes of red fruit. Strawberry is the rosé trademark flavour, not least because it’s very rare to be found in any other style of wine. Wine is fruit juice in which the sugar has been replaced with alcohol, but red fruit notes can momentarily trick the palate into perceiving sweetness that balances acidity, making a drink that is both refreshing and round in the mouth.

Rosé on the pink or lighter side of the colour spectrum is not expensive to make and so it shouldn’t be expensive to buy. It does not require costly inputs like new oak barrels or intense hand labour or a lot of time and attention in the cellar. Indeed, rosé is often made from the fruit of younger or otherwise less desirable vines that may not be ready for elevated red winemaking.

If you’re paying more than $20 for a bottle of rosé, then it’s likely that the extra costs have more to do with branding and marketing than making the wine. There are always exceptions to any rule in the world of wine (Canadian wines almost always cost more to make than imports), but the surge in popularity of rosé in the last 25 years has, in my opinion, led to some questionable pricing. I suspect most $30 bottles of rosé would be indistinguishable from $15 ones in a blind tasting.

Back to the metaphysics of rosé: its simplicity and affordability truly are features and not bugs. And I think they largely explain its popularity. The offer of a glass of pink wine suggests one has arrived at a place where one can relax. It can be enjoyed without too much thought.

The summers in this country are short and Canadians share a common desire to make the most of them. Maybe a glass of rosé is a reminder to enjoy the moment and take a breather before the serious stuff starts again.

Anthony Housefather and Marco Mendicino: Antisemitism is running rampant in Canada. We must do more for our Jewish neighbours

Commentary

People take part in a protest in support of Palestine in Montreal, Friday, October 13, 2023. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press.

Since October 7th of last year, the world has turned dark and dangerous in ways that harken back to 1930s Germany, right before the Holocaust extinguished the light of six million Jewish souls. Some will no doubt scoff at this idea and the “never again” hashtag.

However, over and over again, Hamas has promised that they will not stop with the butchering of 1,200 Israeli residents, including eight Canadians, and instead pursue their agenda of martyrdom until they wipe the Jewish people and the state of Israel from the face of the Earth. Such is the depth of evil that fuels the existential threat that confronts Israel, every single day. However, that hatred is not only being felt within Israel.

Over the last ten months, Jews in Canada have been subjected to a relentless barrage of attacks. Day schools, synagogues, businesses, community centres, Holocaust museums, and hospitals have all been targeted, including in the ridings we represent. Canadian citizens who are Jews have been targeted with gun violence, Molotov cocktails, bomb threats, assaults, and death threats.

Just this week, Anthony was targeted by antisemites who put up posters featuring swastikas in the streets of Montreal, comparing Jewish contributions to Canada to those of the Nazis to Germany. The signs said Zionists were not wanted here and Anthony, a Jew, should get out of the country. A country, by the way, that he was born in and his family has lived in since the 19th century.

Yes, October 7th unleashed a tidal wave of Jewish hatred. Indeed, B’nai Brith’s annual audit on antisemitism reported 5,791 antisemitic incidents committed in 2023, more than double the year prior. Jews represent about one percent of the Canadian population. Just 390,000. But they are the group that, by far, suffers from the most hate crimes. Most Jewish Canadians do not feel safe, and they will not feel safe until laws are enforced and they see concrete action by all levels of government and support from broader civil society.